What about trade issues — especially Cuba and pending trade deals with Columbia, South Korea and Panama? There are two contingents, especially on the Cuba issue, and I wonder where you come down in that?

“I’m very supportive of trade with Cuba. As soon as I got to Congress, I was (a member) of the original Cuba Working Group … that advocated opening up Cuba for trade.

“That would be very beneficial for Arkansas. In fact, we’d be the leading benefiter of that because of our agricultural products.

“Besides that, I think that’s how you change countries. Not only are you trading products but ideas. The American philosophy will win it. We trade with a lot worse people than Fidel Castro. You have to be honest and consistent with that.

“I’ve consistently voted (for opening trade with Cuba) and will continue to. The good news is I think we have a good chance of getting that done in the not-too-distant future.

“As for Panama, Columbia and South Korea, I’ve consistently supported (trade deals) and consistently voted for that. We (don’t) need free trade but fair trade. These (pending) agreements have been hammered out. They’re good agreements…

“The only reason we’re not (passing the agreements) is the Obama administration is holding out because they want to force it so it’s much easier for the people of Panama to unionize. We have no business, at all, dealing with that sort of thing. … That’s just payback to organized unions.”

The House Cuba bill also contains the tourism/travel provision. Would you vote for that bill as is or insist the travel restrictions remain?

“I’m very supportive of travel (freedoms) remaining. The way you change countries is through dialoguing with other nations. As Americans go visit, they’ll exchange not only goods and services, but ideas. The American way of life will win in that regard.

“Castro recently announced he’d privatize many jobs in Cuba, get those back into the private sector so they can have a free market economy. All that is very, very positive. The way to continue that is to interact with Cuba and try to move them in the right direction.

“A good friend of mine who was in Congress for several years was (former University of Nebraska head football coach and Nebraska Rep.) Tom Osborne. He was very supportive of trade with Cuba. … I remember him standing on the floor of the House saying, ‘You know, I learned pretty quickly that if you ran the same play 40 times in a row and it didn’t work, you need to do something different. We’ve had the same policy with Cuba year after year after year and it hasn’t worked. We need to change.’”