Rand Paul Breaks With Other 2016 GOP Contenders In Backing Obama’s Opening To Cuba

Rand Paul is one of the few Republicans who seems to be evaluating the new policy toward Cuba through something other than an outdated Cold War perspective.

Senate Homeland Security Holds Hearing On Federal Programs Equipping Police Departments

Kentucky Senator, and probable candidate for President in 2016, Rand Paul is breaking with many members of his own party, and other potential Republican candidates for President, in offering at least some support for the President’s opening to Cuba, highlighting yet another area where he seems likely to offer a contrast but which is also likely to become an area of attack against him in a primary race:

Sen. Rand Paul broke with other likely Republican presidential contenders on Thursday by saying that opening up more trade with Cuba “is probably a good idea” and declaring that the U.S. embargo on the country “just hasn’t worked.”

The Kentucky senator’s comments to the West Virginia radio station News Talk 800 WVHU came a day after the White House announced it would normalize relations with the communist island.

The other likely GOP 2016 contenders who have weighed in so far on the plans have expressed fierce opposition. But Paul has taken a number of positions on foreign policy that have been at odds with many in his party.

“The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked,” Paul said in remarks confirmed by his office. “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”

(…)

Paul in the past has indicated support for allowing diplomatic talks with Iran over its nuclear program to continue, another policy at odds with many leading Republicans. He also has argued that a less aggressive foreign policy is appealing to younger voters and others who don’t traditionally vote for Republicans.

Paul is, of course, correct in his assessment that the embargo that was put in place 52 years ago, and which largely remains in effect notwithstanding the steps that the hopeful and helpful steps that the President took yesterday, has done little to either help the Cuban people or undermine the Castro regime. As far as the Cuban people go, all that it seems to do is to ensure that an economy that has been on the rocks for decades remains there as the nation remains cut off from what would obviously be its more lucrative trading partner, and a lucrative trading partner for the United States in turn as it was in the years before the 1959 Revolution although this time hopefully on a much more equal footing. In the years of the Cold War, of course, the Cuban Government was able to shield its people from some of the impact of the foolish economics of Castro socialism thanks to the subsidies it was receiving from the Soviet Union. When those were cut off as the Cold War was collapsing, there was much speculation that the Castro regime would not be far behind, but the regime managed to survive and, in more recent years, has exploited its relationship with the anti-American regime in Venezuela to obtain energy supplies despite a shortage of hard currency. The regime in Havana has also been aided by the fact that, in the wake of the end of the Cold War, many European nations, along with nations like Canada eased their own policies vis a vis Cuba despite the fact that the United States kept its embargo in place for reasons that have more to do with domestic politics and ongoing resentments from the Cold War on both sides of the ninety mile divide between the U.S. and Cuba than with anything approaching a rational foreign policy. As Paul goes on to note, there remain a host of complicated issues between Havana and Washington, but since we know that following the same road we’ve been on since 1961 isn’t going to change anything there’s nothing wrong at all with trying a different path.

In taking this position, Paul is of course differentiating himself from several potential rivals for the Republican Presidential nomination, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush, as well as what would appear to be the majority of the Republicans on Capitol Hill. This isn’t an unusual position for the Senator to be in, of course, since he’s done similar things with regard to U.S. drone and surveillance policy as well as foreign policy, however it does present another example of the difficulties that he is likely to face if he does in fact run for President in 2016. For the most part, Senator Paul has gotten a good deal of mostly positive press coverage when he takes these contrarian positions, and he’s so far taken only a small number of attacks from fellow Republicans for his refusal to adhere to party orthodoxy. While some of those attacks have come from prominent members of the GOP like John Bolton, Chris Christie, Dick Cheney, and Rick Perry, they have been relatively low key so far. If Paul runs for President, and especially if he becomes a major player in the race, he’s likely to become the focus of attacks on issues such as this from all quarters of the GOP. Perhaps he can withstand them and bring to the polls in the early primary states a constituency that is truly interested in taking the Republican Party in a different direction when it comes to issues such as foreign policy and civil liberties. The Senator better be prepared to take some incoming fire, though, because it is going to come, and it is going to be quite severe when it does.

Please follow and like us:
FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Latin America, National Security, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    John Bolton is against ending the embargo? Proof this is the right move. I am of a firm belief that if America’s foreign policy consisted of “Whatever John Bolton is against, we are for” we would be in pretty good shape.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    ““Whatever John Bolton is against, we are for””

    That rule also works for Bill Kristol.

  3. ernieyeball says:

    The Senator better be prepared to take some incoming fire, though, because it is going to come, and it is going to be quite severe when it does.

    When the going gets tough, the tough don’t choke on their cheeseburger and cut and run…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI8rCleTbSo

  4. Tyrell says:

    I remember the night when President Nixon came on and shocked the world by announcing that he was going to China. People were stunned and in disbelief. I distinctly remember my father saying “that man has gone nuts !” A lot of people felt the same way. Yet it is now regarded as a major accomplishment and milestone in American foreign policy, probably second only to James Polk’s acquisition of the southwest territory. Richard pulled some surprises. I think that he would agree with Obama’s move, especially since Fidel is out of the picture. Cuba is certainly another example of the total failure of the communist/ socialist system.

