6/17/2017—The worst thing about President Trump’s policies is how he has trashed the American tradition of caring about freedom. After all, President Trump admires Putin and is fêted in Saudi Arabia. President Trump’s emphasis is, as he would be the first to admit with pride, America first.
This is why Trump’s actions concerning Cuba made so little sense. A Ronald Reagan could convincingly have broken with a policy of detente with Cuba started by President Carter. Ronald Reagan cared about the freedom of all. If he had criticized Cuba as a dictatorship, he would have meant it, and everyone would have known that he meant it.
But, really, what does President Trump care about the freedom of Cubans? He has no interest in dissidents anywhere, so why appear with one from Cuba in the Oval Office?
President Trump even repeated his mantra when he said that the agreement with Cuba engineered by President Obama was “a bad deal for America.” But our dealings with Cuba were not primarily economic at all. Plus, it seems clear that everyone has made money from detente with Cuba. In any event, President Trump’s actual actions leave quite a lot of the Obama administration policies in place. There was no bad deal for anybody.
So, at the end of the day, this action by President Trump, like many of his actions, for example the Carrier Company deal, are just window dressing exercises that appeal to people, in this case some Cuban-Americans, who are not watching the actual details. As far as I can tell, history is on Obama’s side in this one. You can say that Obama mishandled Syria and you can say he was ineffective in Ukraine and North Korea. But Obama got Cuba right.