Donald Trump, despite his populist reputation has gradually adopted the neoconservative foreign policy of Florida’s Junior Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio is an unreconstructed neoconservative that has never met a military intervention that he didn’t embrace, even if it isn’t in our national security interests. He has never missed an opportunity to undermine our current administration’s efforts to use American soft power abroad. His world view and style are completely incompatible with 21st Century American society. Now Trump at the behest of Rubio is likely according to media reports to reverse President Obama’s diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba which promises to increase trade and tourism opportunities for Florida. As we’ve chronicled for nearly a year flights from Florida to Cuba have been off to a rocky start but loads are gradually increasing for the carriers that have stuck it out, and two airlines, JetBlue and Delta have recently requested additional frequencies for flights from Fort Lauderdale and Miami respectively to Havana.
But all of this doesn’t matter to Senator Rubio who is completely incapable of putting the considerations of his state first, instead putting his personal emotion about the Cuban government ahead of public policy that will benefit his state – this is a very bad trait for a public official. Moreover, the policy Rubio is doubling-down on, using Trump as his conduit has failed miserably. Nine Presidents maintained an embargo against Castro’s Cuba and all nine saw little in the way of tangible results to overthrow the regime. Even most Republican voters don’t appear to want a return to the previous regime when it comes to trade with Cuba according to polling.
Rubio’s policy toward Cuba is also blatant hypocrisy when compared to his other policy positions related to foreign affairs.
1. Respecting human rights
Rubio has waxed lyrically for years about the need to protect and promote human rights in Cuba. Yet in December 2014, Rubio tweeted that exposing flaws that might undermine our values because they potentially violate basic human rights “places American lives in danger.”
Those who served us in aftermath of 9/11 deserve our thanks not one sided partisan Senate report that now places American lives in danger.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 9, 2014
Torture and the undermining of America’s moral authority doesn’t bother Senator Rubio in places like misogynistic Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United States and neoconservatism. Yet he finds it necessary to lecture the nation on human rights in Cuba. If Rubio really cares about human rights and doesn’t care about free markets and capitalism (more on that below) perhaps he needs to push legislation to restrict American trade and commerce with China, Saudi Arabia, Belarus and Uzbekistan among other nations. If Rubio cares about racism/ethnic cleansing as he has previously claimed he should be pushing opposition to American support for the current government of Ukraine (whom Rubio is an advocate of because of his anti-Putin stance), Qatar and various right-wing military juntas across the globe.
2. Free market in the rest of the world vs Cuba
Marco Rubio is one of the foremost American advocates of “Reaganomics.” The very first speech I watched Marco Rubio give from the Florida House gallery was in 2001 was about respecting the “free market” and basically calling opponents of full repeal of the intangibles tax “socialists.” A year later, I watched Rubio give a similar speech about taxes on the House floor in the office of a Senator who was supporting Senate President John McKay’s (R-Bradenton) tax reform bill. Rubio’s speech used his family’s background fleeing communism and seeking free markets as a reason to oppose a sensible reform to Florida’s regressive tax code that was backed by a bipartisan majority in the legislature upper chamber.
Rubio’s free market rhetoric has continued to this day, yet when it comes to Cuba he suddenly opposes the free market and what almost every economics on the left or the right would indicate is best for Florida’s economy. Opening Cuba’s market to Florida’s agricultural goods and service-based economy should soon provide a huge windfall economically for the state. Rubio, the Reagan ideologue whose attitude towards big government is generally contemptuous ironically wants to keep this heavy handed government imposed control that stifles the free market and restricts the ability of Florida’s businesses to compete.
3. Free trade v embargo
Senator Rubio has been a strong advocate of free trade agreements with Latin American countries that open new market access for American goods since his time in the Florida House. But suddenly as referenced above, Florida’s Junior Senator has strongly opposed a policy which would open new markets to our state’s good and which many in the business community strongly back.
Some may choose to chalk Rubio’s duplicity to his emotion about this specific matter since he is a Cuban-American. I would give cut him some slack on this if he wasn’t so rigidly dogmatic on a consistent basis when it came to other issues. True leadership requires our elected officials to take emotion out of such decision making and on this test Rubio is flopping badly. For someone who just might want to lead this nation and the free world, tests like this show he is not ready for prime time.
It’s unfortunate Trump has chosen to align himself with the hypocritical policies of Rubio and the neoconservatives in recent months. The coming change in policy on Cuba is just the latest the lurch toward neoconservatism. American moral authority and soft power is quickly eroding between Trump’s buffoonish behavior, his attacks on former FBI Director Jamey Comey and his rekindling of hypocritical Reagan and Bush era policies which tacitly put the United States in alliance with terrorist states and entities. Now in going with Rubio on Cuba policy, Trump is making the US look even more hypocritical and reactionary to those around the globe we would hope to influence.