Exceptional Politicians

by Jay Nordlinger

A bunch of us had a long sitdown with Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio). (I guess there aren’t too many non-Rs here in Tampa, unless you count the press.) He knows a ton, has done a ton, is impressive and trust-inspiring in myriad ways. A smart Washington hand said to me, “Everyone in Washington knows he’s a cut above, or several cuts above. They all respect him. But there’s also some envy there.”

Yes, that old green-eyed beast, ever-present in human affairs, and poisonous.

Saw two Diaz-Balart brothers, talking of Cuban freedom: when it’s coming, how it will come. These were Lincoln, a former congressman, and Mario, a current congressman. (There are other Diaz-Balart brothers. They have sometimes been known as “the Cuban Kennedys.”) Mario wouldn’t mind my saying that Lincoln, in particular, is spellbinding. (Mario might be a little more relaxed — more Miami Vice, a Cuban-American Don Johnson.) Lincoln quoted Churchill about never giving in: “Never, never, never . . .” He reiterated it in Spanish: “Nunca, nunca, nunca . . .”

That looks flat, maybe even a little silly, on the page. But out of his mouth — in the context of his remarks — it was electrifying.

Cubans and their friends have waited a long, long time for the liberation of that island — even for a relaxation of the chokehold. Cubans have missed out on some 53 years of life — more than a half-century of normal life, life unruled by a totalitarian dictatorship. The Eastern Europeans had to put up with about 45.

How could one family and one party — the Castros and the Communists — hate an island and its people so much that they would torture and choke them for 50-plus years? How could people in the Free World be so indifferent, when not supportive (of the dictatorship)?

These are sad questions, and Tampa is so happy, with its eager conventioneers and sparkling bay.

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