Like With Reagan, Foreign Tyrants Fear Marco Rubio

Monday, July 13, 2015
In The National Review:

The Times Discovers Communists Are Trying to Smear Rubio

Marco Rubio could be on his way to becoming the first Cuban-American president of the United States, but, the New York Times reports, he’s not so well liked in his ancestral homeland. “If Marco Rubio becomes president, we’re done for,” one elderly Havanan told the Times. “He’s against Cuba in every possible way. Hillary Clinton understands much more the case of Cuba. Rubio and these Republicans, they are stuck in 1959.”

That’s the main thrust of their story, but reasonable observers may find it to be completely undercut by its buried lede: that the Cuban government churns out huge amounts of anti-Rubio propaganda. The attacks on Rubio seem to have borne fruit – at least as far as what Cubans are willing to say to American reporters.

The propaganda effort is understandable in light of the possibility that a compliant Obama administration’s successor could be a Cuban-American president vocally opposed to the 56-year-old dictatorship.

“It’s clear and it’s been clear, if you look at Marco Rubio, he embodies everything that the Castro regime fears,” says Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a Washington-based human-rights and democracy group.

“The fact that the Cuban regime does not see President Obama and his policy as a threat in any regard is very telling. Obama essentially vindicated everything they’ve done for 50 years,” Claver-Carone tells National Review. Meanwhile Marco Rubio is “the antithesis about what the regime is and the regime knows that.” 

As it happens, Rubio isn’t the first rising conservative politician to become the bête noire of an anti-American Communist dictatorship. In the early ’80s, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Washington Post reported on the Soviet propaganda machine’s obsession with President Ronald Reagan. In the Soviet media, Reagan was a “blind cowboy and bloody-fanged gorilla,” spewing “provocative speeches” and who “can think only in terms of confrontation and bellicose, lunatic anti-Communism.” (Which makes the Cuban state press’s description of Rubio as “representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia” sound almost like a compliment.)

Grove City College’s professor Paul Kengor, a Reagan scholar, writes that Soviet propagandists gladly used Western attacks on Reagan against him: “It was commonplace to catch a Soviet commentator authoritatively citing a liberal columnist or politician in making the case du jour against Reagan. It was not surprising for TASS, the official Soviet news agency, to take, say, a Washington Post op-ed . . . and excerpt it into basically a press release disseminated throughout the Soviet empire.” Just as current Cuban propaganda apparently emphasizes the more congenial attitudes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Pravda praised the Western advocates of détente and condemned Reagan as an “imperialist devil.”

Claver-Carone agrees there are parallels between anti-Reagan Cold War propaganda and the Castro government’s anti-Rubio screeds: “The Soviets saw Reagan as an existential threat and guess what? History shows that they were right: He was. And in the same way [as Rubio].” 

But has the Castro regime’s depiction of Rubio as a “vicious wolf” actually worked on the Cuban people? Do they really despise him as the Times report suggests?

Claver-Carone doesn’t think so. He suggests that most ordinary Cuban citizens would not go on the record in America’s biggest newspaper to praise a vocal opponent of the Castro regime. “People are just afraid, particularly when it’s a reporter,” he says. “It’s almost illusory to think they could grab someone in a very small town, that’s very easy to identify, to say something that could jeopardize their family’s lives and their own life, because the consequences can be pretty dire for going off the party line.”

“The fact that a young descendent of Cubans was able to start from nothing” in America and potentially “become the president of the most powerful country in the world – that embodies all of their hopes and dreams,” Claver-Carone says. “In their country they can’t even elect their dog catcher!”

“For decades they’ve been hearing official Cuban propaganda that America is the cause of all their ills, that we’ve starved them, that we’ve oppressed them,” Claver-Carone says, and yet, “Cubans love Americans. Well why do Cubans love Americans? For the same reason that East Germans loved Coke – it represented freedom for them!”

Marco Rubio, for his part, is not exactly upset about all the bad press from the Castro regime’s state-run newspapers. “I’m glad they see us as a threat,” Rubio told the Times. “They should.”