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Thune: Can’t Trade with Cuba Yet, But Trade with Russia and China Vital

Senator John Thune is laying the rhetorical groundwork necessary to rationalize the shift he and Mike Rounds will have to make to lift the embargo against Cuba and boost donor Jeff Sveen's chances to sell Hutterite turkey in Havana. Senator Thune told the Sioux Falls Rotary Monday that opening trade with Cuba will boost South Dakota agriculture...

"Soybean production here in South Dakota could meet a lot of needs they have in Cuba for that product and that commodity, so there's upside potential and I think we have to recognize that," Thune said [Ben Dunsmoor, "Thune Open to Cuba Plan If Reforms Made,", 2014.12.23].

...but Thune's not ready to give up his party's political club:

Before Thune would support anything, he says, he would like to see the communist country make political reform and take other progressive steps such as opening up Internet access.

"There are some things in this that could be beneficial for South Dakota but overall lifting the embargo I think there are conditions that have to be met before I could support that. There's so much more that regime needs to do to prove to the rest of the world that they really are serious about modernizing and reforming," Thune said [Dunsmoor, 2014.12.23].

Republican blogger John Tsitrian calls Senator John Thune's position on Cuba ridiculous. Tsitrian wonders how Senator Thune can subordinate clear economic gains to an ideologically (translate: oppose Obama!) misreading of history:

[R]ejection of a pragmatic consideration in favor of a principle may have some honorable intent, but when the principle itself isn't supported by the reality of History, the intent rings with the hollowness of political dogma. When you consider the advances in living conditions and economic opportunities for billions of people since the evolution of free trade that has been in force since the end of World War II, it seems that Thune lacks an understanding of cause-and-effect. Trade itself has been the medium for the elevation of political and economic freedoms, mainly because ideas and ideals flow just as freely as goods and services when markets open up [John Tsitrian, "Re: The Cuban Trade Embargo. Sounds Like Senator Thune Is More a Student of Polemics Than a Student of History," The Constant Commoner, 2014.12.23].

Mr. Tsitrian makes the case for normalizing trade relations with Cuba almost as well as Senator Thune as made the case for normalizing trade relations with much worse offenders. Let's look at what Senator Thune said about granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Cuba's old friend Russia in 2012:

“American businesses and entrepreneurs will no longer face a competitive disadvantage in the Russian market.... The Senate’s adoption of Russia PNTR today opens up new possibilities for American manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, and service providers. Not only does this legislation support American jobs by promoting our products and services abroad, but it will also help to strengthen the rule of law and combat corruption with the inclusion of the Magnitsky human rights provisions. Russia is the fifth largest importer of agricultural products and imported nearly $32 billion in agricultural commodities last year, making it a tremendous opportunity for commodity exporters. I look forward to President Obama signing this bill into law, and ensuring we do not delay job creation and export opportunities both in South Dakota and across the country.” [Senator John Thune, press release, 2012.12.06].

Putin's Russia is repressing political freedom at home and abroad and threatening international peace and stability more than either Castro's Cuba has for the last 25 years. Yet Senator Thune encouraged President Obama to extend the same trade relations to tantruming nuclear tyrant Russia that he's unprepared to extend to far more amenable and unthreatening neighbor Cuba.

Or rewind to May 24, 2000, when Representative John Thune voted to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Communist China. Rep. Thune saw trade with China as an essential part of addressing ag difficulties in South Dakota. In 14 years, Thune has not reversed his China-trade position, despite China's ongoing censorship, human rights abuses, and ongoing war against religion.

U.S. military and intelligence experts determined in 1997 that Cuba posed a "negligible conventional military threat" to the United States and other neighboring countries. Since then, Cuba's military has only declined further. Cuba poses no threat, while Russia and China do. Cuba has 3% of the GDP of Russia and less than 1% of the GDP of China. I suspect those differences explain Senator Thune's free-trade disconnect. He's willing to thump his chest and demand progressive reforms from little guys, but when the big boys with bulging billfolds and bombers come knocking, principle yields to pragmatism, and Senator Thune opens the trade door wide.

Come on, Senator Thune! Havana hotels and Cuban beaches beckon! Get consistent, and lift the embargo now!


  1. John Tsitrian 2014.12.24

    Cripes, Cory, free trade has been GOP dogma for decades. Nixon and Mao struck the right tone when they decided to set aside ideology and pursue common interests--now we have a $500 billion trading relationship that has gone completely symbiotic, especially when you consider that PRC has used its surpluses to buy up American bonds. This is the template that has been working for many years, and to watch Thune try to abandon it for the sake of some petty political gain is dismaying to me.

