Politics & Policy

A good morning, &c.

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.”

‐Move, now, to Europe — to France in particular. As I was scanning the news, I saw a photo that made me stop: A man had a green star affixed to his lapel. What was going on? The story that the photo accompanied began, “French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ousted adviser on diversity called the president’s conservative party the ‘plague of Muslims’ amid a growing furor over its plans to debate Islam’s role in France.” The ex-adviser, Abderrahmane Dahmane, “is a controversial figure of Algerian descent who has called on French Muslims to wear a green star Tuesday in a sign of protest, similar to the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear under Nazi occupation.”

Yes, yes: because there are such great similarities between Jews under the Third Reich and Muslims living in France today. The greatest danger European Muslims face, it seems to me, is sores on their backsides — from having them kissed so much by European political and cultural elites. (You don’t mind a little hyperbole — especially indignant hyperbole — in a column like this, do you?)

The photo of that man with the green star is one of the most obscene things I have seen in months . . .

‐Feel like something domestic? I had a thought about this report, from the Associated Press — maybe you’ll have it too:

Sometimes in politics and legislation, whether you win is less important than how you win.

That’s the dilemma facing House Speaker John Boehner as he tries to round up the votes to pass a fast-approaching spending compromise and avert a partial government shutdown by week’s end.

Boehner, R-Ohio, wants the overwhelming majority of those votes to come from his fellow Republicans, even if dozens of easily attainable Democratic votes could help carry the budget bill to victory.

And so on. Okay, the thought: It’s perfectly true, that sometimes how you win, or how you proceed, is more important than whether you win. But did you hear that opinion expressed all that much from the mainstream media when the issue was health care — and the Democrats were determined to ram their new system through, by hook or crook? With nary a Republican vote?

You can call me an overly sensitive Republican (and I wouldn’t disagree with you).

‐Late last week, I was talking with a colleague of mine about President Obama. And I said, “You know, one of the flaws of Obama is that he doesn’t poke fun at himself — even gently. He seems too vain to do so.” Reagan was the opposite. Once, someone gave him a still from Bedtime for Bonzo to sign. I guess people wanted Reagan to be embarrassed by this: by having appeared in a movie with a chimp. Rep. Bella Abzug used to talk about Reagan’s “Rambo-Bonzo foreign policy.” Or was it “Bonzo-Rambo”?

Anyway, someone gave Reagan a picture to sign, showing actor and chimp. Reagan signed it, “I’m the one with the watch.”

And do you remember that people used to mock him as an old, doddering man who needed naps? Now, as it happened, Reagan did not take naps. He just didn’t. But he went with it. About some big problem, he’d say, “It has cost me many sleepless afternoons.”

Anyway, I was telling my colleague that Obama was incapable of remarks like this. And the very next day — or maybe it was later the same day — I read what he did with his energy secretary, Steven Chu. He said, “He’s got a Nobel prize in physics. He actually deserved his Nobel prize.”

Obama has talked this way before. At every Nobel ceremony, there is what’s called the “presentation speech,” usually given by the committee chairman. And that evening, there is the traditional “Nobel banquet.” At his banquet in Oslo, Obama said the following, in reference to the chairman and his presentation speech: “I told him afterward that I thought it was an excellent speech — and that I was almost convinced that I deserved it.” Deserved the prize, that is.

Good for Obama.

‐End with a little story? It’s not really mine — comes from a friend of mine. And it’s about two friends of his. If I heard correctly, they are a married couple, and hard-core libertarians — also hard-core health nuts. (Sorry, “nuts” is pejorative — hard-core health watchers.) One day, their three-year-old said to his father, “Daddy, which is worse, the government or sugar?”

Well, they’re both vital, in their places, I’d say!

Anyway, have a good one . . .




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