Marco Rubio chose a key setting to make his presidential announcement on Monday. Flanked by Miami’s Freedom Tower, the junior senator from the Sunshine State chose this location to highlight his South Florida roots and his Cuban-American heritage. This strategy has a two-fold advantage for Rubio, which Allahpundit elaborated on in this post. It establishes his links to the Hispanic-American community, a key voting bloc the GOP needs to woo in order to win the White House, and it frames him as the GOP field’s preeminent foreign policy candidate.
Rubio’s potential ability to make inroads with Hispanic-Americans represents an existential threat to Democratic dominance, and his potential for cross-partisan appeal will not be touted by a partisan press. But it is Rubio’s opposition to the White House’s unilateral rapprochement with Cuba that will find an incredulous audience in the media.
Perhaps the best example of the political press’s unrestrained pro-Democratic bias on the issue of Obama’s thaw in relations with Cuba was offered by NBC News Politics Editor Mark Murray.
As Rubio seizes the future in Miami announcement, it will be interesting to see how he handles an issue of the past: U.S.- vs.-Cuba
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) April 13, 2015
What nonsense. To call Cuban-American relations “an issue of the past” ignores what the president’s supporters called his “historic” handshake with Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas this weekend. It ignores the fact that the State Department has recommended the United States remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism despite the fact that the communist island nation continues to provide asylum to convicted terrorists. What’s perhaps most damning is that Murray’s characterization of Obama’s approach to Cuban-American relations virtually echoes how the president talks about the issue.
“The United States will not be imprisoned by the past,” Obama said at the Summit of the Americas before Castro delivered an hour-long anti-American diatribe. “We’re looking to improve the lives of the Cuban people and advance the interests of cooperation in the hemisphere.” Obama has previously called America’s legacy approach to relations with Cuba “shackles” by which he feels unduly constrained.
For those Cubans oppressed by the anachronistic communist dictatorship in Havana, the invocation of “shackles” has a more literal implication. For them, Obama’s decision to abandon decades of American policy is a mixed blessing. While the benefits of a thaw with America are palpable, Obama’s decision to strengthen the hands of those Cubans who are stakeholders in the Castro regime only ensures that it will endure. Obama has approached relations with Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, and a number of other counties in the same manner; human rights and the aspirations of the oppressed must take a back seat to Obama’s desire to cement diplomatic breakthroughs with recalcitrant and anti-democratic governments.
As for the benefits the Cuban people can enjoy, Ben Domenech writing in The Daily Beast on Monday wondered whether the White House’s policy represents a setback for them more than a leap forward:
The government in Havana that is best understood as a cross between violent left wing radicals and organized crime. And we are normalizing our relations with them now — for what, exactly? So agricultural interests can make a buck? So academic leftists can check off a wish list item? Letting Cuba off the hook should presumably be an opportunity to prod the nation toward reforms that benefit its people and American interests. But President Obama will have none of it. By pursuing another misguided unilateral policy, he has squandered an opportunity to encourage freedom on the island and open up trade relations at the same time.
What does the United States get in return for this overture? Do we get normalization of the status of Guantanamo? Do we get our fugitives back so they can face justice? Does Cuba apologize for any of its support for terrorism? Does Cuba have to render justice or accountability for shooting down American civilian aircraft in international airspace, as it did in 1996? Do meaningful numbers of Cuban political prisoners get released? Does Cuban social and political repression ease one iota? Does Cuban support for radicalism and violence abroad cease? Does the Cuban communist grip on power and society relax even slightly? Does America receive Cuban support or even neutrality on any issue over which Cuba was previously opposed? Does Cuba concede a single item of strategic value or tactical value?
The answer to every single one of these questions is the same: no.
From Rubio’s perspective, Obama’s conscious effort to abandon the principles that once made America a champion for human aspiration around the world couldn’t be a better theme upon which to base a presidential campaign. For their parts, however, the press appears confused. A la Pauline Kael, everyone they know supports normalizing relations with Cuba.
Murray’s tweet inadvertently exposed a level of deference toward the Democratic position on a vanity of issues that will dog every Republican presidential candidate from here to November of next year. The GOP had better get used to it.