WASHINGTON – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio outlined his approach to foreign policy Wednesday at the Brookings Institution, giving a speech that carries more weight now that he’s thought to be on Mitt Romney’s short list for vice president.

The address offered a new vision of the senator, one that shows him as more than a Cuban-American politician with the skills to sell Hispanic voters on the Republican Party.

Rubio said the easiest thing he could do during his address would be to criticize President Obama’s foreign policy. He still took a hard whack, saying the Obama administration must commit more firmly to a world leadership role. He was especially critical of what he called the administration’s over-reliance on global institutions like the United Nations to engage in places like Libya. Syria, he said, is “waiting for American leadership.”

“I disagree with the way in which the current administration has chosen to engage,” Rubio said. “For while there are few global problems we can solve by ourselves, there are virtually no global problems that can be solved without us. In confronting the challenges of our time, there are more nations than ever capable of contributing, but there is still only one nation capable of leading.”

In introducing Rubio, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., called his foreign policy “principled, patriotic and practical” and suggested that it emerged from a bipartisan tradition in the Senate.

The moment of bipartisanship, though, was Rubio saying he also disagrees with the voices in his party who say the U.S. shouldn’t engage in the world. Just look no further than the “Kony 2012” video, Rubio said, which introduced millions to the allegations of human rights abuses against Joseph Kony in Uganda, via an American invention: YouTube.

“I disagree because all around us we see the human face of America’s influence in the world. It actually begins with not just our government, but our people,” Rubio said.