Wow. The first unforced error of a so-far-very-smooth Thompson campaign:
In his speech, Thompson assailed “unbearable tax burdens,” called for restrained spending, and argued for a smaller federal government. He expressed his opposition to the immigration bill in Congress and decried the flow of illegal immigrants from Cuba, saying: “I don’t imagine they’re coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We’re living in the era of the suitcase bomb.”
Aw, man. Of all the groups Fred Thompson could cite as a potential security threat, did he have to pick the Cubans? The one group of Hispanics that leans Republican?
And no, they’re not bringing greetings from Castro. The vast majority are trying to get away from Castro.
I’m sure it was just a slip of the tongue, and Thompson’s broader point about securing the borders is spot-on. But this will probably come up again, closer to the Florida primary…
UPDATED: Okay, here’s the video on YouTube. There’s a bit more context here, which makes the comment seem less like a jab at Cubans. He mentions the amount of illegal immigrants coming over the border, and that some come from terrorism-sponsoring states. He says that in 2005, the U.S. “rounded up 1,000 folks who originally came from Cuba. Where else they comin’ from? And… I don’t imagine they’re coming here to bring greetings from Castro.” Still, there had to be a better way to word the argument so that it didn’t sound like FDT opposed any immigrants from Cuba.
UPDATED YET AGAIN: Thompson’s people send me this statement:
“I am concerned that Castro might be sending agents into the United States through Mexico. Our porous border is unable to distinguish btween friend and foe. My feeling is that Cuban Americans share this concern.”
Well, that clears things up.UPDATE: FDT goes the extra mile to make clear what he meant yesterday:
I did want to clarify something coming out of my time yesterday in Columbia, South Carolina.Anybody who knows my track record or has read some of the things I’ve written about the Cuban-American community knows where I stand. While the communist dictatorship has been a tragedy for Cuba, America has been in some ways, at least, the beneficiary.
One of those benefits is the presence of the great Cuban-American artist, Gloria Estefan. She co-wrote a song called “No hay mal que por bien no venga” which I understand translates something like — there’s no bad that doesn’t bring some good. The bad that is Castro’s tyranny has given America one of the greatest communities in the Western Hemisphere.
And no one knows better than that community that the Castro regime remains dedicated to infiltrating American institutions to spread his ideology of tyranny. Castro admitted it himself in an interview with CNN in 1998.
This is why the Cuban government rightfully remains on the State Department’s terrorist list for its continued support of terrorism. It’s also why we must oppose the illegal immigration of Castro’s agents into the United States while welcoming the vast majority who immigrate legally and with legal intentions.
It seems to me that few Americans understand the threat that the illegal entry by Cuban spies represents to our country, though Cuban-Americans have never forgotten or stopped pointing it out. Ambassador Otto Reich, the former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere has called Castro’s efforts to penetrate U.S. intelligence networks “relentless.”
The best-known incident involving Cuban espionage, which many believe may have provided U.S. secrets to hostile Middle Eastern regimes, is probably that of former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes — convicted of espionage in 2002. Now, our intelligence picture has been further complicated by the emergence of oil-funded Hugo Chavez and his anti-American, pro-Castro regime. We know that Cuban intelligence officers, for instance, are in South America — presumably training Venezuelans and others in the intelligence arts.
Our national security is too important an issue to let folks twist words around for a one-day headline. Cuban-Americans are among the staunchest opponents of illegal immigration, and especially so when it’s sponsored by the Castro regime. We know we have a porous southern border in which they can currently slip through easily. Our enemies know it too.
All of us should be rightfully concerned about Castro and his ideological pal Chavez sending agents and provocateurs into the United States through Mexico. I’m sure that Cuban-Americans share this concern as well.
We’ve seen today what the voice of the people can do in Washington. Let’s hope similar voices can do the same thing for Cuba.