Recognizing Cuba: what do we get out of the deal?

December 19, 2014
"Pues, yo venci."

“Yo venci.”

It was announced a couple of days ago that the Obama administration had concluded months of secret negotiations (facilitated by Canada and the Vatican) leading to the diplomatic recognition of Communist Cuba. The deal includes the exchange of ambassadors; the humanitarian release of an American held unjustly in Cuba; an exchange of captured spies (three of theirs for one of ours); and the easing of some economic and financial restrictions. President Obama will also ask Congress to end the half-century old embargo against the neo-Stalinist island.

Now, to be clear, I’m not unshakably opposed to opening relations with Cuba. Few policies are etched in stone, and, as circumstances change, so should policy if it no longer serves American interests. And there are rational arguments to be made in favor of relaxation. For example, my friend Jazz Shaw is of the “it wasn’t working, so let’s try something else” school, while analyst Tom Nichols makes “The Conservative Case” for normalizing relations. (For cogent rebuttals, please read Andrew McCarthy and Fausta)

So, like I said, there are rational arguments on both sides of the matter.

But, look at it another way. Try looking at it like a good capitalist would and ask yourself “What’s in this for us?”

A deal like this is a transaction in which each party gives up something of value to get something it values. What you’re getting is (or should be) worth as much or more to you than what you gave up. Otherwise, why are you making the deal?

And that’s where I’m stumped; I can’t figure out what we got that’s worth anything like what we are giving away. Consider:

If the agreement is carried out, the US gives up:

  • Official recognition of the Castro regime
  • Permission to export to US markets, potentially worth billions
  • Access to US financial markets, see above
  • Lots of US tourists and the dollars they’ll bring

Cuba gives up:

  • An unjustly held American
  • A spy who had been working for us.

Cuba gets:

  • See what the US gives up, and remember this will probably strengthen and shore up the regime, since all those dollars have to flow through them, first.

The USA gets:

  • ???

In other words,”What, exactly?” American recognition and the end of the embargo is of incredible value to Cuba’s struggling totalitarian regime, possibly guaranteeing its survival for decades to come. Is giving all that up worth what amounts to an ornament for Obama’s legacy? I don’t think we’re getting a good deal for our side.

Jazz and others argue that times have changed and that Obama was right to change policies from something that wasn’t working.

My argument is that since the policy (embargo and non-recognition) was not significantly harming us; since lifting it probably won’t measurably help the Cuban people (what incentive to liberalize do the Castros have now?), but does reinforce the idea that we will bargain for hostages; and since we aren’t getting anything of equal or greater value, why not keep the policy in place? It isn’t as if we’re talking about China or Russia, where other factors would outweigh our outrage at their barbaric record on political and economic liberty. American recognition and trade is an incredibly valuable asset worth far more than what Cuba offers (even if they do make great cigars); the Castros need us far more than we need them. If they want it, let them give us something big. Here’s what I would ask for at a minimum:

  • The release of all political prisoners
  • An end to media censorship
  • Tolerance for and free participation by opposition political parties
  • Religious liberty

I suspect the Fidel and Raul would turn down my offer.

The making of bad deals, however, is a trademark of the Obama administration. Senator Rubio (R-Fl), who’s livid over the agreement, puts it succinctly:

“I think the people of Cuba have a right, if they are free, to choose any economic system they want. Nothing the president will announce today will further that goal. It is ironic a week after he imposed sanctions on human rights violators in Venezuela, we are lifting sanctions on the government that has taught the Venezuelans how to commit these human rights violations,” Rubio continued. “It’s absurd, and it’s part of long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established.”

“It’s par for the course and administration possibly giving away unilateral concessions for Iran or Cuba in exchange for nothing,” said the Florida senator. “His foreign policy is, at a minimum, naive, and perhaps truly counterproductive to the future of democracy in the region.”

Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of this country,” Rubio concluded.

Yes. Yes he is. Rubio could also have mentioned the bizarre trade of five vicious Taliban warlords in return for one alleged deserter, Bowe Bergdahl.

The question is, why? Why make a deal with Cuban oligarchs that gives away the store in return for bupkis? Aside from Obama’s general leftist affinity for Socialist tyrannies and aside from political changes in the younger generation of Cuban-Americans that leads then to care less and less about the issue, I have another sneaking suspicion. Way back in the 60s and 70s, the leadership of the Weather Underground were great fans of the Cuban revolution and, especially, of Che Guevara. One of those leaders was Bill Ayers, who became a professor at the University of Chicago and then became close with one Barack Obama.

And now, years later, President Obama showers gifts on Cuba.

