Washington Times Editorial: Obama’s Unrequited Cuban Romance

Friday, March 4, 2016
From The Washington Times' Editorial Board:

Obama’s unrequited Cuban romance

The president is unable to tell the difference between friend and enemy

Nothing is more embarrassing to watch than a suitor pursuing unrequited love. There’s no thrill in such romance. Every bouquet of long-stemmed roses and every box of candy Barack Obama sends to Havana is returned with a demand for roses with longer stems and a bigger box of candy.

Over the past year, President Obama has removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, re-established diplomatic relations and opened an embassy in Havana, and now Mr. Obama announces that he will be the first American president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years. He’ll no doubt shave extra close for Fidel’s anticipated kiss.

There have been good reasons for previous presidents to withhold the prestige of a state visit. The Castro alliance with the Soviet Union produced a tense, 13-day political and military standoff in October 1962 over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from the Florida coast. For those 13 days the world held its breath in fear of World War III. The Castro regime has since attempted to subvert democratic governments throughout the Hemisphere and organized cabals against the United States.

Mr. Obama’s attempts at romance continued this week when the White House sent to Congress legislation to maintain restrictions on American civilian ships entering Cuban waters. The bill arrived on Capitol Hill on the 20th anniversary of the day the Cuban air force shot down a civilian rescue plane over international waters, a plane operated by an American relief organization called Brothers to the Rescue. The pilots were trying to locate and rescue Cubans fleeing prison or death in Cuba.

“These are the same waters that have witnessed record numbers of Cubans risking their lives to reach freedom because of the oppression they are facing under the Castro regime, a regime that has found an ally in President Obama,” says Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican.

An administration spokesman said the arrival of the legislation on the Hill on the anniversary was an unfortunate coincidence. It’s easy to believe that, because the ignorance of the world that thrives in this administration seems to know no bounds.

The president’s attempt to redress relations between Washington and Havana is not only one-sided but rests on false assumptions. The negotiations which led to reinstating formal ties with Raul Castro’s government were an enthusiastically one-sided affair. Just as the agreement was initialed Raul Castro’s government tossed more political prisoners in jail. The promised economic reforms have reformed nothing. Ever-tighter regulations and continuing government interference, some petty and some not so petty, have made a mockery of attempts to open small businesses. Only the American businessmen who enabled Mr. Obama’s romance are receiving subsidies from Washington, with more to come. They’re pushing now to lift the embargo on trade with the dictatorship.

It’s not likely that the president’s forthcoming visit will win concessions from the Castro brothers. The brothers, basking in the prestige of the presidential visit, and the painting of the resumption of diplomatic relations as a victory for the regime, have learned that they need not answer concessions with concessions. Good faith is not necessary.

Mr. Obama, in his message to the Hill, argued that “longstanding U.S. policy toward Cuba had, at times, tended to isolate the United States.” But it is not the United States that is isolated. The regimes of friends of the Castro brothers, in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, are regimes in crisis.

A new government in Argentina, the most important of the Spanish-speaking countries, wants to be friends with the United States, evidence that Latin America is turning away from corrupt statist economic schemes that have sabotaged development for decades. The president, however, will make only a brief stopover in Argentina, as if he just now looked at a map and noticed that it was not far away. Such an afterthought is an indication of just how ignorant and confused this administration is in our own hemisphere.