Obama: No quick end to the Cuba embargo

“I don’t anticipate overnight changes,” Barack Obama acknowledged in his press conference when asked about his diplomatic overture to Cuba. “But what I know deep in my bones,” Obama continued, “is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and things haven’t changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.” The embargo will still remain in place for quite some time, Obama noted:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrOyFAemsco

Instead, Obama said the change in policy should give the U.S. a greater opportunity to have influence on Cuba and reflects his belief that 50 years of isolation haven’t worked. He said the embargo should end but he didn’t anticipate it soon.

“We will be in a position to respond to whatever action they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things that we think are wrong,” Obama said. “There may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.”

When pressed why he didn’t seek economic reforms, Obama said that the Cuban economy would force those changes anyway. “Change is going to come to Cuba. It has to.”

It’s certainly true that the embargo won’t come to an end anytime soon — in large part because it will require action from Congress. I spoke with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in an interview that will air in the second hour of tonight’s Hugh Hewitt Show tonight (starting at 6 pm ET), and McConnell talks about his surprise at the shift in policy toward Cuba. “I don’t think we get anything out of it,” McConnell told me, “other than it will strengthen the Castro brothers” by giving them access to hard currency. McConnell also put himself on the same side as Marco Rubio in the approach to Cuba policy, which will make life interesting in Kentucky between McConnell and Rand Paul. “I think we have some real leverage” in stopping this embrace of Cuba, he says, and explains what exactly he envisions. Be sure to tune in.