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.

Democrats

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

Republicans

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.

Why We Isolated Cuba for 53 Years - Daily Signal

Why We Isolated Cuba for 53 Years

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards /

Contrary to what President Obama has asserted, U.S. sanctions have worked. Communist Cuba is so economically weak it cannot export Marxism-Leninism as in the past, and pro-democracy advocates have become emboldened.

For more than five decades, presidents, Democratic and Republican, politically isolated and economically sanctioned Communist Cuba for the best of reasons. Here are four of them:

  1. Cuba has been a communist prison since Fidel Castro came to power. From 1959 through the late 1990s, more than 100,000 Cubans were placed in forced labor camps, prisons, and other places of incarceration. Between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot. Castro justified his reign of terror with these words: “The revolution is all; everything else is nothing.”
  2. Communist Cuba exported Marxism-Leninism throughout Latin America, in Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, and especially Nicaragua, which was taken over by the Marxist Sandinistas in the late 1970s. Another target was the small island nation of Grenada which was to function as the third leg of a communist triangle of Cuba, Granada, and Nicaragua. President Reagan foiled the communists’ plans by freeing Grenada from a pro-Moscow radical regime. As a Venezuelan communist leader explained, the Cuban revolution was like a “detonator.”
  3. Communist Cuba often provided the ground troops for the Soviet Union’s strategy of inciting Third World revolution, especially in Africa. From 1975 to 1989, according to The Black Book of Communism, Cuba was the major supporter of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Castro sent an expeditionary force of 50,000 men to Angola, explaining in part why for decades Moscow propped up the Castro regime in the amount of $5 billion a year.
  4. Communist Cuba brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962 when it allowed the Soviet Union to build sites for offensive nuclear missiles aimed at major cities in the United States. Castro knew what he was doing: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev has said that Castro requested a Soviet nuclear attack on the United States.

As The Washington Post editorialized, President Obama pledged to lift economic sanctions and establish diplomatic relations at the precise moment when Venezuela’s economic miseries seriously threatened its huge billion-dollar subsidies of Cuba and when more and more Cubans were pressuring the Castro regime to allow fundamental human freedoms.

The Castro regime was on the ropes, but in the words of Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez, “Castroism has won.” Today, Fidel must be smiling and lighting up a large El Rey del Mondo cigar in his Havana palace.

Pakistan Must Reverse Bail Decision on Mumbai Attack Leader - Daily Signal

Pakistan Must Reverse Bail Decision on Mumbai Attack Leader

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis /

What if on September 13, 2001, the U.S. had granted bail to a terrorist leader known for directing gruesome attacks that left 166 innocents dead six years before? Would the rest of the world have remained in solidarity with the U.S. during its time of mourning over the 9/11 attacks? Doubtful.

Pakistanis might want to ponder what today’s granting of bail to terrorist mastermind and operational commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi means for not only their fight against terrorism but also their future within the comity of nations.

One day after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” Taliban, Pakistan’s Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) decision has renewed concern that the country is continuing its double game on terrorism—fighting some terrorists (Pakistani Taliban), while harboring others (today LeT, but also the Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban).

Fortunately, many Pakistanis disagree with the decision to grant bail to Lakhvi and have taken to social media to express their anger over the decision. Under the Twitter hashtag “PakwithIndiaNotoLakhviBail,” Pakistanis are tweeting calls for a reversal of the ATC decision.

Prominent Pakistani commentators are also bravely pleading with their leaders to end the dual policy toward terrorists: “LeT cannot be poison just for Delhi and a potion in Lahore,” says journalist Mohammad Taqi in today’s Daily Times.

The decision to grant bail to Lakhvi demonstrates Pakistan may be stubbornly holding on to a failed and dangerous policy, which an editorial in yesterday’s New York Times described this way:

Wedded to an outmoded vision of India as the mortal enemy, the army has long played a double-game, taking American aid while supporting and exploiting various Taliban groups as a hedge against India and Afghanistan, and ignoring the perils that the militants have come to pose to Pakistan itself.

Such stubbornness will cause Pakistan to lose the fight against the terrorists as well as the empathy of the international community. The Pakistan government must appeal the ATC decision and send Lakhvi back to prison.