  2. jerry 2014.12.24

    Thune, like the rest of the right wing girls club, cannot take his eyes off the shirtless Putin and his swagger. They swoon over it at their cabal outlet, Fox News. They support the annexation of the Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine, the shoot down of a commercial passenger jet, but they will not support a willing honest broker a couple of miles from our shore. Trade with Cuba would be huge and the possibilities, endless. The trade relief would open more doors in South America for further trade as well with lifting this embargo. In short, it would make for better relations with our neighbors with no border fence.

    Someone besides Kurt Evans needs to take this empty suit on and kick his arse at election time. Farmers and ranchers should take note of this double talk as his foot dragging will cost them money. Unless they are still defecating in tall cotton from the giveaway Farm Bill and don't need honest income.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.24

    Nixon, that darn liberal!

    I agree, John: Thune has no consistent Republican, free-market reason for balking at free trade with Cuba.

    Jerry, I'd love to see someone take it to Thune on this issue in the Senate race. I will be curious to see if "No because Obama said yes" will be strong enough to stand in the way of lifting the embargo or if Thune will get pragmatic on this issue and remove it from the table before the 2016 election.

    I'd also be curious to see just how this issue would play with South Dakota voters. Is anyone in South Dakota deeply invested in maintaining the embargo? Does our growing Hispanic population have any influential opinion on this question?

  4. bearcreekbat 2014.12.24

    I find the human rights arguments against lifting the embargo, etc, a bit disingenuous. Opponents argue that Cuba identifies enemies of the State and then incarcerates and tortures them without trial or any sort of due process. How could the good old USA have relations with a country behaving like that, even though we own Gitmo, won't close it, deny detainees a day in court or even charges against them, waterboard them, use sleep deprivation and "rectal feeding," make detainees stand on broken bones, and have so many black holes around the world where we send our own victims to be tortured, and to die chained up naked on the ice cold floor of a dungeon like room? Wait, wait, maybe we are more like Cuba than we first thought, maybe even a little worse in some respects, such as hypocrisy?

  5. JeniW 2014.12.24

    Maybe Thune continues to suffer from the trauma created when we had to participate in air-raid drills, knowing that crawling under a desk would mean we would die anyway if Castro decided to nuked us?

    What I remember the most about the murder of John Kennedy was thinking about the feud going on between Cuba and the U.S. and because Kennedy was dead, Castro would soon be sending bombs our way. (Don't make fun of me, I was a kid with a child's logic.)

    I am not so sure that Thune is very much concern about human rights of anyone, but it looks pretty to say it.

  6. Moses 2014.12.24

    Again to my republican friends Thune is nothing more that a Saturday puppet, every puppet has a master and Thunes is Mcconell.The only thing Thune can due is stand in for a photo op.

  7. jerry 2014.12.24

    This just in. Raul Castro says they will change their stance on everything if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and their accomplices, go before the Hague for war crimes relating to torture both foreign and domestic. That would be so cool.

  8. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.24

    "Four horsemen of the apocalypse."

    That's very good Jerry, very appropriate.

    No, Thune's excuse for his words and actions does not hold up to even casual scrutiny. This is simply, I'm-against-it-if-Obama-is-for-it politics. The American people be damned. None of this is about us citizens. It's about power and greed.

  9. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.12.24

    Cuba, open up access to the internet??? Isn't that the same US Senator who does not believe we should still all have equal access to the information super highway here at home?

  10. larry kurtz 2014.12.24

    @carolrosenberg: Prescient or quixotic? Worth rethink: In 2013, Pentagon official said #Gitmo fiberoptic cable could service all Cuba.

  11. leslie 2014.12.25

    is it really "if obama is for it republicans are against it"? (by the way, every self declared voting republican is aiding and abetting this criminal republican conspiracy)

    i think it is really that all republicans that vote the party-line are for taking every public dollar for their own to hide and grow so they will survive after the republicans/military/cops destroy everyone's opportunity except the haves, the 1%.

    You did know inhabited islands have submerged due to-guess what? global warming.

  12. jerry 2014.12.25

    Here is what is happening now in Florida.

    The beaches are eroding while taxpayers spend billions to repair them while we still build in dangerous areas leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill each time a storm like Sandy happens. Meanwhile, in Thune's hated Cuba, they have actually done much that is proactive in many regards. The Brothers Castro seem to have a knack for being progressive with regards to climate change, in other words, they get it.

