(OPINION) — President Obama has outplayed the Republicans once again. They were blindsided with the announcement Wednesday morning that the U.S. was moving forward to improve relations with Cuba after an ineffective embargo. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were blindsided. Say what ever you want, Cuba will be as much on the ballot in 2016 as immigration reform.
The usual chorus of Republican naysayers were livid. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is expected to toss his hat in the ring for the 2016 presidential election, blasted President Obama as the “worst negotiator in modern U.S. history.” He’s even challenging Pope Francis on Obama’s new Cuba policy. I am sure Rubio can walk in the shoes of the pontiff, right?
Marco Rubio: “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.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted, “First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba — this is one more very, very bad deal brokered by the Obama Administration” (check out his Fox News interview: youtu.be/Rkoa3y8Kr-c). It’s comical to hear he and Rubio rant over Obama’s Cuba policy considering their fathers and Rubio’ s mother, hail from the Communist country. Gee, I wonder if Ted Cruz thinks we don’t know how his father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, engaged in bribery to leave Cuba and came to the U.S.? He and Rubio have a lot of chutzpa. He must be besides himself since he got a double whammy — his birth country, Canada, played a role in brokering the deal, along with Pope Francis.
First President Obama out-maneuvered the Republicans with the executive order for his immigration plan, then they had no choice but to pass the $1.1 trillion CRomnibus, leaving Obamacare and his immigration plan in tact (well, until February 2015), confirmed Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, as well as a slew of other nominees, including 12 district court judges, cementing his judicial legacy. Days later, wham, the new Cuba policy. O-man is on a roll.
House Speaker John Boehner had a lot to say: “Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner. There is no ‘new course’ here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies. If anything, this emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism, as they now have an even better idea of what the president meant when he once told Russian leaders he would have ‘more flexibility’ after his re-election. We have seen this before, and I fear we will see it again. Despite these reservations about the president’s changes in our policy toward this communist regime, we all feel great joy and relief for Alan Gross and his family. Americans do not forget our own, and we speak out today because we have a moral responsibility not to forget anyone anywhere who longs for liberty and dignity.” Um, can you say “Oh China?”
Sen. Mitch McConnell had even less to say, echoing Marco Rubio’s talking points: “Sounds like the correct response to me. I think he knows more about this than almost anybody in the Senate if not everybody in the Senate and I wouldn’t differ with his characterization.”
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge those Republicans who are receptive to thawing relations with Cuba. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) “was on the plane back from Cuba with Alan Gross and said he’ll sponsor legislation to “vastly expand American travel to Cuba,” MSNBC reports. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) also said he will introduce a similar bill in the House. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who is the incoming House Oversight Committee chairman, “publicly expressed support” for President Obama’s Cuba policy.
Of course, the new policy doesn’t signal a close relationship akin to the U.S. and Great Britain, but it does signal a new start. Technically, Congress would need to lift the embargo on Cuba, but President Obama has some latitude to “chip away at at the effectiveness of the sanctions, making it easier for people to travel or trade with Cuba,” The Hill reports. The reality is that the majority of Americans want to reestablish relations with Cuba, but lawmakers like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz can’t seem to understand that. Besides, it will be a boon for baseball and business interests, including technology companies and the travel industry.
The reality is President Obama is causing chaos in the Republican Party, right in time for the 2016 presidential election. I can’t wait to see the GOP clown car pull up for the presidential debates. It promises to be quite funny. Get the popcorn ready. Obama isn’t going out with a whimper. Just ask Russia President Vladimir Putin, his country is feeling the effects of the sanctions imposed by Obama, which many Republicans claimed were weak. Um, the ruble is in a freefall….