There’s nothing like a lame duck in office when it comes to making bold moves. And since Obama has nothing to lose since he has no more elections to worry about, it looks like he is going all the way with his legacy. And I love it.
Obama this past week went awesome duck by making what is probably the boldest move any President has made in the last 50 years: he ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana. Now that took some cahones. The U.S. has not had normal relations with Cuba in over half a century as we believed the way to defeat Castro and their relationship with Russia, and to punish them for the Cuban missile crisis, was to freeze them out and isolate the tiny island, just 90 miles from our borders.
Well, that did not work, at least not in the way we expected. Granted, according to all reports Cuba is behind the times in many ways thanks to our boycott of the country. But the Castro’s did not lose any power as we had hoped. And there was no end in sight to their power.
In his announcement of this historic shift, President Obama said this:
“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries ... The deal will begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas and move beyond a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”
He is right - most people today probably have no idea why we don’t have normal relations with Cuba. And it just doesn’t make sense anymore. Maybe it did during the Cold War but this is 2014 (soon to be 2015) and many things have changed in our world. It was like the last 10 Presidents before Obama were just rubber-stamping what was done before them without thought.
Obama is doing the right thing. But of course that doesn’t stop the knee-jerk anti-Obama response from the Republicans, as well as anger from the Cubans in Miami and South Florida, whose intense hatred for the Castro’s blinds them to modern day realities.
“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”
Haven’t these people realized that our policy of the last half century has not hurt the Castro’s? And in their misguided desire to hurt Raul Castro, the brother and successor to Fidel, they think it is OK to hurt millions of other people in Cuba by denying them access to the things that America can provide.
President Obama is taking steps in the right direction. And as bold as this move is, it is important to note that it doesn't mean we will completely forget the past and immediately reinstate normal relations with Cuba. Under Obama’s plan travel restrictions for family visits will be eased, public performances, and professional, educational and religious activities, among other things, will also be allowed, but ordinary tourism will still be banned under the law. But greater banking ties will be allowed, making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba, and American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products. Here come the Cuban cigars.
It is both a giant step and a measured step. We cannot go forward into the future holding onto and still doing things the way we have always done them. President Obama is proving to be one bold man. I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve these last two years.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons, Cubanos.org.uk