On Monday, deputy national security advisor and amateur foreign policy enthusiast Ben Rhodes decided to take a page straight out of the playbook “Latin American Dictatorship For Dummies,” providing moral cover to Cuba’s extrajudicial detainment programs. Rather than outright condemning the regime’s obstructionism about its political prisoners, Rhodes carefully explained the Castro calculus. “It’s their belief that they are not political prisoners, that they are in prison for various crimes and offenses against Cuban law,” he told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
This. Is. Disgusting. https://t.co/21ZiWWVLfv
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) March 21, 2016
— Alberto Fernandez (@VPAFernandez) March 22, 2016
Earlier that day, Acosta directly confronted Raul Castro about Cuba’s political prisoners. It was the first time that an American reporter (or any member of the international free press for that matter) had been granted unfettered access to the island’s totalitarian overlords. Castro’s response, was, well, classic Castro. “What political prisoners? Give me a name, or names, or after this meeting is over you can give me a list of political prisoners and if we have those political prisoners they will be released before tonight ends,” the senile strongman snapped. Standing right beside by the petulant tyrant, President Obama simply grinned, looking away in discomfort. Perhaps he was nervous. It’s not everyday you get to wine and dine with a Castro.
Later that day, we discovered it wasn’t jittery nerves, but plain cowardice. As The Daily Wire reported, “In a sit-down with ABC News ‘David Muir on Monday…when asked point blank if he would give Castro the list, Obama refused to respond directly, returning instead to his talking point about ending the embargo on the communist country.” This (non) response should have been expected. With seven years into the presidency, it’s probably an exercise in naivete to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, especially when it comes to foreign policy.
Like clockwork, the administration followed suit. A conveyer belt of White House officials, one after another, parroted the president, refusing to demand the release of Cuban political prisoners. Rhodes led the cavalry charge into the desperate depths of Obama oblivion. When pressed by Acosta to comment on Castro’s intransigence, the deputy national security advisor provided an answer that only somebody with an MFA in Creative Writing can contrive:
I think the basic difference is the Cuban government’s rejection that they are not in prison for violating their laws and our belief that either their laws or practices again crack down on certain types of behavior that we believe should be allowed in every country.
However there are still people we follow their cases, we raise their cases with the government, we share lists with the government and just as we raise concerns about short-term detention practices.
While Rhodes slightly recalibrated his response, from a callous and crude “they are in prison for various crimes and offenses against Cuban law” to a casual and convoluted “the basic difference is the Cuban government’s rejection that they are not in prison for violating their laws and our belief…certain types of behavior… should be allowed,” he still conceded that the administration has not been actively monitoring the human rights situation on the ground, namely the cases of political prisoners shipped off the Cuban detention centers.