Jail Time for Election Fraudster … and a Local Community Embraces the Fraud - Daily Signal

Jail Time for Election Fraudster … and a Local Community Embraces the Fraud

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky /

Opponents of reforms intended to improve the security and integrity of the election process are constantly peddling the narrative that election fraud is a nonexistent problem. But they should turn their attentions to Benton Harbor, Mich., where the Rev. Edward Pinkney, a local liberal activist, has just been convicted of election fraud—again.

Pinkney was convicted on five counts of forgery for illegally changing the dates on voter signatures on petitions that were being circulated to recall the town’s mayor, James Hightower. Pinkney was apparently upset over Hightower’s vote against putting an income tax on the November 2013 ballot. As a result of Pinkney’s forgery as well as questions about multiple signatures on the petitions by the same voters, the recall election was ordered removed from the ballot by the Michigan Court of Appeals

Inside the courtroom, Pinkney, now on his twelfth felony conviction, was labeled a habitual offender and sentenced to a minimum of two-and-a-half years behind bars. Outside the courtroom, a crowd gathered—not to denounce Pinkney and his fraudulent election tactics, but to condemn the supposed “kangaroo court” that just put the community organizer behind bars. One activist called for a “fight in the streets” to support a felon who tried to defraud the public of a fair election in a tactic similar to Al Sharpton’s embrace of convicted vote-stealer Melowese Richardson as a “hero” at a vote rally in Ohio last March.

For a democratic system to function, citizens must have faith in both the process and the result. That is why society guarantees that each person is entitled to one vote, which must be cast in secret, free of coercion, bribery, or other pressures. These fundamental principles protect the sanctity of the ballot box; without them, trust in the system—and thus, the system itself—breaks down.

But for Pinkney, these principles are merely obstacles to be overcome.

In 2005, Pinkney (who apparently has a penchant for organizing recall elections) tried to get a Benton Harbor city commissioner thrown out of office. To further that goal, he orchestrated a scheme to bribe voters at a local soup kitchen to cast absentee ballots. What was the going rate for a vote? A mere five dollars. Pinkney also illegally took possession of absentee ballots that had been cast by others. In the end, he was convicted of four counts of election fraud.

Seven years after that conviction, Pinkney was back to his old antics. After Hightower failed to back the tax proposal, Pinkney and his organization, the Black Autonomous Network Community Organization (BANCO), decided the mayor needed to be removed from power. The law gave Pinkney 60 days to gather the requisite signatures to get the recall on the ballot. Unable to make the deadline, Pinkney illegally changed the dates on five pages of signatures. He nearly succeeded in getting a recall election on the ballot, until the courts stepped in to invalidate the falsified documents.

In a legal defense one step above “the dog ate my homework,” the activist’s lawyer claimed Pinkney was only compensating for an “unforeseeable” snowstorm that prevented him from turning in the signatures on time.

The same judge presided over both of Pinkney’s election fraud trials. Unhappy that their paths crossed again, the judge dismissed calls for leniency. “Now you have 12 felonies total, nine of which relate to interfering with the election process, and that’s troubling,” said Judge Sterling R. Schrock shortly before issuing a potential 10-year prison sentence.

Pinkney’s conviction does much to dispel the notion that elections are somehow free of criminal conduct. Here at Heritage, we have compiled a record of recent criminal convictions for election violations in virtually every state in the union. Heritage has also produced an information booklet on the importance of election integrity.

Not every case is a Tammany Hall–scale conspiracy, but that does not mean the cases are insignificant. Consider Schrock’s statement at the Pinkney sentencing: “I take issue with the thought that your crimes are basically harmless. Any action that calls into doubt a free and fair election process does extraordinary harm.”

31 Twitter Reactions to ‘The Interview’ Being Pulled From Theaters - Daily Signal

31 Twitter Reactions to ‘The Interview’ Being Pulled From Theaters

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky / Ericka Andersen /

A parody movie about a plan to kill North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un has gained more publicity than it bargained for—so much so that Sony canceled the movie’s release.

After threats of terror attacks in theaters and ongoing cybersecurity problems for Sony, theaters began pulling the film. After Sony made the announcement to halt the release, Twitter went wild  with reaction—from celebrities, politicians and more.

