Having temporarily exhausted the subject of Iran, John McCain moved on to Cuba today with a speech on Cuban Independence Day. Not surprisingly, he took issue with Barack Obama’s stated intention to talk directly (yes, again without preconditions) with Raul Castro:
Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba. When asked in a questionnaire about his policy toward Cuba, he answered: “I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene.” Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators – there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy. I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people, not to the Castro regime.
But McCain had broader thoughts in mind, taking Obama (and Hillary Clinton also) to task for suggesting we rip up NAFTA and for opposing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, accusing them of “wishing to retreat behind protectionist walls and undermine a key hemispheric ally.”
This, it seems, is a central anomaly in Obama’s foreign policy vision. For domestic political gain (i.e. the need to genuflect before Big Labor) Obama jettisoned his pledges to pursue multilateralism and improve our standing with our allies. It’s hard to think of two cases–withdrawing from a mutually beneficial trade agreement and abandoning a loyal ally under seige from Hugo Chavez–which would do more to undermine faith in America’s willingness to keep commitments and to raise fears that when the going gets tough (or not very tough at all, in Colombia’s case) we will throw our friends to the wolves of international terrorism. (Oh, wait–we would immediately abandon Iraq regardless of the consequences.)
So there is indeed a very interesting debate to be had: which candidate would improve our alliances and create greater international stability. That’s a nice substantive discussion worth a town hall debate or two.