Republicans eyeing the 2016 presidential race were quick to condemn President Obama’s new foreign policy towards Cuba, but there was one notable exception.
“The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said yesterday. He added, “In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea.”
Last night on Fox News, Rubio responded to Paul’s comments, saying, “Like many people who have been opining, he has no idea what he’s talking about.”
As of this morning, it was on. Benjy Sarlin explained, “The Cuba debate exploded into the nascent Republican presidential race on Friday – and this time it’s personal.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the lone Republican 2016 prospect to back the White House’s plans to restore relations with its neighbor 90 miles to the south, picked a high-profile fight with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the move’s leading national critic, in a series of tweets. The exchange marked a new level of combativeness among the potential presidential field as GOP primary season approaches. […]Paul has made clear in recent speeches that if he runs he will press Republican voters to rethink their most basic assumptions about foreign policy and give his more noninterventionist philosophy a serious look. The new spat with Rubio, who hails from the party’s traditional hawkish wing, shows just how eager he is for the debate to start.
As of a few minutes ago, Paul posted five tweets pressing Rubio, followed by a longer message on his Facebook page.
Senator Marco Rubio believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies. After 50 years of conflict, why not try a new approach? The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change.Seems to me, Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism. Finally, let’s be clear that Senator Rubio does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans. A recent poll demonstrates that a large majority of Cuban-Americans actually support normalizing relations between our countries.
As a rule, senators go out of their way to maintain a degree of collegiality with their colleagues, referring, for example, to “my good friend from Florida,” but Paul and Rubio appear to be dropping the pretense. Want to see ambitious GOP senators stop being polite and start being real? Look no further.
They’re both far-right Republicans; they’re both relative newcomers to the Senate; they’re both likely presidential rivals; and they both have strong opinions about foreign policy and America’s place in the world. Today, however, we’re also reminded that they completely disagree with one another – and their 2016 debate is going to be awfully interesting.
Indeed, as happy as Democrats seemed to have these two going at it, Greg Sargent noted today that this debate “is not mere popcorn munching spectacle.” It’s “good to see a real debate underway.”