Here are some of the best tweets from the ongoing frenzy:

Sad day for creative expression. #feareatsthesoul

— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) December 17, 2014

Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I'd also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers.

— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) December 17, 2014

Everyone who went to the premiere of "The Interview" needs to start recounting every detail, so it can be passed down via oral tradition.

— Chris Willman (@ChrisWillman) December 18, 2014

One theater thumbing its nose at NKorea – playing Team America after Sony pulls The Interview. http://t.co/YE9ZzP9ko4 pic.twitter.com/9nC3r8z6Uz

— Good Morning America (@GMA) December 18, 2014

Missed in Sony troubles over #TheInterview Obama administration took eye off ball on North Korea years ago-surprised Kim Jung Un aggressive?

— James Jay Carafano (@JJCarafano) December 18, 2014

I propose that since @sony canceled @theinterview for Christmas, we should bring Team America to theaters or watch at home in mass protest.

— Derek Khanna (@DerekKhanna) December 18, 2014

Saw @Sethrogen at JFK. Both of us have never seen or heard of anything like this. Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today.

— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) December 17, 2014

Capitalism is still alive! MT @AlexCKaufman: Movie posters for "The Interview" going for $550 http://t.co/8SjhCDw0rn pic.twitter.com/zNgisfS5kW

— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) December 18, 2014

Our cyber attack on Sony is pretty impressive when you consider the most advanced computer in our country is an Atari.

— Kim Jong-un (@_Kim_Jongun) December 17, 2014

The media should recognise its own role in The Interview being withdrawn. The way they reported the detail of the emails was disgraceful.

— Mark Thompson (@MarkReckons) December 18, 2014

White House on The Interview: Stands "squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who seek to freely express their views."

— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) December 18, 2014

Or ugly enough. RT @Matthops82: My biggest issue with The Interview is that they didn't make Kim Jong Un fat enough

— David Freddoso (@freddoso) December 18, 2014

When #TheInterview died, @jamesfrancotv celebrated #Hanukkah with @ladygaga and this rock star: http://t.co/MFFLLUsdTT

— MTV News (@MTVNews) December 18, 2014

Men are upset about The Interview, women are like welcome to the party, the world is horribly unfair. Smile, you look pretty when you smile.

— Hailey Boyle (@HaileyButter) December 18, 2014

Sony's decision to pull THE INTERVIEW is unsettling in so many ways. Good thing they didn't publish THE SATANIC VERSES.

— Stephen King (@StephenKing) December 18, 2014

i can still be a patriot if i lie and say i saw The Interview once it’s eventually leaked right? Don’t actually have to watch it do i?

— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) December 18, 2014

No one should kid themselves. With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar. This is a very very dangerous precedent.

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 17, 2014

Sony should release 'The Interview' on every digital platform they can. Making it a smash hit would be the ultimate counter-punch to NoKo.

— Curtis Kalin (@CurtisKalin) December 18, 2014

.@SonyPictures don’t cave, fight: release @TheInterview free online globally. Ask viewers for voluntary $5 contribution to fight #Ebola.

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 18, 2014

"You can't see 'The Interview,' but I did' http://t.co/KHRjEtZyIC

— TIME.com (@TIME) December 18, 2014

"Hollywood caved to a fascist dictator. It's as simple as that." @TuckerCarlson blasts Sony for scraping 'The Interview" b/c of N. Korea

— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) December 18, 2014

Actors Slam Film Cancellation Of The Interview. Is any movie safe if mere threats r enough to prevent screening? http://t.co/3wOBtueX2c

— Richard Fairbrass (@RFairbrass) December 18, 2014

'Lawyers ruin everything.' Was Sony's cancellation of 'The Interview' the smart legal move? http://t.co/E6xYGPAgTQ

— TwitchyTeam (@TwitchyTeam) December 18, 2014

The Interview has been pulled from release?!? Why would @Sony give in to spineless hackers? The must know something we don't.

— Maïa Dunphy (@MaiaDunphy) December 18, 2014

North Korea seems to be active cyber aggressor nation already today. Imaging a real conflict. http://t.co/4rMiXYCKAC

— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) December 18, 2014

In response to the interview not coming out pic.twitter.com/o8atpES7Pz

— B0BBY. (@Iampcity) December 18, 2014

If it was Reagan, he'd make sure Sony released The Interview and he'd attend the premiere front and center.

