Nets Fret Trump Will ‘Roll Back’ Obama’s Cuba ‘Legacy’

Amid the media mourning and eulogizing of Fidel Castro, on Monday, the network morning shows turned to worrying about the impact President-elect Donald Trump would have on American/Cuban relations, declaring the opening of diplomatic relations with the authoritarian regime to be the “centerpiece” of President Obama’s “legacy.”

On NBC’s Today, correspondent Andrea Mitchell – who on Sunday fondly reminisced over her past meetings with Castro – proclaimed: “The White House sees Obama’s opening to Cuban as the centerpiece of his legacy. Direct commercial flights starting this week, postal service with the U.S., credit cards and banking, internet service. Cracks in the 50 year trade embargo, like the first cruise ships from Florida, bringing tourist dollars...”

She warned: “Since Congress has long refused to lift that trade embargo with Cuba, President Obama made these changes by executive order. President-elect Trump can change all of that when he takes office.”

In another report at the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, correspondent Gabe Gutierrez fretted: “...a major question is whether Donald Trump, who once explored business deals in Havana, will reverse recent openings President Obama has made in Cuba when he takes office.”

On CBS This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose reported from Havana and asked Cubans “what was the best thing” Castro did as dictator. He then noted: “President Barack Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Havana and loosened the travel ban in 2009. President-elect Donald Trump called Fidel a brutal dictator and said he may roll back some of President Obama's policies.”

In a report that followed, correspondent Chip Reid observed: “Just days before he was elected, Donald Trump promised to reverse the nation's diplomatic deal with Cuba....On Sunday, Mr. Trump's incoming White House chief of staff signaled the whole deal is up in the air.”

He then hyped President Obama trying to calm fears internationally: “In Peru earlier this month, President Obama reassured Latin American business owners that U.S. ties to Cuba will not be cut off.”

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Reporting from Havana on ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight anchor David Muir wrapped up a segment by recalling: “When we asked the Cubans here in the streets what they think about the future between Cuba and the U.S. after the thaw in relations they’ve witnessed from the last couple of years, they say much of that now depends on what they hear from President-elect Trump.”

In the discussion that followed, co-host George Stephanopoulos wondered: “We know during the campaign, Trump said he would reverse those executive orders, normalizing relation that President Obama made. The question is, how far he will go, what will he demand? Can he get it done?”

White House correspondent Jon Karl tried to reassure him:

I do not think President Trump will go forward to rapidly lift all that Obama did on Cuba. I think it's more likely, based on my conversations with his top aides, it's more likely he'll use the threat of doing that to try to gain concessions from the Cuban government on human rights and religious freedoms....So you could get into a situation where they dig in, Trump feels he needs to save face and lift some of those measures. Keep in mind, everything that President Obama did on this, the easing of the travel restriction, the easing of the trade embargo, the reestablishing of diplomatic relations, that was all done through executive order. So, as president, Trump could lift that all with a stroke of a pen. I see no indication that's something he’ll want to do unless he's goaded into it by the Cuban government.

On Sunday night, the NBC and ABC evening newscasts stoked fears that Trump was more of a threat to the Cuban people than the oppressive Communist regime they continue to suffer under.

Here are transcripts of the November 28 coverage:

Today
7:06 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Also this morning, the official tributes are underway in Cuba following the death of its controversial former leader Fidel Castro. NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell is in Havana this morning. Andrea, good morning to you.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning to you, Savannah. Cubans will begin lining up to pay their respects today here at Revolution Square in Havana to Fidel Castro, honoring the founder of their revolution and his controversial legacy.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Millions Mourn Castro in Cuba; Tributes Underway as Obama, Trump Mark Death Differently]

Preparations for ceremonies today, where Fidel Castro will be honored before his remains are carried through the island's provinces more than 500 miles to their final resting place Sunday, in a mausoleum built for this day.

MITCHELL: At the University of Havana, students held their own memorial.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [STUDENT]: I think that Fidel Castro was a good man. He always fought for the rights of the Cuban people.

MITCHELL: Across the city, a dramatically different point of view, human rights protesters known as the Ladies in White saying state security police warned them to stay home this week instead of holding their weekly march.

[TO LADIES IN WHITE] So will things change under Raul now that Fidel has gone or is everything the same?

She says, “Nothing will change, the dictator Raul Castro will continue his war.”

