Big news this week: Obama is starting to normalize relations with Cuba. This is great. I’ve written before about the Cuban embargo being a terrible policy. Obama is not able to lift the idiotic and destructive embargo without Congress, but normalizing diplomatic relations is a good first step. I commend him for that.
One of the things I always wonder when hearing about new policy is timing. Why now? It’s possible that Obama had bigger projects on his hands that are now more or less dealt with, leaving him free for Cuba. This is definitely a second-term policy; imagine the reaction from Republicans if he had done this in his first time. Maybe things happened behind the scenes that opened up new possibilities. It’s probably a combination of the above and other things too.
One of those things came to my mind when I heard the reactions to the announcement. In particular, Florida senator Marco Rubio opposes the policy. That’s the same Marco Rubio that I—perhaps foolishly—thought the Republican Party leadership would try to set up as a presidential candidate for 2016. He has his Republican bona fides and would also appeal to Hispanic voters, a bloc that the Republicans notoriously declined to court in 2012 and whose support they will need in the future if they ever want to win again on the national stage. By announcing this new and eminently sensible policy right now when the campaigns are beginning to take shape they made Rubio look like a fool. He really has no choice but to stick to his guns even as the wider world realizes the folly of the long-standing US policy on Cuba. This may endear him to some of his base but will not, repeat will not allow him to get 50% + 1 in the 2016 presidential election should he make it that far. By neutralizing the Republican Party’s major eligible Hispanic figure, Obama & Co. did a huge favor for their eventual candidate. I support neither of the big parties, but I have to hand it to them on their strategizing.