When will our political leaders begin working for the good of the American people? Tremendous appreciation is due to Terry Holdren, executive director of Kansas Farm Bureau, for acknowledging the potential benefits of normalizing relations with Cuba. Cuba is the largest island nation in the Caribbean and is a mere 90 miles off the coast of Florida. It has more than 11 million residents, and although some agricultural trade is allowed, sanctions and heavy regulations prevent free and fair trade, something we so greatly enjoy with the rest of North America.
Immediately after the release of the two political prisoners last week from Cuba, many so-called leaders took to the airwaves to denounce the move. These were American citizens being held just off our shores. Their release had been coordinated through many months of negotiations which included Pope Francis, my pope and newest political hero. Along with their release, there have been serious talks of normalizing relations with this country that once was an incredibly close and lucrative trade partner. The angry naysayers wasted no time in crying foul on the exchange of prisoners, something every single nation on the planet has engaged in. Israel, one of the most hard-liner anti-terrorist nations has repeatedly negotiated prisoner swaps. We've engaged in it many times ourselves, and at least this time we didn't give weapons to our sworn enemies. If the argument is Cuba is communist, remember our number one trade partner, China, is still quite communist. If it is that it was negotiated with a dictator, look at the countless negotiations made with other dictators who posed a far greater threat to our way of life than Fidel or Raul. If the argument is this is outside of the bounds of the president, I would argue that no, this falls directly within the narrow realm of the limited powers this office possesses. It has always been my understanding of the Constitution that the executive was only authorized to execute laws written by the Legislature and had the singular responsibility of negotiating foreign relations.
The arguments against this action are baseless. Should the president have gone to Congress to ask permission or seek input on negotiations? Perhaps, but it's not a requirement, and the case can be made that the executive and the legislative have not had a history of camaraderie and effectiveness. Does the president have the authority to establish an embassy for us in Cuba and allow one for them here? Certainly. Can he lift the travel and economic restrictions? No. Congress will need to authorize this, and I pray they will take the job seriously. First and foremost, the citizens of Cuba deserve the benefits open relations will certainly bring to them. Secondly, this densely populated island nation just off our coast already consumes enormous quantities of agricultural products. There is no doubt they will benefit from free and open trade of our beef, pork and poultry, our grain and fiber, our growing American energy exports, and countless other American products. It is obvious why our secretary of agriculture supports normalizing relations, our business community is for lifting the trade restrictions, our oil and gas producers are eager to see open trade. So who could be opposed to this deal?
The best example of hypocrisy is from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a presidential hopeful in 2016. This man is the son of Cuban refugees. Many of his constituents are of Cuban decent and normalizing relations with their homeland would be tremendously beneficial to most of the Miami population. Opening travel and the possibility of immigration is the best possible outcome for these Americans, immigrants and their Cuban families. Yet, he is willing to fight to maintain half-a-century old sanctions that have proven horribly ineffective. This is politics at its worst. It is even possible the president coordinated this exchange to earn political points of his own and to see how his opponents would respond. It's an unfortunate joke some argue if this president were to come out in favor of air, some of my Republican leaders would come out against it. This makes us look childish and petty. This gives us the appearance we despise this president more than we love our own country. I personally love my country. I personally feel attacks and disrespect lobbied against our president, no matter his political leanings, only serve to weaken a nation. In my heart, I believe that to systematically work to dismantle the capital of this great nation only damages our ability to self-govern. Absolutely it's too big, sure it's a nightmare of bureaucracy and of course it is populated with some pretty terrible players, but this just means we have work to do and we need to send better public servants to get the job done right. We are the oldest and best democracy in the world, and I believe we should work to keep it that way. Heaven forbid we tried to work together; think what our forefathers would say.
So thank you Mr. Holdren, thank you Secretary Vilsak and thank you U.S. Chamber. And thank you to any other leader willing to support what is in our best interests regardless of which party initiated it. We are counting on you to work tirelessly at strengthening our one united and indivisible nation. God speed.
Alan LaPolice is a former