On Wednesday, President Obama struck another one of those brilliant deals for which he is so widely known, trading five Cuban terrorists for one American who has been imprisoned in Cuba for the past five years for the crime of “bringing telecommunications devices into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development,” as ABC News puts it. Obama also handed the Castro regime the glittering prize it has craved for years: normalized relations with the United States and an end to the Kennedy-era embargo. Obama announced this at a press conference where recording devices were forbidden. I suspect the irony was lost on him, but you never know. He does very much enjoy abusing the media that is so slavishly devoted to him.
Obama and the Castros have a lot in common besides disdain for uppity media types. They also have similar views on executive power. Obama doesn’t actually have the power to do what he’s announced, but naturally that isn’t going to stop him Raul Castro, the backup Cuban dictator who kicked in after the primary dictator failed, actually encouraged Obama to use his Constitution-shredding executive orders to get the job done. “Though the measures of the embargo have become law, the president of the United States can change the enforcement thereof under his Executive Branch powers,” Castro said at a press conference.
Couple that mutual enthusiasm for rule by decree with an America marked by high unemployment, a vanishing middle class, and a ruling elite determined to live large while the peasants scrape by in a low-mobility, low-energy economy, and you could say Obama normalized with Cuba years ago.
It’s a good thing that Cuban captive Alan Gross is coming home. ABC News quotes Gross’ lawyer describing him as “nearly toothless, barely able to walk because of arthritis in his hips and blind in one eye” after being “kept in a small room at a military hospital 24 hours a day with two other Cuban political prisoners.” Democrat faithful are hereby ordered to forget every meaningless word burbled by Party leadership about the treatment of detainees over the past week.
This outreach to Cuba really shouldn’t be a surprise. Obama has been looking for a foreign-policy “win” after a long string of epic disasters; he sees communist Cuba as reliable negotiating partners, sympatico people he can do business with. There’s no way our Alinskyite academic President was going to let the ailing Fidel Castro, dashboard saint of the totalitarian Left, check out without handing him a big victory. The Castros want the waves of cash that will roll in from from both the U.S. government and American citizens, while their liberal apologists gibber nonsense about how economic engagement will spread freedom to the island like a virus and improve the lives of the dungeon state’s citizens. Those who manage the Castros’ bank accounts must be swooning with delirious glee and telling their wives to pick out a nice Bentley for Christmas.
One consequence of the Cuba deal that Obama might not have gamed out all the way is the incandescent rise of Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, who instantly emerged as his leading critic, at least temporarily eclipsing fellow Floridian Jeb Bush’s declaration of consideration of the possibility of a presidential run. Bush isn’t happy about normalization either, but his mild statement of protest – “I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship” – was drowned out by the thunder of Rubio’s thermonuclear eruption. Rubio is so utterly beside himself that he appears to have replicated, appearing simultaneously on every media outlet. He might be able to serve as his own running mate on the 2016 presidential ticket.
He told ABC News that Obama’s lavish reward to Cuba for releasing an American prisoner has “set a price on the head of every American abroad.” Rubio continued, “I would love for there to be normal relations with Cuba, but for that to happen, Cuba has to be normal, and it’s not. It is a brutal dictatorship. Now dictatorships know that if they take an American, they may be able to get unilateral policy concessions.”
Rubio predicted that far from enhancing the freedom and living standard of the Cuban peons, normalization would strengthen the Castro dictatorship by legitimizing it to the world, and pouring American dollars into its coffers. (There really is nothing more astounding than watching American liberals pretend the Castros are something other than a gangster regime that robs its own country blind.) “Five years from now, Cuba will still be a dictatorship – but a much more profitable one,” Rubio predicted.
He also took a shot at Obama’s negotiating skills, which haven’t grown any sharper since he traded five Taliban big shots for an American deserter, or gave away the store to China in exchange for a mess of global-warming pottage. “He’s the worst negotiator of my lifetime,” marveled Rubio. “He’ll give up everything in exchange for nothing. What have the Cubans agreed to do?”
Here’s a clip of Rubio making those points on CSPAN. His entire speech can be seen here.
Rubio’s formal statement on the Cuba affair proceeds under the assumption that the United States is not a full-blown dictatorship just yet, so the new Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee might have something to say about it:
???Today???s announcement initiating a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost.
???Like all Americans, I rejoice at the fact that Alan Gross will be able to return to his family after five years in captivity. Although he is supposedly being released on humanitarian grounds, his inclusion in a swap involving intelligence agents furthers the Cuban narrative about his work in Cuba. In contrast, the Cuban Five were spies operating against our nation on American soil. They were indicted and prosecuted in a court of law for the crimes of espionage and were linked to the murder of the humanitarian pilots of Brothers to the Rescue. There should be no equivalence between the two, and Gross should have been released unconditionally.”
Ah, yes, the small matter of the Cuban Five, whose story the U.S. media seems completely uninterested in telling, because it makes Barack Obama look just awful. They were part of a Castro terrorist network whose targets also included the U.S. Southern Command. They helped Barack Obama’s wonderful new Partners in Peace shoot down two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. No word on whether the humanitarian pilots had their hands up in the “Don’t shoot!” position when Cuban ordnance hit their planes. Don’t expect the media to pay much attention to what their families think about the Cuba deal; they matter about as much as people who got rooked by ObamaCare.
Back to Senator Rubio:
???The President???s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable. Cuba???s record is clear. Just as when President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Castro family still controls the country, the economy and all levers of power. This administration???s attempts to loosen restrictions on travel in recent years have only served to benefit the regime. While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear. Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It continues to actively work with regimes like North Korea to illegally traffic weapons in our hemisphere in violation of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions. It colludes with America???s enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear. But most importantly, the regime???s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime. That is why even more than just putting U.S. national security at risk, President Obama is letting down the Cuban people, who still yearn to be free.
???I intend to use my role as incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee???s Western Hemisphere subcommittee to make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people???s expense. Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama???s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President???s change in policy. When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe.???
Rubio told the Weekly Standard that Obama’s move directly contradicts the promises he made to consult with Congress before changing Cuba policy. (You mean Barack Obama lied? GASP!) He’s likely to enjoy the support of other congressional representatives who still take the powers of the legislature seriously, not to mention other Cuban-Americans such as Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who called Obama “the Appeaser-in-Chief”; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who said Obama’s unilateral action was a “propaganda coup for the Castro regime” and might violate U.S. law; and incoming Rep. Carlos Cubero (R-FL), who denounced Cuba normalization as “reckless conduct that damages U.S. national security and benefits Cuba???s dictators.”
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey was right in the mix with his Republican colleagues, blasting Obama’s actions in no uncertain terms:
President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government. There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation. One spy was also convicted of conspiracy to murder for his role in the 1996 tragedy in which the Cuban military shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing several American citizens. My heart goes out to the American families that lost love ones on that fateful day.
Things are going to happen fast over the next two years. Presidential campaigns for both Democrats and Republicans will ramp up, while the lame-duck Obama still has many constituencies left to reward, and punish. A Golden Age of dictatorship has dawned; the consequences of oppression have been cast aside, while legitimacy is available for discount prices. The news-cycle tides will ebb and flow swiftly. For the moment, there’s little question that Marco Rubio is the leader of the opposition.