Yesterday President Obama informed the country that the United States will resume diplomatic relations with Cuba. The surprise announcement brings to a close 56 years of economic embargos and isolationist policies imposed on the Castro regime during the Cold War.
The Cuban government has a long history of oppression and civil rights violations. For the last fifty six years the Unites States has tried to use economic embargos and a host of isolationist policies to push the Cuban government toward democratic reform. In making his announcement the president stated that embargos have not worked and their continuation no longer serves the United States best interests. He believes that engaging the Cuban government on a host of policy issues we will over time bring about the desired reforms.
As one might expect the president’s announcement brought harsh criticism from the right. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, whose families experienced Castro’s oppression first hand, were quick to weigh in. Both promised to do everything in their power to reverse the president’s policy once the Republican controlled congress returns next year. An incensed Rubio said that he would go so far as to block the president’s eventual nominee for Cuban ambassador: “I reserve the right to do everything within the rules of the Senate to prevent that sort of individual from ever even coming up for a vote.” Other lawmakers threatened to block funding for the president’s plan; including money for a new embassy.
Most of the hair on fire criticism of the president’s action has been wrapped in indignation over his ‘giving in” to an oppressive regime that has a horrific record on basic human rights. This coming from the very same people who as recently as last week came out in full support of the CIA’s use of torture to extract information from detainees. If there is one thing that we are very adept at in this country it is setting a very high moral standard for others while re-setting the bar much lower for ourselves.
The president obviously understands that he is a lame duck president. He understands that the obstructionist tactics used against him in his first six years will take on a whole new dimension when the Republican led congress reconvenes in January. He understands that if he intends to get anything accomplished in his remaining time in office he will have to use whatever executive powers are at his disposal. By way of his executive action on immigration reform and now his announcement on Cuba the president has demonstrated that he intends to do just that. The president has a bucket list. Republicans can expect him to act on it.
The president believes that he can make more progress with Cuba through diplomacy and engagement than he can through isolation and embargo. Maybe he’s right…maybe not. It is a fair debate.
But any criticism coming from this country that calls into question another power’s record on civil rights is hypocrisy at the highest level.