Nixon To China a Bad Move in Rubio’s Eyes?

Part of what I tuned out over the weekend was Sen. Marco Rubio’s domination of the Sunday Shows. The near-omniscient Brother Benen covered them for us:

Most of the Republican’s arguments were predictable, but there was one comment that seemed especially noteworthy.

On ABC, George Stephanopoulos reminded Rubio that the United States already has diplomatic relations “with all kinds of countries that don’t meet our democratic standards.” So why isolate Cuba? The senator replied:

“That’s exactly my point. We have those policies of normalization toward Vietnam, for example, toward China. They’re not any more politically free today than they were when that normalization happened. They may have a bigger economy, but their political freedoms, certainly I would not hold up China or Saudi Arabia or Vietnam as examples of political freedom, proving my point – that engagement by itself does not guarantee or even lead to political freedoms.”

I know Rubio is trying very hard to re-establish his credibility with the hard-core conservatives furious with him for proposing that undocumented immigrants not be shipped to the border in cattle cars or harassed into “self-deportation.” But I don’t know how many people this side of the John Birch Society are still objecting to Nixon’s 1972 trip to China or normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam or Saudi Arabia. I guess that’s the only way he can look anything much less than absurd in holding that Cuba’s government cannot be treated as legitimate so long as the country is not free.

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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.