— Philip Schuyler (@FiveRights) December 18, 2014

No release of "The Interview" at all; no streaming, DVD, Blu-Ray. Like it never happened. Why would anyone ever make a movie for them again?

— Patterico (@Patterico) December 18, 2014

The Interview should get an Oscar in the new category, Most Censored

— Ryan Calo (@rcalo) December 18, 2014

What do I think about The Interview? pic.twitter.com/Zmg04oaJNq

— Kyle Maddock (@madcanard) December 18, 2014

So I guess we bow down to threats now, after #Hollywood canceled The Interview premier & showings. #smh

— Diana Sepulveda (@DianaMSepulveda) December 18, 2014

Q&A on Obama’s Policy Changes Toward Cuba - Daily Signal

Q&A on Obama’s Policy Changes Toward Cuba

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky / Ericka Andersen / Ana Quintana /

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama announced a series of drastic policy changes toward Cuba. What many are now viewing as concessions to the Castro regime following a prisoner swap, the White House ended the U.S.’s long tradition of supporting human rights and democratic reforms on the island.

The new policy approach is following the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. aid contractor who was kept hostage for over five years by the Cuban government. In exchange, the Obama administration freed three convicted Cuban spies, sent to the U.S. over 20 years ago to infiltrate U.S. military facilities. Their spying led to the deaths of Americans after their aircraft was shot down by Cuban military jets.

There are three questions that need answering on the Obama Administration’s recent policy changes toward Cuba.

Does this mean the trade embargo is over?

No, according to the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, also known as the Helms–Burton Act of 1996, Congressional authorization is required to lift the trade embargo. Seeing as all the Cuban American congressmen on both sides of the aisle support this policy, it is unlikely the embargo will be overturned anytime soon.

How has U.S. policy changed?

For the first time since 1961, diplomatic relations will now be established. For decades, the U.S. and Cuba have not had embassies in each other’s countries but rather an “Interests Section.” Caps on remittances have been lifted from $500 to $2,000 quarterly. Commercial sales of certain exports from the U.S. will now be allowed. Limited commercial transactions with “private entrepreneurs” on the island are now allowed. Also, the U.S. will assist in increasing “Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely.”

These reforms highlight the Administration’s ignorance of the Castro regime. Providing the regime with additional sources of income seriously undermines the probability of democratic reforms. The Cuban government charges 20 percent of all remittances sent to the island and these new reforms have now increased their revenue fourfold. Commercial transactions with these private entrepreneurs will mainly benefit the regime’s military and political leadership. The vast majority of state businesses are in the hands of the military, including tourism.

How will this affect the United States?

Following the Obama Administration’s feckless policy with Russia and concessions to Iran and now Cuba, the President’s foreign policy calls into question his understanding of world affairs. The Cuban embargo is not solely based on what happened in 1961 but what continues happening today. It was only last year that the regime was caught trafficking weapons onto a North Korean vessel, in clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution. Despite the Cuban government’s history of sponsoring terrorism directly and now via its proxy Venezuela, the President has instructed the State Department to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terror.

Expanding commercial exchanges will also expand the danger to U.S. businesses foolish enough to believe they are protected. Just three years ago, Cy Tokmakjian, a Canadian businessman, was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison and over a $100 million of his company’s assets were confiscated. Despite the fact that Canada and Cuba have enjoyed warm relations, the Canadian government has been unable to help. Unfortunately, Tokmakjian is not the only one. Seeing as the Castros’ still uncompensated seizure of U.S. property is considered to be the “largest uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in history,” what protections can the President guarantee Americans?

Normalizing relations with a country whose prime export has been an aggressive anti-American foreign policy does not advance U.S. interests. Rapprochement with the Cuban government has always ended badly for the U.S. In 1996, when President Bill Clinton tried extending an olive branch, the Castros responded by shooting down U.S. aircraft and killing four Americans in international waters. Like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said, “I would love for there to be normal relations with Cuba. But for that to happen, Cuba has to be normal, and it’s not. It is a brutal dictatorship.”

