September 17th, 2021


Here's a toast to the loud and eager

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published December 23, 2014

It's still a long, long way to 2016 as the mud flies, but sniping has started early in both parties, and that's good. The system is working exactly the way it's designed to work. Some people, forever fretting about spilling tea on their crumpets, are looking for the ladies' fainting couch. But here's a toast and a cheer for contentious politicians.

Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are getting it on over President Obama's romance with the Castro brothers in Cuba, and Elizabeth Warren is itching for what was called, in a braver time than the one we live in now, "a cat fight." She can't wait to provoke Hillary Clinton's celebrated throwing arm that aimed many a lamp at Bubba when the Clintons were in the White House.

The wreckage that the Castro brothers have made of fundamental human rights in Cuba is no theoretical issue for Mr. Rubio. His parents fled Cuba to avoid a wretched life, and he scolded Mr. Obama for "coddling dictators and tyrants" and scheming for cordiality with a regime that harasses, imprisons and kills its people to suppress dissent and decency. Even a dissenting dog must make a long swim to Key West to bark.

"The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam," Mr. Paul argues. "Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change. Sen. Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism."

If Mr. Paul looks around, he'll see moats there already, moats called the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. And the Rio Grande, of course. Some moat that is. The senator from Kentucky has been stung by criticism that he's the isolationist, and he has taken tutelage to heart. He says most Cubans, by far, agree with him that getting cozy with the Castro brothers is a terrific idea. (He reserves the right to be an isolationist again, if it suits him.)

Mr. Rubio says his libertarian colleague "has no idea what he's talking about. I think it's unfortunate that Rand has decided to adopt Barack Obama's foreign policy and that's fine, he has every right to support the president's foreign policy if that's where he wants to line up. But I'm telling you, it isn't going to work. This notion that somehow by doing this there's going to be change in Cuba is just not true. On the contrary, it's just going to strengthen the regime."

Such welcome back-and-forth between senators is what the Founding Fathers anticipated. Being high-testosterone guys, the founders were not impressed by mealy-mouth debate. But lively debate unsettles some people. "The spat highlights a fissure in the Republican Party," writes a sage on The Huffington Post, notorious for its concern for Republican interests, "and at this rate, we might as well cancel the debates."

Canceling the presidential debates in 2016 might be a capital idea, eliminating endless recitals of stale talking points. We won't need the debates if the candidates mix it up like the senators from Kentucky and Florida threaten to do. A brawl is precisely what a presidential campaign should be.

The guys are tweeting and sniping at each other on Facebook and Twitter, and Hillary and Elizabeth Warren are using surrogates and substitutes. Ladies still can't instinctively throw venom and bile at each other in public, like men do, so others do it for them. says it will spend $1 million to persuade Mrs. Warren to run; another group, Democracy for America, will spend $250,000. "There are a lot of unchecked boxes with Hillary Clinton when it comes to economic populism and corporate accountability, Adam Green, a founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, tells The Boston Globe. "There are definitely red flags." There's suddenly no scarcity of box-checkers and flag-wavers eager to take down the oldest established permanent floating inevitable nominee in Democratic politics.

Her record as secretary of state, as The Globe notes, was marked by the rise of ISIS, a breakdown in relations with Russia, her book didn't sell, and that was her face on People magazine's poorest selling issue of the year. Benghazi faded as an issue only because no one is yet running against her (and no one expects Elizabeth Warren to remind anyone). Suddenly, she doesn't seem so inevitable anymore.

The real inevitability is that soon we'll start picking a new president. Barack Obama will get the hook. The pretenders will sharpen their rhetoric. Sniping will become cannonading. John Adams, Tom Jefferson and the other gentlemen in Philadelphia would be pleased.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.