Paul, Rubio clash over Cuba policy
Washington — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul took a series of online digs Friday at potential GOP presidential rival Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida over President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy, declaring that he rejects an isolationist approach to foreign policy.
In posts on Twitter, Paul made the case for opening up trade and engagement with communist Cuba and accused Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, of wanting to wall off the U.S. from the rest of the world.
“Senator @marcorubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism,” Paul said.
Paul was responding to Rubio’s comments in an interview Thursday night with Fox News, in which Rubio said Paul had “no idea what he’s talking about” when it comes to Cuba. Rubio did not immediately respond to Paul’s posts on Friday.
The two Republicans represent opposing viewpoints on Obama’s new Cuba policy, which aims to restore diplomatic relations with the communist island, ease economic and travel restrictions and seek to partner with Congress to end the decades-long trade embargo.
Paul said this week that the embargo against Cuba hasn’t worked and he’s supportive of opening trade with Cuba. Rubio, meanwhile, has been critical of Obama’s push to establish ties with Cuba, saying it amounts to appeasing the Castro regime.
The exchange offered a preview of a foreign policy debate that could emerge in the next presidential campaign. Rubio and Paul are both considering GOP bids and the Kentucky senator has been pushing back against concerns among establishment Republicans that his libertarian leanings would lead the U.S. to retreat from the rest of the world. Rubio has advocated for a muscular U.S. foreign policy that demands American leadership around the globe.
In an op-ed published by Time magazine on Friday, Paul said he supported engagement, diplomacy and trade with Cuba, China and Vietnam “and many countries with less than stellar human rights records, because I believe that once enslaved people taste freedom and see the products of capitalism they will become hungry for freedom themselves.”
Paul said supporters of the Cuba embargo “fall strangely silent” when asked about trade with Cuba compared with trade with Russia or China or Vietnam.
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