National Security & Defense

When Barack met Raúl, &c.

President Obama and Raúl Castro in Panama City, Panama.
A disgusting summit, the Hillary launch, the Marco launch, a ‘profile in courage,’ and more

Meeting with Raúl Castro, President Obama said, “The history between the United States and Cuba is obviously complicated, and over the years a lot of mistrust has developed.”

I don’t believe there has been mistrust between the U.S. and Cuba. I think that liberals and democrats have disliked dictatorship; and that Communists have disliked liberalism and democracy, and liked dictatorship. That is different from “mistrust.”

Do you see what I mean?

I dislike ISIS, and ISIS dislikes me. It is not a question of mistrust. We have completely different desires for humanity.

Alongside Castro, Obama said, “I think what we have both concluded is that we can disagree in a spirit of respect and civility.” He once more spoke of “this spirit of mutual respect.”

I don’t respect a one-party dictatorship that imprisons, tortures, and murders its political opponents. I don’t see why Obama does. I believe a reporter should ask him, “What is it, exactly, that you respect about the Castro dictatorship?”

Obama repeatedly called Raúl Castro “President Castro.” But Castro is not a president the way Obama is. Obama was democratically elected. Castro is a dictator, plain and simple. Our president should not honor this dictator with the title “president.”

Said Obama, “President Castro earlier today spoke about the significant hardships that the people of Cuba have undergone over many decades.” The significant hardships the Cuban people have undergone have been caused by the Castros — by a totalitarian dictatorship. The dimmest American schoolchild can understand that. But our president cannot?

Generously, Raúl Castro excused Obama from responsibility for the policies of his predecessors, starting with Eisenhower. Obama was grateful for the excusal. He offered no defense of America. “The Cold War has been over for a long time,” he said. “And I’m not interested in having battles frankly that started before I was born.”

I think Obama may make too much of his birth. What matters is, the Castros seized power in 1959, and Cubans are still suffering under their Communist dictatorship. When Juanita Castro defected in 1964, she said, “My brothers Fidel and Raúl have made [Cuba] an enormous prison surrounded by water.”

A question for Obama: Does he think Cubans should be able to live freely and democratically, as he himself always has, or not?

Talking to reporters, Obama said, “We have very different views about how society should be organized.” Well, democrats and Communists have very different views about how society should be organized. But most Americans and most Cubans agree, I’m sure: They want to live in freedom, not under dictatorship.

I have to wonder where Obama’s sympathies lie, principally. Do they lie with the dictatorship or with the democrats and dissidents in prison? He seemed very comfortable with Raúl Castro. (Much more comfortable than he seems with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.) Would he be as comfortable with Oscar Biscet, Juan Carlos González Leiva, or some other dissident?

In 2009, Iranians massed in the streets, to demand a better life. Before they were crushed, they chanted, “Obama, Obama! Either you’re with them [meaning the dictatorship] or you’re with us!” Yes, that is exactly right.

When Obama announced his rapprochement with the Castros in December, I did a round-up of dissident opinion. I quoted that incredibly brave man known as “Antúnez.” (His formal name is Jorge Luis García Pérez.) He said, “This is a betrayal that leaves the democratic opposition defenseless. Obama has allied himself with the oppressors and murderers of our people.”

The next month, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, invited him to be his personal guest at the State of the Union address. Last week, Antúnez was in Panama City with other oppositionists, protesting the embrace of dictators. They were brutally attacked by agents from the Cuban embassy. (Physically attacked, I mean.)

Boehner issued a statement: “The assault on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City . . . is an outrage and a reminder of the brutal character of the Castro regime.”

I admire John Boehner. The contrast between him and Obama — on Cuba, Israel, and a host of other issues — is enormous.

‐A headline read, “Taliban attack kills 18 Afghan soldiers; some beheaded.” (Article here.) Yup, that’s what they do. For one thing, it lets you know who did the killing. Kind of like a signature.

‐Announcing for president, Hillary Clinton said, “It’s your time.” I guess she meant the voters’ time, the people’s time. I wonder whether she was responding to Kate McKinnon’s hilarious imitation of her on Saturday Night Live — when the McKinnon Hillary says, “It’s my time.”

Seriously, I wonder whether this had an influence on Hillary’s launch statement.

‐Marco Rubio has announced, too. Could the difference between him and Obama be starker? Whom do you think the Castros think better of, Obama or Rubio?

I’d like to pick a bone with the Florida senator. And, to do so, I’ll quote an Associated Press report:

[Rubio] spoke to his top donors and told them many families feel the American Dream is slipping away and young Americans face unequal opportunities. He’s banking on the hope that he, alone among many GOP rivals, can make inroads with groups that have long eluded Republicans — young people, minorities and the less affluent.

“I feel uniquely qualified to not just make that argument, but to outline the policies that we need to have in order to achieve it,” he said on the donor call.

His English was not the neatest there. And I know that politicians often regard themselves as “uniquely qualified.” But is anyone uniquely qualified to do anything, really?

I grant you that Washington was a pivotal man in the Revolution and in the early Republic. I grant you that Lincoln was pivotal in the 1860s. I grant that Vladimir Horowitz was more or less born to play Chopin mazurkas. And that Leontyne Price was pretty much nonpareil in certain Strauss arias (plus other music).

But, as a rule, no one is uniquely qualified to do squat.

‐I grinned at this article out of Britain. “Green Party activists have been asked to dress in a ‘mainstream’ manner while meeting the public in order to put potential supporters at ease.”

Do you remember when the scruffy young supporters of Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign were asked to get “Clean for Gene”?

Have a look at one more instruction from the Green Party manual: “Stand back three feet from people’s front doors so as not to appear threatening.”

Heh. For some of these Greenies, I might require four feet.

‐A Republican former congressman, Bob Inglis, has won the Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy Library. The reason? According to this report, he had a “change of heart on climate change,” which “drew the wrath of fellow Republicans and helped cost him re-election.”

That’s really sweet. My colleague Ed Craig asked an excellent question: “Have any pro-life Democrats won the Profile in Courage Award?” Don’t wait up nights.

‐Let me throw a little music at you, just a wee bit: For a review of an afternoon at Carnegie Hall, featuring Dorothea Röschmann, the great German soprano, go here.

‐And I’d like to end with a letter. It relates to a column I had on colorblindness, which has sadly — tragically — lost out to color-consciousness in our society. An acute, all-consuming, destructive color-consciousness.

A Greek-American reader says that his father was a state’s attorney in the late 1960s.

It was in the early days of enforced race-consciousness and the Department of Labor sent him what I assume was one of the first inquiries about the racial make-up of the workplace. His administrator brought it to him and asked how he wanted him to respond. My dad thought about it, then wrote across the page, “Not enough Greeks!” He sent it to the Department of Labor and never heard about it again. He still chuckles when you ask him about it.

Sublime. My kind of American. Thanks for reading, y’all, and see you soon.

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