Marco Rubio Blasts Obama’s Cuba Plan, Deeming It a ‘Concession to Tyranny’ - Daily Signal

Marco Rubio Blasts Obama’s Cuba Plan, Deeming It a ‘Concession to Tyranny’

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky / Ericka Andersen / Ana Quintana / Natalie Johnson /

Sen. Marco Rubio has come out swinging at President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. The Florida Republican called it a “concession to tyranny.”

Rubio, a Cuban-American, deemed the move a “disgraceful” setback for both Americans and Cubans, writing in the Wall Street Journal that it marks a global “victory” for oppressive regimes.

The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.

Rubio pointed to previous negotiations with Cuba, saying the possibility of improved relations had always been made clear, but that step would be taken only after a substantial shift in oppressive governing.

>>> U.S. and Cuba Swap Prisoners; Obama Ends Isolation Policy

This shift, Rubio notes, has not been made, yet Obama has illustrated a plan to normalize relations with little in return for both Cubans and Americans.

Obama justified the plan in his announcement yesterday by calling the current Cuban-American relationship an “outdated approach” that has “failed” to further U.S. interests.

>>> Obama Does Not Have the Authority to Lift Embargo on Cuba

According to Rubio, this uneven trade-off further established Obama as the “single worst negotiator” he has seen in his lifetime.

To counteract this, Rubio announced he will do everything he can to “unravel” the president’s plan by aligning with congressional Republicans to block the Cuban ambassador nomination and funding for an embassy.

Beyond the political implications, Rubio believes Obama’s move is detrimental to U.S. relations abroad because of the “dangerous precedent” it could set in future negotiations.

The release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years was part of a separate deal, but marked similar repercussions to the senator.

President Obama made it clear that if you take an American hostage and are willing to hold him long enough, you may not only get your own prisoners released from U.S. jails—as three Cuban spies were—you may actually win lasting policy concessions from the U.S. as well. This precedent places a new price on the head of every American, and it gives rogue leaders around the world more clear-cut evidence of this president’s naïveté and his willingness to abandon fundamental principles in a desperate attempt to burnish his legacy.

Though Rubio lauded Gross’ release, he said the deal as a whole is just another concession to oppression that endangers Americans and Cubans alike.

Cuba Is Latest Benefactor of Obama’s Fairy-Tale Foreign Policy - Daily Signal

Cuba Is Latest Benefactor of Obama’s Fairy-Tale Foreign Policy

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky / Ericka Andersen / Ana Quintana / Natalie Johnson / Glenn Foden /

In the his most recent “negotiation” with a foreign nemesis, President Obama has once again given away more and gotten less. Unfortunately for the United States, in the long run, this fairy tale is not likely to have a happy ending.

>>> Obama Can’t Unilaterally Lift Economic Freedom for Cubans

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Whether Gas Prices Are High or Low, Lift the Ban on Crude Exports - Daily Signal

Whether Gas Prices Are High or Low, Lift the Ban on Crude Exports

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky / Ericka Andersen / Ana Quintana / Natalie Johnson / Glenn Foden / Nicolas Loris / Thomas Lee /

Gasoline prices continue to drop across the country with the national average falling to $2.50 per gallon.

Are low prices good or bad for the prospects for lifting the ban to export crude oil? The reality is it shouldn’t matter because energy free trade will benefit the United States in both the near term and the long run. That’s why Congress should lift the ban regardless.

One of the primary concerns among skeptics of lifting the crude export ban is the effect that increased oil exports might have on domestic gas prices.

Several studies have projected that lifting the ban would actually decrease gas prices both in the United States and globally. Because oil is a globally traded commodity and refiners are equipped to handle different qualities of crude oil, an open market for shipping crude would better match global refining capabilities. Despite the fact that all signs point to lower fuel prices in the U.S., the skepticism remains.

The federal ban on exporting crude oil has been in place since the 1970s to fight potential fuel shortages caused by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) oil embargo. Rep. Joe Barton, R–Texas, recently introduced a bill to lift the still-in-place ban on crude oil exports.

“The U.S. has long been committed to free trade and open markets,” said Barton, who heads a Republican energy policy task force. “It’s time we practice what we preach when it comes to energy.”

