The 2016 Potentials React to Obama’s Cuba Plan
Natalie Johnson /
President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba yesterday swept headlines, marking a new policy issue for the 2016 presidential race. Many of the rumored hopefuls swiftly reacted to the president’s plan, establishing their positions for 2016.
The Democrat contenders showed unanimous support for Obama’s plan, praising the president’s efforts to open U.S.-Cuban relations for the first time in over 50 years.
Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ likely frontrunner, issued a statement backing Obama’s announcement saying Cuban “isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power.”
“As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information, and material comforts of the outside world. The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people. And the other nations of the Americas should join us in this effort.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont described the embargo on his site as “counterproductive,” saying “it’s time we normalize relations.” The Independent senator said lifting the embargo would benefit both the U.S. and Cuban economies.
Sanders Statement on Cuba Announcements: http://t.co/OMDo4MIGGf #Cuba #AlanGross pic.twitter.com/4vdRFckmbZ
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 17, 2014
Jim Webb, Virginia’s former senator, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley both posted their appraisal on Twitter.
POTUS made right decision on #Cuba. Proud of having worked years toward normalization of relations w/ Vietnam & leading the way in Burma.
— Jim Webb (@JimWebbUSA) December 17, 2014
Diplomacy creates opportunities. Embargoes don't. It's time to reset our Cuba policy & build closer ties b/t the American & Cuban people.
— Martin O'Malley (@GovernorOMalley) December 17, 2014
Jeb Bush, who made headlines this week for announcing he would explore a potential 2016 run, told reporters he didn’t think the U.S. “should be negotiating with a repressive regime” and that Obama’s concessions “rewarded” Cuba’s dictators, according to USA Today.
President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba undermines America’s credibility: https://t.co/Gg2m6T4oku.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 17, 2014
Sen. Ted Cruz released a statement commending Alan Gross’ release, but said that Obama’s overarching plan does “nothing to resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it has made it worse.”
The Texan senator also took to Twitter to mount his disdain.
It’s a consistent pattern. First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba. Obama’s deal will be remembered as a tragic mistake. http://t.co/SrfUa6Vr8B
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) December 17, 2014
In July 2013, I interviewed two Cuban dissidents. They warned the US not to fall for any offer of detente from Cuba. http://t.co/PhDkThRebw
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) December 18, 2014
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana rebuked Obama for having “no strategy” toward foreign policy. Jindal said in a statement that normalizing relations with Cuba validates “the Castro way of governing” and only allows them to “tighten their grip” on the country. The governor called on Congress to do “everything it can” to prevent the plan’s implementation.
Ruthless dictators like Assad, Putin and Castro think Obama is an easy mark and will be sorry to see him go.
— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) December 17, 2014
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul broke away from Republican contenders by supporting the president’s announcement, telling News Talk 800 that the embargo “just hasn’t worked” and that opening relations with Cuba is “probably a good idea.”
“If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”
Gov. Rick Perry slammed the president’s foreign policy, saying Obama’s Cuba negotiations are part of the administration’s “pattern” of deals that “aren’t necessarily good for America.” The Texan governor told a local paper that it is not in U.S. interest to negotiate with countries “that have huge human rights problems.”
Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 nominee, posted his sole reaction to Twitter.
More "we give, they get" diplomacy from Obama; this time the Castros win, and the champions of freedom and democracy lose. #Cuba
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 18, 2014
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio immediately berated the president’s plan, writing in the Wall Street Journal that it is “disgraceful” and a “victory for tyranny.” The senator promised he would do everything he can to “unravel” the president’s latest move through nomination and funding blocks.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker denounced the plan as a “bad idea,” telling reporters “there’s a reason” the U.S. placed an embargo on Cuba in the first place and that because the government hasn’t noticeably shifted toward a “more free and prosperous country” it should not be lifted.
Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have not yet commented.