There are many reasons to condemn President Obama’s decision to sell out the Cuban people. It is perfectly consistent with Obama’s disdain for human rights, addiction to coddling dictatorships and contempt for Congress.
The Post’s editorial board points out that “the accelerating economic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly. On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration.”
Indeed, just when we have the most leverage — be it economic sanctions against Russia (Sen. John McCain likes to call it “a gas station masquerading as a country”), Iran or Cuba — Obama prefers capitulation. Marketing the policy shift as a tactical move to improve human rights insults our intelligence. (“Mr. Obama says normalizing relations will allow the United States to be more effective in promoting political change in Cuba. That is contrary to U.S. experience with Communist regimes such as Vietnam, where normalization has led to no improvements on human rights in two decades. Moreover, nothing in Mr. Obama’s record of lukewarm and inconstant support for democratic change across the globe can give [dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez] and her fellow freedom fighters confidence in this promise.”)
It surely does not pay to be a “friend” of the United States these days. If you are an ally, you are insulted, reprimanded, abandoned and bullied. If you are fighting for your freedom or very survival, you are snubbed, ignored, denied the means to defend yourself and dismissed. But gas, imprison, rape, kill or maim innocents and the administration will dream up reasons to remain inert, court you and blame the United States for years of “misunderstanding.”
As badly as Obama treats allies and freedom fighters, however, he treats Congress even more shabbily. How did Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), incoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign operations, learn about the reversal of more than 50 years of U.S. policy toward Cuba? “I saw it on TV,” Graham told me Wednesday night. “He [Obama] finds out about most of his mistakes on TV, and we find out most of his policy choices on TV.” Graham pledges to hold hearings on Cuba, and with the State Department budget under his purview, expect to see Congress exercise the power of the purse. It will be a cold day in Havana before the GOP Senate and House fund a U.S. Embassy there, I predict.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was similarly apoplectic, both because of the egregious human rights abuses that gave Obama no pause and because Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 job at the State Department, Tony Blinken, did not let on when asked directly whether a change was in the works and even promised that the “administration would not unilaterally change its Cuba policy without ‘full consultation’ with Congress.” The Senate should haul Blinken back, put him under oath and determine whether he purposely misled Congress.
This episode is not merely bad for the Cuban people and for legislative-executive branch relations (at an all-time, post-Watergate low). It sends a signal to the world’s oppressed and oppressors, to aggressors and victims, that the United States will appease bad actors and abandon its friends and innocents under the boot of thugocracies. And if members of Congress think the administration misled lawmakers on Cuba, is willing to appease tyrants and is acting in contravention of existing law, they better prepare themselves for Iran. Cuba was the opening act and Iran the grand finale of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy of appeasement. Quite simply, the president’s word has become meaningless and, as a result, so has the word of the United States.