In last night's debate between challenger Patrick Murphy and incumbent U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the two engaged in a spirited exchange on Cuba and Democratic policies that Rubio strongly opposes. It is worth looking more closely where Rubio's punches landed wide of the mark.
One of the criticisms against Rubio is that he delivers policy robotically in sound-bites. Rubio's polish in front of the TV camera is key to his attraction to GOP funders. But Cuba is a central theme of Rubio's political life so it makes sense for voters to understand what he said last night.
Rubio claims to be a foreign policy expert, but he betrayed his shallow understanding by comparing the Obama administration's opening of relations with Cuba with Myanmar where, according to Rubio, the United States responded to the military dictatorship by incentivizing and calibrating our response based on demonstrated steps toward democracy by generals in power. That's what Obama should have done in Cuba, Rubio asserts.
Rubio knows most Americans couldn't find Myanmar on a map. That's how it goes with Rubio: make the charge, swing from the hip -- most people will be captured by the appearance and not the substance or even to know how far off the mark Senator Rubio's comment landed.
Myanmar is not only half-way around the world; the nation has always existed in the shadow of China, the gargantuan. Myanmar used the rapprochement with the U.S. as a counter-balance to China, (whose investors turned Myanmar's property markets into the hottest in the world).
Rubio's notion that President Obama did something in Myanmar that he should have done in Cuba, ie. put conditions -- a step-by-step approach with military dictators, is just plain wrong. Different part of the world. Different history. Different circumstances.
Marco Rubio supports a failed U.S.-Cuba policy on the embargo that divides Hispanics through wet foot/dry foot and harmed Cubans on the nation where the United States has been the gargantuan.
No one in the Democratic camp argues that generations of Cubans and Cuban Americans weren't deeply harmed by the brutal dictatorship of the Castros who turned the island nation into a time capsule of communism. No one in the Democratic camp argues that communism wasn't a social and political experiment gone haywire.
But you don't get out of a foreign policy ditch by digging a deeper ditch; exactly the path U.S. foreign policy followed for decades. Credit the Democrats, many Republicans in Congress, but especially President Obama for making that point clear to Americans.
In their hearts, Republican voters know that creating the opportunity for normal relations with Cuba will influence the next generation of Cuban military leaders. So why in the world should Cuban Americans continue to support Marco Rubio, especially given the fact that the candidate HE supports for president, Donald J. Trump, was doing business with Cuba when doing business with Cuba was a flagrant violation of U.S. law and the embargo energizing Cuban Americans?
Rubio, last night, got a laugh when he said of Patrick Murphy's support for the end of the embargo that his challenger was endorsing Trump's behavior.
It was a below-the-belt hit and Rubio smirked when he made it. What Trump did was illegal. He lied, and he is still lying and Marco Rubio supports him. President Obama changed the rules of engagement with Cuba. The law changed. Most Cuban Americans -- and Americans -- support President Obama's initiatives on Cuba, leaving Marco Rubio at the side the road, polishing his sound bites.
For the Miami Herald, Fabiola Santiago this week wrote a scathing editorial, "In supporting Trump, proud Bay of Pigs vets drag themselves into an unworthy battle."
... Donald Trump's campaign engaged the Bay of Pigs veterans because he's falling behind in Florida, a must-win state where the Hispanic vote counts, and it's massively favoring Hillary Clinton, Cuban-Americans included. He needs every single Cuban vote, but major Cuban-American Republican donors are not only voting for Clinton, they're raising money for her campaign. And all those politicians the Brigade has supported for decades and who now face re-election too? Missing at the Brigade's Trump event. Talk about a first. The Bay of Pigs Association endorsement doesn't make any sense at all. It rings false, trite, like the cafecito Trump pretended to sip on his last visit to the Versailles counter while the cameras rolled.
For the next six years, wherever those cameras are rolling, Marco Rubio will not be far behind. Let's hope it is not as U.S. Senator from Florida. Under a Clinton presidency, Patrick Murphy will have a far more influence on foreign policy than our absentee senator. Florida voters should give Murphy that chance.