Thursday, August 23, 2007

Obama Hits the Nail on the Head (Part 2)

Barack Obama's harshest opponents have reached a clear consensus on his Cuba policy: he's naive. Specifically, it seems that Obama is not aware of the basic principle that many hard-liners follow: the US does not talk with "rogue states" because it "rewards or legitimates them, demonstrates appeasement, and therefore sets back US security interests."

That's how Laura Rozen summarizes it, and then shows how it applies to other difficult international conflicts. But, also notice that this hard-line principle is not supported by the general American population. According to several polls, Americans prefer that the US government use diplomacy, not isolation, on differences with so-called "rogue states" or enemies (Iran for example). In the case of Cuba, polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans support diplomatic relations with Cuba. These attitudes counter the beliefs of many of our political leaders, but, nevertheless, political hard-liners generally dismiss polls that reveal American attitudes anyway, and instead rely on other self-interests.

Here's how Radio Mambi responded.

On the same day that Obama's Cuba policy was published in the Miami Herald, Ninoska Pérez Castellón was already warmed-up for her 3pm show where she invited Al Cardenas, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (1999-2003) and a current advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign, to analyze Obama's comments. Cardenas mentioned some interesting technical stuff (e.g. the unprecedented editorial in the Herald by a potential Presidential candidate on Cuba policy), but mainly reiterated some things that have already been said by the Republican candidates, and Hillary Clinton. What he failed to mention is the fact that other Democratic Presidential candidates like Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd have similar or more radical views on US policy towards Cuba.

(Note that on the SAME DAY that the Herald published the Obama column, Sen. Chris Dodd issued a press release repeating his calls for "unrestricted travel" to Cuba. Legislation that Obama has not called for, and may not support.)

And, like many of Obama's critics, Cardenas seized the opportunity to exaggerate some points saying that Obama favored "unilateral concessions" and will "open the doors of discussion and conversation" with official enemies (such as Cuba and Venezuela), never mind the fact that Obama never said those things, but instead supports talks AFTER "democratic change" in Cuba, which is current policy. And, also told Andres Oppenheimer that talks with Venezuela were conditional.

Cardenas also used broad brush strokes to describe all Democrats as "these people" who are either totally ignorant or hypocritical. He mentioned recent Democrat opposition to free-trade deals with Peru, Colombia and Panama (which he describes as "closing the economic doors") as a clear contradiction in principle when "they" call for trade with Cuba. Yet, he doesn't mention the fact that Democrats are really pushing for "tougher labor and environmental standards" with those nations (a demand that the US can make with more Cuban trade), and that those agreements are soon to be approved by the efforts of Democrats themselves. Cardenas is obviously trying to deceive Radio Mambi listeners.

The hard-line principle was summarized eloquently by Cardenas when he said that "[t]his [naive] attitude that 'these people' (Democrats) have is very dangerous" because they are engaging in a "historical repetition... of throwing bonds of friendship to the scourge of the hemisphere, and turning their backs to those who have the courage to stand on the side of the US in these difficult times." Who would have talks with "the scourge of the hemisphere," right?

Anyway, the most important point made by Pérez-Castellón and Cardenas was their view that Obama's future appearance at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium would be considered an insult to the Cuban-American community. Both recalled that Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in 1983 in that same auditorium, where Cardenas himself was in attendance, and where many Cubans were "celebrating the anti-Castro speeches" that Reagan gave. And, according to Cardenas, "now this man (Obama) has the audacity to reserve the same space, the same platform of Ronald Reagan, to give a speech on integration here in the heart of OUR community."

Pérez-Castellón added that Obama's actions are "truly insolent." And, Cardenas agreed.

Since Obama's editorial, callers on Radio Mambi have been announcing a protest for this Saturday during Obama's appearance at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. The protest has been organized by Vigilia Mambisa. You can count on Miguel Saavedra's megaphone to be there.

[Part 1]

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