Having defied 11 American presidents, Fidel Castro’s passing was noted in a strikingly different ways by President Obama and President-elect Trump. Obama praising Castro, saying, “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and the world around him.” Trump blasting Castro as a “brutal dictator” with a legacy of “firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and denial of fundamental human rights.”

The White House sees Obama’s opening to Cuban as the centerpiece of his legacy. Direct commercial flights starting this week, postal service with the U.S., credit cards and banking, internet service. Cracks in the 50 year trade embargo, like the first cruise ships from Florida, bringing tourist dollars to people like Omar Guererro, who drives a 1950 red Chevy convertible.

OMAR GUERERRO: We are getting better. We need jobs economy.  

MITCHELL: Since Congress has long refused to lift that trade embargo with Cuba, President Obama made these changes by executive order. President-elect Trump can change all of that when he takes office. Today, his aides are sending mixed signals about how much he intends to roll back. Savannah and Matt?

GUTHRIE: Alright, Andrea Mitchell in Havana, thank you.


CBS This Morning
7:15 AM ET

JEFF GLOR: U.S. airlines begin direct flights to Havana this morning just as Castro's death raises new questions about American/Cuban relations. During the campaign, as Charlie mentioned, President-elect Trump promised to roll back the changes made by President Obama. Chip Reid is at the White House and shows us that there are no signs yet that Mr. Trump will change his plans.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Cuba and America; Castro Death May Mark Turning Point for Relations]

DONALD TRUMP: I see all these signs, “Cubans for Trump.”

CHIP REID: Just days before he was elected, Donald Trump promised to reverse the nation's diplomatic deal with Cuba.

TRUMP: We will cancel Obama's one-sided Cuban deal made by executive order if we do not get the deal we want.

REID: On Sunday, Mr. Trump's incoming White House chief of staff signaled the whole deal is up in the air.

REINCE PRIEBUS: President-elect Trump is going to be looking for some movement in the right direction in order to have any sort of deal with Cuba.

REID: In Peru earlier this month, President Obama reassured Latin American business owners that U.S. ties to Cuba will not be cut off.

BARACK OBAMA: All of those things I expect to continue.

REID: The White House and the President-elect were on opposite ends of the spectrum in their comments on Fidel Castro's death. In his statement, President Obama left it up to history to “judge the enormous impact of this singular figure.” Trump was more blunt, calling Castro “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people.” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said President Obama’s statement wasn’t strong enough.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO [R-FL]: What I call pathetic is not mentioning whatsoever in that statement the reality that there are thousands upon thousands of people who suffered brutally under the Castro regime.

ALAN GROSS: I was a pawn, I was a prisoner of both governments.

REID: American Alan Gross spent five years in a Cuban prison accused of undermining their government. He says the only thing keeping the countries at odds had been the men in charge.

GROSS: I boil it down to a personality conflict between ten U.S. presidents and one Cuban president. And when we got to the 11th president and the Cuban presidency changed, that’s when we were able to move forward a little bit with diplomatic relations.

REID: Gross isn't convinced that Castro's death will result in much real change in Cuba since power transferred to his brother about a decade ago. But on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump did demand political freedom for the Cuban people.

NORAH O’DONNELL: Really interesting. Chip Reid from the White House, thank you so much.


GMA
7:10 AM ET

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Let's get more on that from chief White House correspondent Jon Karl. Jon, we know during the campaign, trump said he would reverse those executive orders, normalizing relation that President Obama made. The question is, how far he will go, what will he demand? Can he get it done?

KARL: We also heard during the campaign George, him talking about being open to lifting the trade embargo. Just wanted to get a better deal than what he said Obama got. I do not think President Trump will go forward to rapidly lift all that Obama did on Cuba. I think it's more likely, based on my conversations with his top aides, it's more likely he'll use the threat of doing that to try to gain concessions from the Cuban government on human rights and religious freedoms.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They're saying they want release of political prisoners. The question is, how will then, Raul Castro and the Cuban regime respond?

KARL:  Exactly. So you could get into a situation where they dig in, Trump feels he needs to save face and lift some of those measures. Keep in mind, everything that President Obama did on this, the easing of the travel restriction, the easing of the trade embargo, the reestablishing of diplomatic relations, that was all done through executive order. So, as president, trump could lift that all with a stroke of a pen. I see no indication that's something he’ll want to do unless he's goaded into it by the Cuban government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll see, Jon Karl, thanks very much.  

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC