Monday mornings have a bad reputation. Let me tell you about my morning yesterday: I interviewed Dr. Oscar Biscet, foremost of the Cuban democracy activists and dissidents. He was released from prison, after about twelve years, two and a half weeks ago. Naturally, I had wanted to interview him for a very, very long time — had looked forward to the day. We talked about freedom, slavery, perseverance, and related matters. The interview will be published in the next issue of National Review. Immediately after the interview, I took my twelve-year-old niece, visiting from Michigan, to the Statue of Liberty.
A good morning.
Years ago, I swore off writing about Jimmy Carter. What more could I say? I sometimes fall off the wagon — as I will now (before climbing back on).
During his recent visit to Havana, Carter called Fidel Castro an “old friend.” I ask you: How can a man who led one of the greatest liberal democracies in history be a friend of Castro? Remember who, and what, Castro is: He is the absolute dictator of a tortured and battered society, the boss of a totalitarian system. He presides over a gulag. Through force and terror, he denies people the basic rights that many of us take for granted. Everything that America stands for, Castro stands against. Everything Castro stands for, we stand against.
How can Jimmy Carter consider Castro a friend? Who, and what, is Jimmy Carter?
I remember talking to Jeane Kirkpatrick about Carter’s behavior after Violeta Chamorro won the election over the Sandinistas in 1990. Carter was notably churlish, and he tried to get Chamorro, a democrat, and the legitimate winner, to share power with the gang she had defeated at the polls. She said, in essence, “Nothing doing. The people have spoken.”
Kirkpatrick commented to me, about Carter, “You would have thought a democrat would be happy.” Yes, you would have.
After his visit with Castro, Carter said that the dictator “seems to be in good health.” I thought I should tell you that, just in case you were worried.
Carter also saw Alan Gross, the American aid worker who has been a prisoner-hostage in Cuba since December 2009. (I had a piece on Gross and his case in the April 4 NR.) Carter said, “He still seems to be in good spirits, professing his innocence.” I don’t know about you, but I discerned something slightly sinister about that “professing.”
In the course of his stay in Havana, Carter called for the release of the “Cuban Five.” Who are they? They are five Cuban spies who are now serving prison terms in the United States. They were convicted of espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. They were afforded every legal protection: appeal after appeal, etc.
One of the men was convicted for his role in the Castro government’s shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. Those planes were in international airspace. The attack killed three U.S. citizens and one permanent resident.
But whatever, right?
Finally, Fidel’s brother Raúl, after meeting with Carter for six hours, said, “Carter is an honest man.” I wonder why he thinks that. I wonder why he and Fidel are so fond and respectful of Carter. Actually, I don’t.
I asked Biscet about that comment of Carter’s: that Castro was an old friend. He said, “One can have many different ideas, and they should be respected, but to call a tyrant a friend is truly horrible. This is what Virgil did with Julius Caesar: He converted him into a hero for the ages. We must not encourage the creation of false heroes.”
For several decades, “liberals” from the United States, and from Hollywood in particular, have traveled to Havana, to pay their respects to the dictator. Carole King crooned to him “You’ve Got a Friend.” What is it about these Americans that they consider Castro a friend? Do they consider his prisoners their enemy?
In the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama called Hugo Chávez his friend — “mi amigo.” I sound like a broken record, I know: What is it about American “liberals” and leftist beasts? Does someone like our president consider Chávez merely a “liberal in a hurry”? Kind of a SEIU guy, rather than a DLC guy? Have our liberals learned nothing since the 1930s? It’s astonishing.
Biscet said that, in his country, “you look at the sea and know that the sea is the prison bars. This whole great, big, beautiful island of Cuba is a prison,” a land “converted by the Castro brothers into their personal estate.”