- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Former President Jimmy Carter, himself no stranger to Cuba or the Castro brothers, offered praise on Thursday for President Obama’s move to normalize relations with the country.

“I’m very proud and grateful that President Obama has shown such good wisdom and also, I’d say, political courage in taking this long-overdue step,” Mr. Carter said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I know the Castro brothers quite well, and I think this will not benefit them - it will benefit the people of Cuba. That’s the main thing I see.”

Indeed, Mr. Carter has visited Cuba multiple times, including a trip in 2011 in the midst of the five-year imprisonment of American Alan Gross, who was released Wednesday as part of a swap that involved the release of three convicted Cuban spies.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, slammed Mr. Obama Wednesday as the “worst negotiator” as president since at least Mr. Carter and said congressional Republicans might block the nomination of a U.S. ambassador to the country and halt funding for diplomatic facilities on the island.

But Mr. Carter called for cooperation from Capitol Hill.

“The Congress has nothing to say about which country is recognized diplomatically - that’s a privilege or opportunity or maybe…a burden that’s given to the president alone - the Congress has nothing to say about that,” he said. “Obviously, the Senate will have to approve the nominee to be a full ambassador down there. But I think that main thing is to go ahead and lift the embargo and sanctions and that’s something that Congress has to do since the Helms-Burton Act was passed under President Clinton.”

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