Ryan's conversion on the road to Miami

I would be surprised if it comes up in tonight's debate, but it would be interesting to hear Paul Ryan talk about his evolution over whether to keep the U.S. embargo on Cuba. As Passport noted in August, the congressman, on free trade grounds, had voted three times against the embargo,  but moved away from the stance as he rose to national prominence. 

As expected, Ryan has had to do a bit of fence-mending with the Cuban exile community in Florida. The New York Times reported in September:

And so on Saturday morning, Mr. Ryan appeared alongside a powerhouse lineup of Florida Republicans including former Gov. Jeb Bush at the restaurant Versailles, long famous as a gathering place for the anti-Castro movement.

There, in front of a cheering crowd and with particularly intense endorsement from former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mr. Ryan made the case that his understanding of Cuba had evolved under long tutelage from Republican House members from South Florida, including Mr. Diaz-Balart and his younger brother Mario, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, now the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, who have also endorsed him.

In a separate local television interview, Mr. Ryan also explained how he had come to change his mind and since 2007 has supported the embargo.

“You learn from friendships,” Mr. Ryan told the crowd at Versailles, explaining that his Florida friends in Congress had shown him “just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president’s policy of appeasement is not working.”

As recently as 2009, Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If we’re going to have free trade with China, why not Cuba?” It would be interesting to hear his answer to that question now. For that matter, it would be interesting to hear Biden's.

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Romney updates Iran policy on campaign website

In conjunction with Mitt Romney's foreign-policy address address in Virginia this week, in which he vowed to prevent Iran from "acquiring nuclear weapons capability," the Romney campaign has updated the Iran section of its website to reflect that pledge:

Here's what the section looked like late last month, when I wrote about Romney's shifting "red line" for Iran's nuclear program. Notice the language below is virtually identical to the wording above, save for the references to capability:

It's not surprising that the campaign would update its site to reflect a revised or refined policy. But the change does challenge the explanation Romney's foreign-policy advisors gave in September when the Republican candidate told ABC's George Stephanopoulos (twice) that he had the same red line as Obama -- Iran "may not have a nuclear weapon" -- even though his surrogates had said the candidate wouldn't tolerate Iran obtaining the capability to develop a nuclear weapon, a lower bar for preemptive military action. 

At the time, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the New York Times that Romney had not meant to suggest in the ABC interview that his red line was the same as Obama's. She pointed to the candidate's remark that Iran shouldn't have the "capacity to terrorize the world" and argued that Stephanopoulos had mischaracterized Romney's position. "Gov. Romney's red line is Iran having a nuclear weapons capacity," Saul maintained.

Yes, the Iran debate involves extremely subtle linguistic distinctions. But it seems more likely that, amid Benjamin Netanyahu's calls for the United States to articulate red lines, Romney has decided in the election's final weeks to clearly distinguish his position from the president's, and to adopt the Israeli prime minister's more aggressive stance. As he told CNN on Tuesday,  "My own test is that Iran should not have the capability of producing a nuclear weapon. I think that's the same test that Benjamin Netanyahu would also apply."