Action and Reaction on Cuba

So as expected the president basically announced that he would normalize relations with Cuba to the extent allowed him under existing law (the economic embargo and some other restrictions were most recently codified in the Helms-Burton Act of 1996), which includes full diplomatic recognition and considerable liberalization of travel and remittence policies.

As of this writing we haven’t yet gotten the anticipated thermonuclear reaction from Ted Cruz, much less from his marginally sane father, who is already on record comparing Obama to Fidel Himself. But here’s Jeb Bush, trying to hang onto the media spotlight his presidential hints gained him yesterday:

“I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship [until Cuba changes],” Bush said at an event in Florida on Wednesday morning, according to USA Today.

Marco Rubio was a lot harsher:

Rubio lit into the White House’s moves in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday morning and will hold a press conference on the topic at 12:30 p.m. ET, only a half hour after Obama is scheduled to speak.

“Barack Obama is the worst negotiator we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter – maybe in the history of the nation,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s own Senate colleagues Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and Pat Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, personally escorted Gross back to America. But Rubio warned the move could have damaging repercussions even if he was glad to see Gross released.

“I’m not in favor of the process by which his release was acquired, because I think it does set a very dangerous precedent,” Rubio said on Fox. “It puts a price on every American abroad.”

Rubio called the idea of increased diplomatic and economic ties would help free Cuba “absurd,” adding that the news is “part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established.”

Not a whole lot of strategic flexibility there, eh? But then Rubio, if he does run for president, is likely to be Mr. Neocon, a hard-liner on foreign policy generally, so it’s no surprise he’d go medieval on a change in Cuba policy.

The bigger question now is how Republicans who do not have a history of obsessing about Castro react. Some of them may well be relieved at not having to have a separate Cuba policy that they only bring out when they are in Florida trolling for money or votes.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.