Here's Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida actually trying to argue that the decades-old embargo of Cuba is finally – finally! – about to topple the Castro regime! And why that means we should quintuple down on a really shitty, ineffective policy that has done nothing except prop up one of the longest-lived tyrannies in the New World.
The bill would open up relations with a regime that routinely imprisons journalists and citizens who disagree with their government. This would send mixed messages about our commitment to the brave pro-democracy movement in Cuba.
Lifting the travel ban would inject millions of dollars into the Cuban government at a time when the Castro regime is on the ropes. Cuba's foreign trade declined by a third in the last year, the country is several billion dollars in debt to sovereign lenders, and its economic crisis is putting Castro's rule in jeopardy.
Why would we lift the travel ban and let American tourism dollars prop up the Castro regime? At this juncture, lifting the ban would amount to yet another bailout – only this time, we'd be bailing out a brutal dictatorship on the brink of collapsing.
It takes a brave man to sacrifice the actual people of Cuba for his own sense of moral indignation. One of the reasons I came to cherish consistency in political thinking is that I came of age during the great South African college disinvestment craze back in the 1980s. I would have long, boring conversations with people who would argue that any trade with apartheid South Africa was morally abhorrent, even if boycotting the place would hurt the poorest stuck in that country. And that it was equally morally grotesque to ban travel and trade to Cuba because, you know, it hurt the poorest in that country. That was the liberal argument, of course. Right-wingers would argue the opposite mix: No trade for Cuba but we should never pull out of South Africa. (And in case you're wondering: The eventual boycott of South Africa by the U.S. helped extend apartheid, as "isolation breeds contempt, not reform.")
The idea that individuals should make these decisions rather than governments was generally not on the table for discussion. One need not travel all the way down what Ronnie Raygun used to call "constructive engagement" to realize that increasing trade and contact with repressive regimes tends to undermine them. The Castro Bros. have been on the ropes longer than Gerry Cooney; I think it's well past time to knock them out of the ring for good by flooding the freaking country with American dollars, people, and values.
And if you don't trust me, here's a GOP congressman who is quite eloquent on the subject ("the default should be freedom"). Take it away, Rep. Jeff Flake: