President Obama’s Early Christmas Surprise

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“President Obama’s entire policy shift on Cuba is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people.” – Senator Marco Rubio

I’m confused. Is it just Cuban communists you don’t want to have anything to do with? Or, are you proposing we cut diplomatic ties with China, too, Senator Rubio? Our biggest trade partner is a communist nation known for their less than stellar record on human rights. Although, given the recent Torture Report I think we’ve lost some of that moral high ground when it comes to human rights.

Why stop there? Why not break ties completely with Russia? Shouldn’t we sever relations with Vietnam or Myanmar? Why not make the ultimate stand and cut all contact with Saudi Arabia? Their human rights record is atrocious. Women have virtually no rights. There is modern day slavery. An oppressive government holds their boot heel on the throat of its citizens, where dissent is not allowed. Why in heaven’s name would we have anything to do with such a brutal regime? Oh, yeah…

For 55 years we’ve been trying to make sanctions against Cuba work . You know, after half a century it’s time to admit the embargo isn’t working and Cuba is and will stay a communist country. They made their choice and we need to accept that.

Unfortunately there is a sizable contingent that believes any day now the Cubans were going to wake up from the fever dream of dictatorship and the cult of personality. Evidence be damned, they were going to accept America as their savior. Why, we had them right where we wanted them, I tell you. Then Obama had to go give the store away. That asshole.

These are the same people who believe this change in policy helps Fidel Castro. He’s been out of power since 2008, and he’s 88. He pretty much got everything he wanted in his nearly 5 decades as dictator of Cuba, and retired. What do we think we’re keeping from him?

The important question to ask is not whether an elderly man gets an ego boost out of this – the question we should be asking is how this will change the life of the average Cuban. Well, for one thing they’d better get ready for Starbucks and Mickey Ds. There are already some big hotels on the beaches. If we normalize relations with the Cubans it’s going to look like Cancun in 10 years.

That’s reality. Marco Rubio can claim that commerce won’t change the country, but that doesn’t make it so. I don’t know, maybe Rubio has never traveled outside the United States, in which case he wouldn’t be aware of how profoundly tourism and commerce changes a country. Not always for the better. But, there will be change, nonetheless.

Doubtless the opening of Cuba to the United States will not be financially beneficial for everyone. Some will do better than others – as they do here. It would do well for Rubio to remember that income inequality is an enormous problem in this country, and another issue where we cannot claim the moral high ground.

You simply can’t deny though, China and Russia’s population has seen an increase in the standard of living as they opened up to the West (the rise in pollution is another story for another day). I’m not painting it for more than it is, but the standard of living has been rising.

What Rubio wants to do is to turn the clock back 55 years (for so many reasons) to when the embargo worked, in that magical, fantasy time that never happened. He wants to believe that the industry and property that were seized in the revolution will be returned. I have some bad news for you, Marco: It’s never going to happen. Never. Your family and friends will never get their stuff back. Making the Cuban people suffer for a lost cause with an embargo that doesn’t work is the height of selfishness. Things aren’t always fair, but compounding the unfairness by asking others to suffer for your desires is flat-out wrong.

There are those who would drag around the corpse of the Cuban Missile Crises as a reason to keep the embargo. To which I’ll reply: The Cuban Missile Crisis happened before I was born, 10 Presidents ago. Dude, let it go. It didn’t take us more than half a century to get around to normalizing relations with Japan or Germany. Besides, the country that was supplying them with the hardware is no longer in existence. Let me repeat that for emphasis: The country that supplied Cuba with the missiles no longer exists. It has crumbled in the sands of time, and relegated to the dustbin of history. Yet, we can’t let bygones be bygones 55 years later?

As is usual for people who can do nothing but criticize, Marco Rubio has no alternative plan to the President’s. He would keep in place an open-ended, ineffective embargo that only serves to keep families apart and punish the Cuban people until they act like Rubio wants them to. In other words, it’s the political equivalent of holding your breath until you turn blue.

All these facts won’t stop the esteemed Senator from Florida from throwing everything he can into the gears that might move this forward. He will try to hold up the nomination for an Ambassador, he will try to deny funds for an Embassy. He will work against a Congressional effort to end the embargo. He will do all those things in a cloak of righteousness and never for a moment question if he’s being selfish.

Even sadder is that, as usual, this has been reduced to another partisan issue, one which most of the Republican Party has taken as a personal affront. Why – it’s like he’s the President, or something! How dare he set policy!

So, while I have great hopes to visit Cuba soon (please let me get there before the KFCs), I don’t have great hope that normalized relations will happen smoothly. As with everything in this country it’s a fight, because with all the partisanship nothing is ever done easily anymore.

Yup, it’s the season of peace and goodwill and the leadership of this country is having a fight over whether or not to get along with another country.

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