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.25

    Even George Will says the Republican reaction to Obama's Cuba initiative is ridiculous.

    (Yes, I read the occasional right wing article.)

  14. leslie 2014.12.25

    Deb, how could you???

    Cory is going to single-handedly win us 2016 if he keeps exposing these stories in South Dakota. And John T., i appreciate so much of your expertise.

    Have i asked yet whether we can initiate medicaid expansion?

    and larry, from the previous thread, TV will continue to be the major source of information in the USA well into the next decade or two, i think i read last year.

    i hate that black man, that obama so much, what amma gonna do w/o that Fox everywhere??

    my last few posts are suffering from excessive sugar consumption. and damnit, its time again to quote the big lebowski. "forget it donnie (sibson), you are out of your element. you are like a child who wanders into a movie and wants to know what happened. STFU!" (applies to various threads today)

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.25

    I'm only trying to keep up with the crazies, Leslie. I'm sorry.

  16. bearcreekbat 2014.12.26

    Deb, I also read what conservative columnists' write from time to time (although most of it is pretty much nothing but talking points, misdirection and/or flat out misrepresentation.) To my surprise, in Thursday's RC Journal columnist Cal Thomas also wrote a few positive comments about Obama's Cuba action.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.26

    No need to apologize for your wide reading, Deb! After all, I'm reading Tsitrian. :-D

    And as bearcreekbat notes, we need to keep up with even the worst of our conservative neighbors so we can be alert to points of agreement on which we might be able to build.

  18. Steve Sibson 2014.12.26

    "And as bearcreekbat notes, we need to keep up with even the worst of our conservative neighbors so we can be alert to points of agreement"

    That is already running at full speed Cory. The one-world communist system based on crony capitalism is quickly nearing completion. Except it is not true conservatives that you are compromising with. They are big business liberals.

  19. larry kurtz 2014.12.26

    Statehood for the tribes, Mexico and Cuba!

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.26

    Steve, do you realize that (1) no one understands the words you are stringing together, and (2) your comment does not connect with what I'm saying? The people to whom you apply the label "big business liberals" are the guys like Thune and Rounds who will lift the embargo because their business buddies like Jeff Sveen want more opportunities to make profits and exploit workers. They represent a drive for total victory by capital that runs exactly opposite the Marxist Communist ideal of victory and power for labor. The "true conservatives" with whom I would seek cooperation (not compromise, but working arrangements) are rock-ribbed Republicans like Stace Nelson and other mavericks who can see past the misuse of party labels and recognize our common interest in liberty unyoked by corporate overlords.

    Lifting the embargo is the surest way to liberate Cubans from Castro's oppression. Lifting the embargo may subject cubanos to more corporate oppression, although that's only and increased risk, not a new risk, since other countries are already trading with Cuba. But the embargo is not serving anyone's interests, not even yours, Sibby.

  21. grudznick 2014.12.26

    Mr. Nelson turned on the Republican Party, Mr. H. You and the Howites are the only ones that call him "rock-ribbed".

  22. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.12.26

    Grudz, You just don't get it do you? It is party firsters like yourself, who are the biggest problem in this country. Anyone who thinks the party comes before the country or in Stace Nelson's case, the State, need to be waterboarded like the other jihadists and terrorists.

  23. grudznick 2014.12.26

    Being older than you, Mr. Stricherz, I have no doubt that big soft "rockribbed" doughboy Mr. Nelson could hold me down and douse my head in a bucket of slop. That was his usual procedure in the legislatures, was it not?

  24. Steve Sibson 2014.12.26

    Cory, I am not after my interest. I am simply saying the crony capitalist need your Big Marxist communistic government to prosper. If you want to go with true conservatives like Stace Nelson, then you need to drop the Big Marxist communistic government agenda and start advocating of a smaller and limited government. What about that point you don't understand? And you don't see how the SDGOP Establishment used Obama's stimulus programs to fund their crony capitalism?

    Perhaps you, BCB and Fleming need to read all of this:

    More effective than outright censorship is the use of the left-right political spectrum to neutralize unwelcome facts and ideas, or just condition citizens to think along certain lines. The "left" leaning segment of the press can always be relied upon to automatically assault ideas and information from the "right", and vice versa.

    I think that fits what you are saying about Thune. And you are right. Thune is not the limited government conservative that he claims to be. If he truly was, he would not be number 3 in the GOP Senate hierarchy.

