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President Obama made history this week by becoming the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba in nearly 100 years, and the first to do so since the embargo was placed more than 50 years ago.

Unlike many freedom-loving Americans, I applaud Obama’s decision to change the strategy in pulling down the walls that surround our small island neighbor. If communism is going to be defeated there without overthrowing the Cuban state, it’s going to have to be done through installation of free markets, and I view Obama’s reopening of diplomatic ties as a step in the right direction.

Also, I don’t know who else besides Obama could have persuaded Raul Castro, the brutal dictator of a communist regime, to participate in a press conference in which the American media were allowed to ask questions.

I loved that press conference. Castro looked completely like a fish out of water. It was painfully clear that this man was not happy with being asked to explain himself on issues of international import, particularly in the area of human rights.

“… you are making too much questions — too many questions to me. I think questions should be directed to President Obama,” Castro said.

Because the American press is persistent, they kept asking questions.

That’s when we entered the Twilight Zone.

Pressed by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the dictator of a repressive, communist regime made the finest stump speech for Bernie Sanders that I’ve heard this campaign season.

Do you think there is any other, more sacred right than the right to health so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicament? For example, do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country? …

“We have many other rights — a right to health, the right to education. Do you — and this is my last example that I will mention. Do you think that for equal work, men get better pay than women just for the fact of being women? Well in Cuba, women get same pay for same work.”

He might as well have slapped a Bernie Sanders campaign poster on the front of his podium, complete with an invitation to text “Bernie” to 54321 for campaign updates. These are the exact ideas upon which the entire Sanders campaign is predicated: Healthcare as a right. Education as a right. Equal pay for equal work.

Excuse me for being facetious, but who knew the real reason Americans didn’t have all this free stuff was because of the U.S. government’s travel restrictions to Cuba? Now that American air companies are permitted to begin flights to the island, let’s all buy our tickets to the island and bask in the glory of all their social benefits!

Never mind the hundreds of thousands of Cubans that have risked their lives fleeing their homeland in search of a better life.

Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that, should Bernie Sanders be elected, the United States has a significant chance of turning into a super-sized Cuba. We have a Congress and courts to protect us from that. Furthermore, Americans value their human rights too much to allow it to happen. I honestly believe we would fight another civil war before we would allow the rights enshrined in the Constitution to be taken from us in the Cuban style.

However, I also sincerely believe it is a bad idea to install the root cause of Cuba’s economic woes into the American economic system. The economic problems of Cuba are not rooted in the embargo’s existence. They are rooted in the politics of free stuff.

Is it any wonder that two descendants of Cuban refugees appear on the election ballot as members of a party that doesn’t represent the politics of free stuff?

Is it any wonder that, given the deeply rooted suspicion of government in American culture, many Americans don’t want anything to do with the massive fraud, waste and corruption to which the politics of free stuff are prone?

Is it any wonder, given the sheer size of our national debt, that millions of Americans have serious concerns that embracing the politics of free stuff could lead our nation down the path to financial and economic ruin?

I don’t think it’s any wonder at all.

I applaud the president for making his visit to Cuba. It hopefully will produce real change for the Cuban people. It also provided a great view into a different world, a world where the politics of free stuff have been taken seriously for more than 50 years.

Hopefully the American people were watching.

Landon Hemsley is a political columnist and digital project specialist for the Independent Record. He would love to visit Havana someday. Email him at, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter @EarlOfHemsley.


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