Just sayin’…

RELATED READING: The Diplomad: “The Castros pull it off again.” Elliott Abrams: The triumph of ideology over US national interests. McCarthy: Rewarding Castro in return for nothing. Rubio: Not so fast with that embassy construction, bud. Sean Davis: Free trade with Cuba is a fantasy. Mike Gonzalez: Obama didn’t tell the whole story about Cuba. Legal Insurrection: Is this the opening of Rubio’s campaign for president?

UPDATE: Reader SteveInTN links to an analysis at Stratfor suggesting major problems for Venezuela arising from this deal. One can only hope.


#Immigration: Congress *can* defund Obama’s executive order

November 26, 2014

Obamacaligula

Apparently Caesar Obama can decree all he wants, but getting the money to pay for his tyranny is another matter altogether:

The letter, requested by a Republican lawmaker, addressed an issue raised by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who has claimed it is impossible for Republicans to defund Obama’s amnesty since the agency in charge of issuing the work permits, the United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services office, is almost entirely funded by user fees.

The [Congressional Research Service] found that Rogers’ claim was completely false. From the letter:

“In light of Congress’s constitutional power over the purse, the Supreme Court has recognized that “Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes.” Where Congress has done so, “an agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities. Therefore, if a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specified purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes.

A fee-funded agency or activity typically refers to one in which the amounts appropriated by Congress for that agency or activity are derived from fees collected from some external source. Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency. In some cases, this appropriation is provided through the annual appropriations process. In other instances, it is an appropriation that has been enacted independently of the annual appropriations process (such as a permanent appropriation in an authorizing act). In either case, the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds.”

This makes perfect sense constitutionally and legally: the agency is a creation of Congress, which has told it to raise money for its operations from user fees. It would be risible to say that Congress somehow lacked the power to tell that same agency how to spend the money Congress authorized it to collect in the first place.

The Republican leadership is discussing a long-term funding resolution for most of the government, and a short-term one for the Immigration Service, so that the new Republican legislature could then order it not to spend any money to enforce Obama’s order. This would be a first good step toward reining in Obama’s usurping presidency.

Let’s hope they have the courage to do it.


#Immigration: Going off script, Obama admits he usurped power

November 25, 2014
"Caesar Obama"

“Caesar Obama”

(Photo credit: @exjon)

Dealing with radical immigration activists while in Chicago, President Obama spoke off the cuff, once again proving he should never leave the safety of his teleprompter:

“I have heard you, but you have got to listen to me, too. All right? And I understand you may disagree, I understand you may disagree. But we have got to be able to talk honestly about these issues, all right?”

“Now, you’re absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That’s true. But what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.

That may be the first time he’s spoken the truth in years. To quote Article 1 of the United States Constitution:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

That includes the power to “change the law.” How odd that there’s no mention of that being a presidential power…

All across America, state attorney generals about to file suit are saying a quiet but heartfelt “Thank you, sir,” for the gift he just gave them.


#ISIS: Rand Paul’s declaration of war

November 24, 2014
"Of course you know, this means war."

“Of course you know, this means war.”

One of the criticisms of President Obama’s conduct of our foreign affairs (and of our domestic affairs, frankly) is that he disregards statutes and the provisions of the Constitution whenever it is convenient for him to do so. This extends to the war powers inherent in the presidency under Article II. Both in Libya and, now, in Syria and Iraq in the fight against ISIS, Obama has been accused of acting without authorization from Congress, either under the specific War Powers Act of 1973 or Article I of the Constitution, the latter of which grants Congress the sole power to declare war. With regard to ISIS, Obama has claimed authorization under the existing Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda, since ISIS is an al Qaeda “spawn.” Not surprisingly, critics call that a stretch.

One of the critics is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who has often accused Obama of acting unconstitutionally. At PJM, Bridget Johnson reports that Paul has plans to assert Congress’ authority over the war-power by introducing a bill to declare war on ISIS:

The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.

“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

The bill also contains specific limitations on the authorization to use force, namely action is to be limited to ISIS and its “affiliates,” and specifies that ground troops can only be used to protect Americans and American facilities, and in certain limited offensive operations.

I have my quibbles with this proposal (1), but overall I support the idea. Obama has created a constitutional crisis by pushing the limits of the presidency’s powers past their breaking point. We’re running the risk of passively acquiescing to our transformation from a republic with separate, co-equal branches of government, each with their own powers, to more of a strongman presidential model, such as in France (2).

To prevent that, Congress needs to start acting to jealously guard its prerogatives and assert its status, as Madison described several times in the Federalist Papers. Senator Paul’s bill to declare war may be a good start to redressing the balance.

