Monday, April 13, 2015

Coming in from the cold

What a weekend!  Just when you thought it couldn't get anymore exciting, President Obama meets with Castro and Hillary declares she is running for President.  This of course put the Republicans into full panic mode, scrambling all over the airwaves to tell us how awful it is that Obama has recognized this rogue nation and the terrible future we would have if Hillary was elected President.  The biggest loser was Marco Rubio, whose announcement scheduled for today will carry about as much weight as Obama's jock strap after a White House basketball game.

The President used the occasion of meeting with the heads of the American states to fire back at Congress, notably the less than honorable McCain and McConnell, or the two Macs, for trying to undermine his authority abroad on the Iran nuclear deal and other negotiations he has ongoing, like that with Cuba over formal US recognition of the state.

For his part, Raul Castro called Obama an "honest man" and seemed to defuse the usual tensions at the Summit of the Americas, which typically sees other American states attacking the United States for the decades of ill will demonstrated toward its neighbors.  Castro did note some of his grievances against the United States but said that he and Obama had agreed to set aside these differences and work toward a sustainable relationship between the two countries.  In many ways this is bigger than the Iran nuclear deal, because it undos, or at least starts to undo, fifty years of turning our back to the island nation, which obviously didn't lead to the ouster of Fidel Castro.

I'm sure young Tom Cotton has a plan though, like he demonstrated for ridding Iran of its nuclear installations, for ridding Cuba of the Castros once and for all.  Obama chose not to recognize the freshman senator from Arkansas by name, although he did mention what a useless waste of time that letter he wrote to Iran was, and admonished the 47 Republican senators who presented it.  I imagine Obama is also not very happy to hear fellow Democrats like Chuck "The Schmuck" Schumer and Bob "I'm Indicted Again" Menendez supporting the Senate bill that would make lifting sanctions against Iran very difficult, should Iran agree to a long term nuclear deal with the US and the rest of the world, but he chose not to mention them.  You can expect the same kind of belligerence toward Cuba, as Americans, Norte Americanos anyway, seem to have a hard time wrapping their thought around a "communist" nation still existing in our hemisphere.

Yet, polls show that US American citizens overwhelming support rapprochement with Cuba, including Cuban-Americans who have long influenced American policy toward their former home country.  Not that conservative leaders in Congress will pay any attention to such polls, just like they have ignored the generally favorable sentiment toward the US-led mission to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.  These anachronistic GOP leaders prefer to live in the 1950s when US-friendly autocrats like Batiste and the Shah ruled these countries.

This makes it particularly amusing, because much of the criticism leveled against Hillary Clinton running for President is that she represents a return to the old ways, in this case Clinton policies of the 1990s.  Even if she did, she is 40 years ahead of her Republican counterparts.

Hillary's announcement was long expected, so it shouldn't have taken anyone by surprise.  But, she also faces criticism from the left, notably Maureen Dowd, who compared Hillary to Richard Nixon in a recent NY Times op-ed piece.  You have to wonder if some spring snapped out of place in poor Maureen's head.  I don't see how Hillary's stated approach of wooing the middle class is any different than any modern-day Presidential candidate, but Maureen seems to be going out of her way to place the "Nixon" label on Hillary for no apparent reason.

The more worrisome aspect is the dynastic politics that are at work here, as we see what are essentially political families ruling government today.  On the Republican side we have Jeb Bush, who has yet to declare his candidacy because it allows him to raise more money on the fringes of the election campaign laws, what few remain.  He would be the third Bush in thirty years to serve as President, if god forbid he was elected.  Not only that but his son, George Prescott, is rapidly rising in Texas politics.  Yet, somehow we hear mostly about Hillary carrying the mantel of her husband's presidential administration.

For his part, Obama said that Hillary would make an "excellent president," and John Kerry extolled her work as Secretary of State.  Even Governor Huck said she is a "brilliant woman," and that Republicans better not take her lightly.  He focused instead on her ties to the Obama record, which the GOP would love to erase if they gain the White House.

That might not be so easy to do.  After the 2014 midterm debacle, Obama's popularity has risen, and his recent policy decisions on immigration, energy self-sufficiency, and diplomatic approaches to Iran and Cuba have been widely supported by the public.  The Republicans have proven very effective at the local and state level, where they can tailor their message to suit specific demographic groups, but on the national level their message is far less popular.  Americans don't see themselves as an insular country.  They want friendly relations with their neighbors, and most of all they are tired of war, including political wars of words that have bitterly divided the American electorate.

Obama recognizes this, as his rapprochement toward Cuba has a number of beneficial side effects.  On an international level, it neutralizes Russia's reach into the Americas, having actively courted Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, including doing naval maneuvers in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Venezuela.  On the domestic level, it shows this administration's commitment to Latin American concerns, something the Republicans have entirely ignored.

The President has finally moved out of the shadow of the previous Bush administration, greatly expanding US diplomacy for the first time in decades.  One might even say that not since the time of Nixon, when he reached out to the Soviet Union and Communist China, eh Maureen?  For the first time in a long time we see US diplomacy in a positive light with Obama refusing to use the threat of force to bring Iran and Cuba to the negotiating table, treating these two countries on equal terms, which of course conservatives can't stand.  In their limited POV, might makes right.

I think we are at a potentially great turning point.  I hope that if Hillary Clinton is elected President we will continue to move in this positive direction, finally putting the Cold War behind us.

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