Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rubio’s anti-normalization plan with Cuba could backfire

Rubio's anti-normalization plan with Cuba could backfire
By Joe Henderson | Tribune Staff Published: February 20, 2016

President Barack Obama just stuck a sharp stick in Marco Rubio's eye.

I'm not saying it was deliberate, mind you, but it could have been. By
announcing his intention to become the first U.S. president to visit
Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, Obama ensured Rubio's Cold-War
opposition to normalization will be highlighted just in time for the
March 15 Florida primary.

The thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba has generally been
supported in polls, including a recent one in a Miami congressional
district that was considered a stronghold for opposition to normalization.

If elected, Rubio has vowed to roll back Obama's changes on his first
day in office.

"People think it's because we're being stubborn or holding on to old
policies," Rubio told The Associated Press in November. "I'm prepared to
change strategies toward Cuba, but it has to be one that yields results."

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In a CNN town hall meeting Wednesday, Florida's junior senator and
presidential candidate was more pointed.

"I will tell you the problem is with the Cuban government," Rubio said.
"It's not just a communist dictatorship, it's an anti-American communist

But Rubio is being stubborn. He is holding on to old policies.

He ignores that Havana already is a tourist destination for people from
many nations — including some of our closest allies.

The United States is fighting this battle of isolation by itself, to the
detriment of both nations.

As more Americans visit Cuba and have business dealings there, the more
momentum gathers behind ending travel and business restrictions.

"It's all very interesting," Rubio said. "My problem is when people come
back and say, 'I visited Cuba and it's a wonderful place, the people are
happy, the government is great.' That's what I mind."

I guess so.

As for his bravado about rolling back Obama's moves toward
normalization, he must know it's not that simple. A few days ago, it was
announced that airlines can bid on 110 open commercial routes for
U.S.-Cuba flights. Would President Rubio take executive action to stop
those flights?

Would he close newly formed embassies?

Would he put Cuba back on a terrorist watch list?

If he did, who would be hurt by those moves?

The Cuban people, that's who.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, has been at the forefront of
normalizing relations with Cuba. She visited there last week, ready to
aggressively push through Congress a bill ending the U.S. embargo
against Cuba.

She is joined in the effort by U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican.

"Naysayers like senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are wrong," Castor
said. "They are shackled to the status quo and a Cold War policy that
has hurt the Cuban people and infringed on the constitutional rights of

Cuba obviously is a bigger issue in Florida than most states. And
although feelings are particularly hardened in some pockets of Miami
against Obama's moves, the rest of the state and nation appears to be
moving in the president's corner.

If Rubio's position costs him support in Florida's primary, how will it
look when the fresh new face of Republican national politics can't carry
his own state? Donald Trump has a solid lead in Florida polls already.

Questions about Cuba are sure to come up when Rubio begins to campaign
here more seriously. He will have to double-down on his
anti-normalization posture.

There's a general undercurrent that Democrats don't want to run against

It's easy to understand why. He has youth, energy, personality and a
compelling personal story. Attacking him directly is dangerous for

But making him choke on his own harsh words about an impoverished island
neighbor? Making him look like an impediment instead of a leader? You
can bet they'll try.

Source: Rubio's anti-normalization plan with Cuba could backfire | and The Tampa Tribune -

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