Barton had stated earlier that bipartisan legislation to lift the ban could move quickly through the new Congress. He predicted that the ban will “eventually be lifted for the same reasons Congress eventually overturned other failed government efforts to regulate energy price and supply.”

Barton’s point is an important one.

Congress’ goal shouldn’t be to keep prices low but to permit markets to work freely. As appealing as capping gasoline at a dollar per gallon sounds, the unintended consequences would be devastating. In fact, Americans experienced this in the 1970’s when government-imposed price ceilings resulted in frustratingly long lines, empty gas stations, and favoritism where friends and the politically connected had access to gas supplies but regular customers did not.

Having free-energy markets means that resources go to their most efficient use. And as with all other goods traded around the world, both parties will stand to benefit. George Baker, executive director of the Producers for American Crude Oil Exports, expands upon the benefits the U.S. would see:

Repealing the ban will unleash domestic energy producers to compete in the global oil market, while paving the way for more jobs, investment, innovation, and growth for American workers and consumers. It can also strengthen our national security and enhance our geopolitical standing in the world.

By increasing supply diversity through free markets, energy free trade will reduce the effects of supply shocks and increase the energy available for national security needs. Additionally, removing restrictions on crude oil exports would improve geopolitics around the world by reducing any one nation’s ability to manipulate energy supplies for political and economic influence.

The economic and geopolitical benefits are clear. The crude export ban is an antiquated, politically motivated law that needs to go.

Jeff Sessions Bows Out of Race for Budget Chair Against Friend Mike Enzi - Daily Signal

Jeff Sessions Bows Out of Race for Budget Chair Against Friend Mike Enzi

Natalie Johnson / Lee Edwards / Lisa Curtis / Jason Snead / Hans von Spakovsky / Ericka Andersen / Ana Quintana / Natalie Johnson / Glenn Foden / Nicolas Loris / Thomas Lee / Melissa Quinn /

In a race that pitted two close friends against one another, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has decided not to pursue the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, leaving Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., as the panel’s new leader.

“My good friend Mike and I have been close since we both entered the Senate together 18 years ago. We will long remain good and close friends,” Sessions said in a prepared statement. “We have talked and I am deferring to his seniority so that he can lead the Budget Committee as chairman beginning in 2015.”

As Budget Committee chairman, Enzi will sit opposite of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the chairman of the House’s panel.

“I wish to congratulate Sen. Enzi on his upcoming chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee,” Price said. “It will be an honor to work together as we address the tremendous fiscal and economic challenges facing our nation in a way that can achieve real, positive results for the American people.”

Sessions, who served as the committee’s ranking member, was seen as the likely choice to head the Budget panel. However, Enzi decided to mount an unexpected challenge.

The two, along with their wives, have long been friends, but they vowed not to let the race for Budget Committee chairman infringe on their close relationship.

>>> Old Friends Go Head-to-Head for Top Spot on Senate Budget Committee

Both were elected to the Senate in 1996. Neither Sessions nor Enzi had served in the House of Representatives or were governors before, so to determine seniority, they and other freshman pulled names from a hat.

Enzi, 70, had the luck of the draw, which gave him the standing to challenge Sessions, 67.

Though Sessions bowed out of the race to chair the Budget Committee, leaving Enzi as the only candidate, the committee will still vote in January.

In a separate statement, Enzi expressed support for his friend.

“Jeff is an outstanding leader and an outstanding speaker. If this were football, Jeff would be an all-star linebacker, corner, and safety all at the same time,” he said. “He is our first line of defense on many issues.”

“If this were football, @SenatorSessions would be an all-star linebacker, corner and safety all at the same time,” says @SenatorEnzi

Sessions will remain on the Budget Committee and plans to tackle welfare reform. The Alabama Republican will also work to eliminate wasteful spending — an issue previously tackled by retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

“Mike is an accountant and small businessman who understands the need to balance budgets and tell the truth about the numbers,” Sessions said of Enzi. “He is a man of integrity and principle, respected by all of his Senate colleagues.”

Early reports suggested that Sessions’ outspoken comments on immigration put his future as Budget Committee chairman in jeopardy.

After President Obama announced his immigration executive actions, which would grant legal status to more than 5 million illegal immigrants, Sessions spoke out in fierce opposition.

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