Castro brothers join line of anti-American tyrants to receive Obama’s largess

You knew this was coming, right? You knew that, with all of the national elections that will take place during his presidency behind him, Barack Obama would do everything in his power — broadly defined — to assist the Castro regime.

President Obama was a good friend to Mohammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s man in Egypt. He has made nice with the mullahs in Iran, bailing their country out of serious economic woes under the pretense of slowing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He “reset” relations with Russia on terms highly favorable to Putin and would have done more to help the autocrat, as he promised to do after he gained “flexibility” following the 2012 election, had Putin not set out to dismember Ukraine.

Why should the Castro brothers be nearly the only anti-American tyrants not benefit from Obama’s largess? Only domestic politics stood in the way.

Now that it no longer does, Obama has seized on the plight of Alan Gross to do what he has always wanted to do — help bolster Cuba’s communist regime. As Mark Falcoff says, one does not need a Ph.D. in political science to discern the ideological currents that inspired Obama to do this.

The consequences of Obama’s action are also clear enough. As Falcoff explains, “the normalization of relations with Cuba comes at precisely the moment that the Castro brothers need it the most, since their principal foreign patron, Venezuela, is running out of money because of the collapse in the world price of oil.” Obama “has decided to make the United States a replacement for [Venezuela's] Maduro.” Obama thus gives the Castros a new lease of life and helps forestall the total discrediting of Latin American communism.

These, we should assume, are Obama’s intentions.

There will be consequences outside of Latin American too. Elliott Abrams writes:

The American collapse with respect to Cuba will have repercussions in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, for the nations facing a rising China, and in Europe, for those near Putin’s newly aggressive Russia. What are American guarantees and promises worth if a fifty-year-old policy followed by Democrats like Johnson, Carter, and Clinton can be discarded overnight? In more than a few chanceries the question that will be asked as this year ends is “who is next to find that America is today more interested in propitiating its enemies than in protecting its allies?”

Frankly, I imagine the question has already been asked and answered in many a chancery.

But Abrams surely is correct that Obama’s switch in Cuba policy reinforces concern throughout the Middle East that the president will end the sanctions against Iran that he has already undercut, and establish diplomatic relations with the mullahs in exchange for meaningless promises about nukes and maybe the release of a prisoner or two.

Obama clearly believes that America’s 55 year effort to undercut Castro was misguided, if not downright stupid. That belief, an article of faith on the left, is a natural one to hold if you’re fine with oppressive, expansionist, anti-American Communist dictators.

It’s overwhelmingly likely that Obama feels the same way about America’s 35 year effort against the theocratic regime in Iran. That too is a natural belief to hold if you’re fine with oppressive, expansionist, anti-American Islamist dictators.

Obama is fine with both types of dictators. His main beef is with Israel.

Profiles in Hollywood Courage: Sony Caves

No sooner than I suggest that Hollywood order up a whole slate of movies mocking North Korea than the news comes that Sony is pulling theatrical release of “The Interview,” about which the hackers have threatened terrorist violence.  Call me a cynic, but I wonder if this isn’t a brilliant marketing play on behalf of a movie that was heading for total bomb status at the box office.  Sony will probably make more money on pay-per-view streaming and DVD sales now.  Why didn’t Michael Cimino think of this with “Heaven’s Gate” (which was on some forlorn cable channel last night, still as unwatchable as ever)?

No brave Hollywood studio would really buckle to a terrorist threat, would it?  After all, as we know Hollywood has been bravely standing up to the terrorist threat of McCarthyism for more than 50 years now.  Also Nazis.  And southerners.

But if Sony really is caving in to a threat, then all I can say to Hollywood is good night, and good luck.  (Heh.)  You’ll need it.

P.S.  Wired magazine thinks North Korea didn’t do it, though there are media reports out this afternoon that the administration will tomorrow identify the Norks as the culprit.  Stay tuned.

Mark Falcoff: Castro’s dreams come true

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at AEI. He is the author of several books including Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes to offer his thoughts on today’s developments:

There are many aspects of this story that have not made the media. May I offer a few?

Alan Gross was hired by an AID contractor to take computers (and I believe cell phones) to the minuscule Jewish community in Cuba. My understanding is—I get this from the vice president of the contracting company—he was to be paid $250,000. for this.

