On Wednesday, President Obama announced both the release of an American contractor from a Cuban prison and a normalization in the relationship between Cuba and the United States. The policy shift with Cuba is the biggest in regards to Cuba in over 50 years and will help reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. Furthermore, travel between the two countries will be made easier, and some Cuban goods will be made available to Americans travelers. An American embassy will be placed in Havana and sanctions will be lifted against Cuba in other countries.
As one would expect, anything the President does is going to be met with criticism from the right. Even though it has been obvious for years that the embargo on Cuba, along with sanctions and restricted travel and communication, had only caused pain and suffering on the Cuban people and failed to accomplish anything, it is still a hot button issue for many Republicans. There is a myriad of reasons for this — hatred of Communism, Cuba’s so-called state-sponsored terrorism, Republican-leaning Cuban immigrants hatred of Castro — and Obama’s announcement was bound for a retort.
Leading the charge Wednesday was none other than Mr. Thirsty himself, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The son of Cuban immigrants took center stage as soon as news dropped that businessman Alan Gross was coming back to America after spending five years as a prisoner in Cuba. Rubio took umbrage with the fact that Obama sent over three American-held Cuban prisoners in exchange for Gross. During an appearance on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Rubio said the following of the President:
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“At a minimum, I would say this. Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as President since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the history of this country…It puts a price on every American abroad,” he said. “Governments now know that if they take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the U.S.”
Below is video of Rubio’s appearance, courtesy of Fox News:
Later on, when talking to reporters, Rubio also took shots at Pope Francis, who was instrumental in getting the prisoner deal done between Cuba and America. Per Talking Points Memo, Rubio said the following:
“My understanding is that the influence that His Holiness had was on the release of Mr. [Alan] Gross, which I’ve not criticized. As I said, I’m happy that he’s with the Cuban people [sic]. I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy, which is critical for a free people — for a people to truly be free. I think the people of Cuba deserve the same chances to have democracy as the people of Argentina have had, where he comes from; as the people of Italy have, where he now lives. Obviously the Vatican’s its own state, but very nearby. My point is I hope that people with that sort of prestige on the world stage will take up the cause of freedom and democracy. The Cuban people are the only people in this hemisphere that have not been able to elect a leader in more than 55 or 60 years. That’s outrageous.”
Rubio also told reporters he is going to do everything in his power to “unravel as many of these changes as possible.” He also pointedly said that Congress will not lift the embargo. Below is video of his comments slamming Obama’s policy courtesy of Huffington Post:
Of course, it wasn’t just Rubio ripping the President. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) had to make sure his voice was heard. In a statement to the press, Boehner said relations with Cuba “should not be revisited” and that this new policy is nothing more than “mindless concessions” that “emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism.” Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threw his two cents into the conversation by sending out the following tweet.
I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.
— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) December 17, 2014
On the other hand, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated Wednesday that Rubio and other Republicans may be out of luck when it comes to establishing an embassy in Cuba, as it appears the White House doesn’t need additional appropriations.
.@PressSec re Rubio: “It’s not clear to me that additional appropriations will be necessary to establish an embassy in Cuba”
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) December 17, 2014
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).