RELATED: Charles Cooke on why Republicans should not retaliate in kind for Obama’s usurpations. Jay Cost on the proper way to rebuke Obama. Andrew McCarthy on “President Orwell.”

Footnote:
(1) Namely that I believe US “boots on the ground” in offensive operations will be necessary to defeat the new Caliphate; the Arab forces in the area are worthless.
(2) Not that I’m implying that France is a dictatorship — far from it. But the presidency under the Gaullist system is quite a bit more powerful than the legislature.


Obama Ignored US Embassy’s Warnings On Climate Change Speech

November 23, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Our petulant man-child president strikes again, this time insulting a close ally in order to push his climate-change claptrap. The only word to describe such a performance is “juvenile.”

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

US_Embassy_Seal[1]Obama’s Climate Fiasco Drives Aussies Closer To India & China

Barack  Obama defied the advice of his embassy in Canberra to deliver a stinging attack on the Abbott government’s climate policies in Brisbane last weekend. The US embassy, under the leadership of ambassador John Berry, advised the President, through his senior staff, not to couch his climate change comments in a way that would be seen as disobliging to the Abbott government, sources have revealed. Historians of the US-Australia relationship are unable to nominate a case of a visiting president making such a hostile speech for the host government. — Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 23 November 2014

The United States embassy in Canberra advised President Barack Obama not to make the provocative, anti-Abbott speech on climate change which he made at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. That the President acted against the advice of his own embassy reveals a…

View original 316 more words


Endorsed: Bar Obama from making his State of the Union address before Congress

November 21, 2014
The President who would be King

The President who would be King

Since it became apparent that President Obama was about to (and did, last night) usurp the legislature’s authority to write and amend our laws, Republicans and conservatives (and some liberals) have been bandying around several strategies to fight back: some form of defunding, censure, even impeachment.

Writing at Ace of Spades, Drew M. adds a symbolic but very powerful idea: do not let Obama give his State of the Union address before the joint houses of Congress.

There’s one idea I’d like to add that is in many ways symbolic but that would focus the nation on the seriousness of this problem, do not invite Obama to address a joint session of Congress to deliver the State of the Union address.

The Constitution simply requires that “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Nothing requires that he do so in person. The modern in person State of The Union dates back to Woodrow Wilson but Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon all gave written reports as was the custom from Thomas Jefferson to Wilson.

And Presidents don’t simply show up whenever they please to address the Congress, they must be formally invited. That’s where Boehner and McConnell can strike a blow for the legislature…simply don’t invite him.

Yesterday, Boehner said, “The president had said before that he’s not king and he’s not an emperor,” Boehner says. “But he’s sure acting like one.”

There’s a reason for the reference to the behavior of kings: it’s a part of our history, dating back at least to the crises that gave rise to the English Civil War. In 1642, King Charles I attempted to usurp the powers of the House of Commons by barging in with soldiers to arrest five members. In commemoration of this, the House of Commons slams the doors in the face of Black Rod when he comes to summon them to hear the Queen’s Speech. Nowadays, this is just a ceremonial tradition, a reminder of the Commons’ independence from the Crown.

It is also an echo of a very real crisis.

We are England’s heirs, and Congress is facing its own crisis with an arrogant, usurping Executive. Let Speaker Boehner and (soon to be) Majority Leader McConnell reach deep back into our history and, along with more substantive actions, assert the legislature’s rights as a co-equal branch of government. Refuse our modern King Charles the stage his ego so desperately needs (1).

It’s time to bar the doors.

via Gabriel Malor

Footnote:
(1) Come on, you know Obama’s ego is so brittle that this would drive him nuts. As a narcissist, he craves a stage from which to lecture his inferiors.


Video: Sen. Cruz Invokes Cicero’s Words Against President Obama’s Lawlessness

November 20, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Well-played by Senator Cruz. This Classics fan nods in approval.

Originally posted on Nice Deb:

Obamacaligula

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaking  Senate floor, Thursday, harkened back to Cicero’s famous warning to the citizens of Rome over 2,000 years ago. The Roman philosopher, Marcus Cicero, was advocating a return to a Republican form of government after the emperor Julius Caesar died. The words, as spoken by Cruz have special resonance today in respect to our current President’s lawlessness.

The text of the speech:

The words of Cicero powerfully relevant 2,077 years later. When, President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end to that unbridled audacity of yours swaggering about as it does now? Do not the nightly guards placed on the border, do not the watches posted throughout the city, does not the alarm of the people and the union of all good men and women, does…

View original 364 more words


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