Conservative critics of President Obama's new Cuba policy are in a tough spot. The right can't argue in support of the old policy because it obviously didn't work. Republicans can't point to public attitudes because most Americans have supported a change for years. Conservatives can't say this will adversely affect the U.S. relationship with other countries because the exact opposite
And so folks like Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and others are instead making an argument based on Cuba's horrendous record on human rights. This case is certainly based on reality -- the Castro regime has been brutal and dictatorial -- but as Digby argued
yesterday, it's hard not to marvel at the Republicans' timing.
[Y]ou have to wonder if any of these people have the slightest bit of self-awareness. Do they have any idea how hollow their words sound when just a week ago they were condemning our own government for releasing a report that documented America's own human rights abuses? It's absolutely true that the most notorious prison camp on the planet is in Cuba — but it's run by the U.S. government. Guantánamo Bay is still open for business and its practices are still condemned the world over for its mistreatment of prisoners. And Ted Cruz's lugubrious hand-wringing over the Cuban government holding people without due process would certainly be a lot more convincing if Americans hadn't been holding innocent people for years in Cuba with no hope of ever leaving.
Referencing a Rubio tweet, Digby added, "To think that just last week the man who is preaching today about America's commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was exhorting us all to thank the people who used torture techniques like 'rectal feeding' on prisoners in American custody."
Those who condemn Castro's human-rights abuses are on firm ground. Those who also celebrate torture as a tool of U.S. national security are not.
Of course, this isn't even the end of the hypocrisy. Igor Volsky noted
In August, top aides to [Marco Rubio] and [Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida] "took an all expenses paid trip to China this month courtesy of the Chinese government," the Tampa Bay Times reported. The trips -- by Rubio's deputy chief of staff Sally Canfield and Ros-Lehtinen chief of staff Arthur Estopinan -- included meetings with Chinese government officials and could have exceeded "$10,000 a person." At the time, Rubio spokesperson Alex Conant defended the travel to the Times, arguing that China is a strong economic competitor to the U.S. and that diplomatic relations could actually help spread American freedom and democracy to the world's most populous nation.
Conant's diplomatic argument is sound. In fact, a variety of Obama administration officials have been making the identical case this week as part of the rollout of the new policy towards Cuba.
Why diplomatic relations could actually help spread American freedom and democracy in some countries but not others remains unclear.