Ileana the Splendid, &c.


As regular readers know, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) is one of my favorite people in public life. She is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And she is leading the drive to reform our funding of the United Nations.

The State Department, of course, is ticked. An official named Esther Brimmer said, “We oppose the backwards calls we again are hearing to withhold U.S. dues, given the impact doing so would have on U.S. influence and leadership across the U.N. system.”

Ileana responded, “I don’t think it’s backwards to demand transparency, accountability, and reform. But I do think the adjective ‘backwards’ too often applies to what we’re paying for at the U.N. We pay for a backwards U.N. Human Rights Council, where human-rights abusers like China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia have hijacked that body and use it to demonize democratic states, like Israel, while real human-rights abuses around the world are often ignored.”

She could have done without the “often.” To see a news article on this dust-up, go here.

You can see — can’t you? — why I love this woman so. (I ain’t talkin’ the State Department official.) Can you blame me?

In a column last week, I mentioned that Bill Richardson, our former U.N. ambassador, was in Cuba, trying to see Alan Gross. Gross, you remember, is the American aid worker who has been held hostage and prisoner by the Castros since December 2009. The dictatorship refused to let Richardson see Gross. The ex-ambassador has now given up, gone home.

According to this report, he said, “Unfortunately, after this negative experience, I don’t know if I could return here as a friend. The next step is up to the Cuban government, but they have not treated me like a friend.”

Huh. Has Richardson ever been a friend to a one-party dictatorship with a gulag? Does he expect or want friendship with such a regime? How odd.

Earlier this year, former president Carter was in Cuba, and he saw Gross. He also saw the Castro brothers. He referred to Fidel as an “old friend.” Sure.

In an interview not long after, I asked Oscar Biscet, the democracy leader, about Carter’s characterization of Castro. He said, “One can have different ideas, and they should be respected. But to call a tyrant a friend is truly horrible.”

At a minimum. (To see that interview with Biscet, go here.)

The recent Republican discussions of Social Security have put me in mind of George W. Bush.

By the way, are there any discussions of Social Security, except among Republicans? I mean, real discussions? What Democrats say is, “The Republicans want to push your grandmother over a cliff. Social Security must not be changed in any respect,” unto the day of ruination.

In 2000, Bush, running for president, ran on Social Security reform. This was very peculiar, and near suicidal, as some of his aides said. Social Security was the “third rail of American politics.” If you touched it, you would die.

Bush not only touched it — he grabbed it, hugged it. He would say, “I’m runnin’ for a reason.” In other words, he was seeking the presidency in order to do big and necessary things. It wasn’t a matter of living in the White House, hearing “Hail to the Chief,” and marking time.

Down in Florida, Joe Andrew, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised gleefully that Democrats would “fry” Bush on the third rail. They almost did. If not for Bush’s embrace of reform, and the Democrats’ demagoguery, he probably would have had a clean, undisputed win in Florida.

(What most hurt Bush, of course, in the final days of the campaign was the DUI revelation.)