CUBA, OBAMA AND THE BLIND ROMANTICISM OF AMERICAN LIBERALS President Obama stands before a mural of Che Guevara in Havana, Cuba / Photo: AP By Tom Rogan March 24, 2016

President Obama claims that his rapprochement with Cuba will reap great benefits for the United States. Greater interactions with the Castro brothers, he says, will lead to the greater influence of U.S. values. Cubans will become freer and more prosperous by virtue of a more open U.S. posture.

But then the President of the United States let a dictator make him into a puppet.

Obama this week stood at attention against the backdrop of a mass-murderer — and the most overrated insurgent in history — Che Guevara. Obama thanked Raul Castro for lecturing him about alleged U.S. failures on human rights. Then Castro lifted up Obama’s arm as if he were a literal puppet.

As appalling as that visual was, the smiling president attended a baseball game with Castro shortly after giving a pro forma statement denouncing the ISIS attacks in Belgium that killed at least 30 people and left more than 120 others maimed and bleeding. It was — and is — sick.

Of course, to many liberals, the president’s visit wasn’t a pathetic abdication of U.S. credibility on human freedom. Instead, it was a glorious celebration of an exciting new relationship. Speaking on CNN after the Castro-Obama press conference, Devry Vorwerk, an American liberal supporter of President Obama’s policy, asserted that the U.S. and Cuba “have a lot to learn from each other.”

In any relationship, remaining open to learning from each other can lead to combined development. No one is perfect and learning is continuous. If Cuba can learn the open mind of America to technology and personal independence, America can learn the simple and nature-friendly lifestyle from Cuba. A Bitcoin Trader software developed in the US can have users in Cuba and Cuba can invest in an American market.

And even the more contemplative liberals celebrated Obama’s fictional reality. Consider Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post. Rightly identifying that the Castros are buried in economic despair and desperately need better U.S. relations, Robinson nevertheless absurdly claims that “relaxing travel restrictions for U.S. citizens can only help flood the island with American ideas and values.” Robinson thus fails to realize that a serious U.S. deal with Cuba could extract concessions on freedom for imprisoned Cuban political prisoners in exchange for a new relationship.

The difference between Cuban visitors to America and American visitors to Cuba is that the latter relax at 35,000 feet, while the former brave shark infested waters
Regardless, assuming that Cuba will change for the better because of what President Obama has done, American liberals neglect the abundant evidence to the contrary. That’s because over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Europeans have visited Cuba. Those tourists arrive with the same “ideas and values” Mr. Robinson references. But they leave having only lined the pockets of Communist kleptocrats and their geriatric feudal lords. The Castros get foreign capital, but the Cuban people remain impoverished.

Indeed, as I noted on the McLaughlin Group this time last year, the difference between Cuban visitors to America and American visitors to Cuba is that the latter relax at 35,000 feet, while the former brave shark infested waters.

Yet the president’s inane visit and his delusional supporters only illustrate something more unpleasant: the American liberal view of Communist Cuba remains as blindly romantic as it was 55 years ago. Cuba remains a foul dictatorship that imprisons political activists, their spouses and anyone else who dares to speak freely. And the Castros do so because, well, they can. This is reality.

But step through the looking glass and consider the Cuba of American liberal dreams. The White House released a video celebrating President Obama’s first day touring the Communist citadel. It shows decaying buildings and poorly lighted streets. At the 36-second mark, you can see Cuban intelligence officers keeping back Cuban crowds. Yet a soundtrack of Cuban celebration accompanies this sad indictment of Cuba’s misery. The dichotomy is at once foul and absurd. While liberals see a fun visit into a brave new world, the reality of that world screams back at us, begging our heed to the suffering it represents.

A more apt soundtrack would have been Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Still, even if American liberals waltz in Castro’s philosophical maze of nice cigars and crappy cars and activists behind bars, history will render ultimate moral verdict on President Obama’s new policy. The verdict will not be kind.

Tom Rogan is a Senior Contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.