  25. bearcreekbat 2014.12.26

    Sibby, I read your linked article. It appears to me that you may not have read it, as it contains comments and admonitions that totally conflict with many of your posts on this and other blogs.

    For example, the article says, "there exists a conspiracy to use political power for ends which are inconsistent with the Constitution." If I recall correctly, you have argued that the adoption of the 14th Amendment wrecked the Constitution. If the Constitution has already been wrecked by the actions of the people at the end of the civil war by adopting the 14th Amendment, so how could you object to any action that is inconsistent with the wrecked Constitution?

    Likewise, your article also says, "the reader must put to one side the descriptive clichés of left and right, liberal and conservative, communist and fascist, even republican and democrat." This again suggests that you were never a "reader" of the article Sibby, as you regularly use these and other silly terms to describe everyone that you disagree with on various points.

    I saw a couple other interesting points in the linked article. First, the article describes a group it calls the "Order." This group seems to be consistent with the short rise of the "No Nothing" political party in the 1850's, which originated after the break up of the Whigs. The No Nothings held anti-immigrant views, anti-people with different religions views, and anti-everybody else views, that are quite similar to the views expressed by current Tea Party members and a large group of modern Republicans, as well as similar to your often stated anti-people with different religions viewpoint.

    Next, the article's assertion that "Most of us believe that the State exists to serve the individual, not vice versa," suggests that you disagree with JFK's admonition "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your Country." This is evidence that you and those who agree with your article's conspiracy theories are takers rather than givers, and share a value of greed and avarice by coveting what the Country can do to serve your own selfish personal interests rather than the public interests.

  26. Steve Sibson 2014.12.26

    BCB, do you 100% of the time agree with 100% of what a person stands for?

  27. bearcreekbat 2014.12.26

    Sibby, it depends on what that person stands for.

  28. Bill Fleming 2014.12.26

    Okay, I'm confused. When did Cory ever say John Thune was a Bonesman? He didn't even go to Yale, did he?

  29. Les 2014.12.26

    """"And as bearcreekbat notes, we need to keep up with even the worst of our conservative neighbors so we can be alert to points of agreement on which we might be able to build."""""Holy Cow, Cory. You're about to get outed from your own blog!

  30. larry kurtz 2014.12.26

    Thank you to the person bombing DWC with ip's manifesto.

  31. leslie 2014.12.26

    Geo. Will-mediamatters (huffpost today) rewards with 2014 "best misinformer" (ebola, rape, climate denial [i could add many more just breezing thru headings of Will's countless columns]). past award-winning misinformants-palin, limbaugh, beck and hannity, [idiots all-my observation].

    Grudz, Les, Troy, Sibson. Maybe you guys can get on the western dial and do a republican radio show for the pawn/porn/purple door/poor/long term hotel/on-site gambling bar for big flag wavers out here and mid-points like chamberlain. kinda like slate's gab-fest, only the opposite. have special shows from koch's east and west offices in SD.

  32. Steve Sibson 2014.12.26

    As I said before BCB is a master of deception. To break a broken Constitution and saying that will fix it is illogical. Restoring the original Constitution is not going to happen. Sorry Tea Party and conservatives.

    After BCB demeans opposites, he then serves up the serve or be served dichotomy. Sadly, the communistic system that is being formed (under falsely labeled opposites) is enslaving most all of us. Whether you call it socialism, fascism, capitalism, republicanism, democratic, or communism, we are being fooled into serving evil.

  33. Steve Sibson 2014.12.26

    BCB, why did you not just say not 100%?

  34. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.12.26

    I agree with Cory and Sibby. Thune is no conservative. He is an A typical self-serving DC politician.

    For those dreaming of ousting this Republican version of Tom Daschle, think twice. Thune already has $9 Million in his war chest for being a good too for the special interests.

    He's term-limited out by SD's Constitution you say?! Such pedestrian sentimentality does not apply to someone of such importance regardless of their rhetoric to the masses.

    The establishment GOP in SD won't suffer any fools who dare challenge Thune and the Democrats will be coming out of the Obama slump they have suffered from, so it does not look like John Thune will have any challenge in 2016.

  35. Bob Klein 2014.12.26

    Disgusted - Thune's term-limits promise came from his first campaign for Congress. He's since forgotten about it and plans that we will too. There is nothing in the SD Constitution on the topic.

  36. larry kurtz 2014.12.26

    Thune's spending political capital on stemming news of live boys or dead girls. Dan Nelson: watch your six.

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