  5. Davebo says:

    That Paul kid is a MAVERICK!

    Seriously though, coming to the right conclusion and speaking publicly about it is to be commended even if one suspects he did it for purely political reasons.

  6. ernieyeball says:

    @Davebo:..even if one suspects he did it for purely political reasons.

    He’s a dratted politician. Everything he does is pretty much by definition political.

  7. Davod says:

    Sometimes I despair of Rand Paul and his simple statements. Andy McCarthy explains why the embargo has not failed.

    The first part is taken out of sequence because it is a concise statement.

    “…And has it occurred to the media and the president’s other apologists that American law and policy have not relentlessly mandated a blockade on and isolation of Cuba for all these years? All that had to happen to eliminate the restrictions, without any congressional action, was a halt to the persecution of the Cuban people by the Castro dictatorship…”

    “…In other words, it has been American policy for decades – the policy Obama says does not “work” – that the United States may and should provide significant aid as long as Cuba, in return, stops terrorizing its citizens, respects basic human and civil rights, respects democratic freedoms, refrains from arming terrorists and insurrectionists, liberalizes its economy, establishes a free press, and lays the groundwork for free and fair elections.

    So, if that hasn’t “worked” to encourage Cuban reform, what is the president suggesting will “work”? Giving Cuba aid and legitimacy without requiring the regime to change? Why would we want to give an American taxpayer dime to, or help legitimize in any way, a regime that rejects these basic elements of a civilized society?

    And has it occurred to the media and the president’s other apologists that American law and policy have not relentlessly mandated a blockade on and isolation of Cuba for all these years? All that had to happen to eliminate the restrictions, without any congressional action, was a halt to the persecution of the Cuban people by the Castro dictatorship.

    The blockade is still in place because the Castro regime will not change and therefore Obama cannot make the required representations.

    So, since the dictator will not change, what will “work” is for us to change? What will “work” is to give the dictator the recognition, the legitimacy, the aid, and the trade money in exchange for no reforms?

    Why worry … just two more years of this, right?”

    http://pjmedia.com/andrewmccarthy/2014/12/18/what-part-of-keeping-cuba-isolated-has-not-worked/?singlepage=true

  8. cian says:

    Drum roll for the roll back, when you’re ready…

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Davod: McCarthy’s piece is a confused mish mash that ends up saying that the policy is intended to force change, nothing has changed, therefore the policy worked.

    Yes, the best plan is to forget all this stuff about twisting the Castros’ arms; flood the place with blue jeans, rock and roll, and tourists; and let nature take it’s course.

    And give up any thought of not funding an embassy. US corporations will want an embassy and their lobbyists will get one.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Davod:

    The blockade is still in place because the Castro regime will not change and therefore Obama cannot make the required representations.

    Let’s see, over 50 years we’ve had this embargo in place, with the expressed goal of forcing a regime change, right?

    I’d say that by any measure this policy has not achieved its goal. What is the benefit to America of continuing this stale policy?

    It’s time to normalize relations and move on. Cuba causes us fewer problems than any number of countries with which we have normal diplomatic and trade relations.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Davod: Our embargo against Cuba is one of those idiotic things that should have collapsed a long time ago, for the very simple reason: It. Doesn’t. Work. Cuba interacts with the rest of the world. We might as well jump on the train as well. Note that fewer and fewer lifelines-to-Cuba are from “socialist” countries and more and more of them are from “capitalist” countries. Having the US jump on board now saying “yes, we goofed” makes us look moral and reasonable and able to change our minds in light of new evidence.

    People like you are starting to sound like one of those Japanese from WWII who holed up on small islands in the Pacific and refuse to surrender.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    So, if that hasn’t “worked” to encourage Cuban reform, what is the president suggesting will “work”? Giving Cuba aid and legitimacy without requiring the regime to change? Why would we want to give an American taxpayer dime to, or help legitimize in any way, a regime that rejects these basic elements of a civilized society?

    So…when do we crack down on China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc….or are we just supposed to crack down on two-bit insignificant dictatorships…

  13. stonetools says:

    Kudos to Rand Paul for his stance. In a year, I expect he’ll have a lot of company on the Republican side. I expect a lot of evasion and tap dancing when Republican primary opponents are asked , “Do you want to cut off diplomatic contacts and nix these big business deals that Exxon, Starbucks, etc., are doing with Cuba?”

  14. stonetools says:

    Heh, Rand Paul is currently trolling Rubio on Twitter:

    Hey @marcorubio if the embargo doesn’t hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?

    Popcorn for everyone!

  15. Scott F. says:

    @Davod:

    McCarthy sez:

    Why would we want to give an American taxpayer dime to, or help legitimize in any way, a regime that rejects these basic elements of a civilized society?

    Does he mean a regime like the Bush administration following 9/11?

    Boy, those stands against human rights violations ring a bit hollow on the heels of what we’ve learned about the CIA.