The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Wednesday, Feb. 26:
The scathing reply delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio on the Senate floor this week in response to Sen. Tom Harkin's report of a visit to Cuba was a well-aimed and well-justified verbal cannonball. Sen. Harkin had it coming.
Let's be clear about this: There is room for debate about the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba and whether it should be replaced. Indeed, open debate should be encouraged.
There is certainly room for discussion about finding a more-effective way for the United States to help the Cuban people and, at the same time, promote U.S. goals in the hemisphere. Sacred cows have no place in foreign policy.
But any discussion about daily life in Cuba that glosses over, or completely ignores - as Sen. Harkin did - the punishing nature of the Cuban regime is intellectually dishonest, not to say naive.
Sen. Harkin believes the United States should abandon its policy of seeking Cuba's isolation. His farm state of Iowa benefits from any trade improvement that would increase agricultural exports to Cuba, of course. Still, it's his opinion, and he's entitled to express it without arousing anyone's temper.
But U.S. policy toward Cuba is one thing, and the tyrannical, dictatorial nature of the Cuban government is another. How can there be any debate about the latter?
Sen. Harkin recently visited eastern Cuba and returned to deliver a report on the Senate floor about the idyllic countryside and the wonders of Cuban medicine, with a brief bow, as well, to the state education system.
Even assuming he's right - a debatable point - he forgot to say that whatever "benefits" the Cuban state offers its people have come at the price of taking their liberty. That's a bad bargain in anyone's book. His constituents in Iowa wouldn't make that deal, and neither did the Cuban people, not willingly.
There's not enough room here to once again lay out all the many crimes of the Castro regime. We'll settle for the opening words of the latest Human Rights Watch report on Cuba:
"Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. In 2012, the government of Raul Castro continued to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions and forced exile."
And that's just for openers. Maybe Sen. Harkin would have gotten a more-accurate impression of what daily life is really like if he had spoken to Cuban dissidents, the courageous individuals who dare to keep the spirit of freedom alive on the island by willingly risking their lives and liberty.
Sen. Rubio rightly responded to the speech by the Democrat from Iowa with sarcasm and indignation, tying the Castro regime to the Venezuelan government's harsh response to street protests over failed economic policies based on Cuba's discredited model.
"Let me tell you what the Cubans are really good at," Sen. Rubio said. "What they are really good at is repression ... They have exported repression in real time, in our hemisphere, right now."
Mr. Rubio ended by making a good suggestion to his colleagues: Go ahead, visit Cuba, but be sure to talk to those who dare to speak the truth even at the cost of punishment by the government.
"I bet you're going to hear something very different than what you got from your hosts on your last trip to the wonderful Cuba, this extraordinary socialist paradise. Because it's a joke. It's a farce."
It's a joke, but no one's laughing.