Now, carrying out what was sure to be viewed as espionage by a dictatorship like Cuba is a dangerous business, so of course it had to carry a high price tag. (Whether it was worth the taxpayer’s dollar, or rather dollars, is another matter, and not a small one.) Gross took the wager and lost.

For years now the US government and elements of the Cuban American community (some of whom are friends of mine) decided to make the Gross case the centerpiece of our non-relationship with the Castro brothers. I thought this was wrong, but they went ahead heedlessly. The results are clear to see. Obama picked up the cord lying on the ground and yanked it.

I will not attempt to speculate on what ideological currents inspired the President to do this. In any case one does not need a Ph.D. in political science to imagine what they might be. Nor do I know what the legal aspects might turn out to be, since there is a huge amount of legislation on the books which bars Mr. Obama from doing exactly what he is planning to do.

But I cannot help commenting on another aspect. The normalization of relations with Cuba comes at precisely the moment that the Castro brothers need it the most, since their principal foreign patron, Venezuela, is running out of money because of the collapse in the world price of oil. In effect, Mr. Obama has decided to make the United States a replacement for Maduro. It couldn’t come at a better time for the Cuban regime and gives it yet another lease on life.

It seems to me entirely appropriate that John Kerry, who during his time in the Senate did all he could to help consolidate a Communist regime in Nicaragua, should be making a trip to Cuba to reopen diplomatic relations. I do not believe that Mr. Kerry believes this will lead to democracy on the island, but if he does, he is a fool, and a useful one at that.

Barack and Michelle, Victims of Racism!

Pretty much everyone is all over this story, but what the heck: why not pile on? The Obamas are trying to catch the wave of racism that supposedly is sweeping across the land. They may live in the White House, but hey–they are still subjected to racial bias. No, they don’t mean getting preferential treatment when applying to colleges and law schools, or being taken seriously as a presidential candidate after two undistinguished years in the Senate, or getting a $300,000 job with a hospital for no discernible reason. They mean the other kind:

President and Michelle Obama personally identify with everyday experiences of racial bias in America that have underpinned recent protests across the country, they told People magazine in an interview to be released Friday. …

On one occasion, [Michelle] said, her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”

President Obama said he’s even been mistakenly treated as a valet.

“There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” he said, according to excerpts of the interview released today.

Actually, you don’t have to be black to experience incidents like this. I was once working out in my club’s gym and an older member, mistaking me for an employee, asked me to get him a towel. You can even be a four-star general and have some unaccomplished twit demand that you bring her another glass of wine. Is that racist, or what?

The first lady also described being mistreated at a Target store in suburban Washington, during a shopping trip she took in 2011.

“Even as the first lady,” she told the magazine, “during the wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf.”

My wife was shopping at a Target store yesterday and another lady asked her to get something from a shelf that she couldn’t reach. Racist? You be the judge! The funny thing about the Target anecdote is that Michelle described it completely differently to David Letterman, as Tom Maguire recalls:

“That’s my Target run. I went to Target,” she said. “I thought I was undercover. I have to tell you something about this trip though. No one knew that was me because a woman actually walked up to me, right? I was in the detergent aisle, and she said — I kid you not — she said, ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, cover’s blown.’ She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?’ I kid you not.”

As the audience laughed, she went on, “And the only thing she said — I reached up, ’cause she was short, and I reached up, pulled it down — she said, ‘Well, you didn’t have to make it look so easy.’ That was my interaction. I felt so good. … She had no idea who I was. I thought, as soon as she walked up — I was with my assistant, and I said, ‘This is it, it’s over. We’re going to have to leave.’ She just needed the detergent.”

Emphasis added. And yet, when asked to recount a racist incident that is seared into her memory, the best Michelle could come up with was a friendly encounter that “felt so good.” Because the other woman was short and Michelle is tall.

For the Democrats, it is always 1963 in Selma, Alabama. Not much has changed. But the fact that the Obamas can’t come up with more compelling (or even authentic) instances of racial slights shows how different today’s world actually is. What is significant here is not that a short woman asked Michelle Obama to reach for some detergent; what is significant is how desperately the Democrats have to try to keep alive the narrative of race discrimination.

Another Reason Not to Diet: Global Warming

I’ve joked over the years that Al Gore’s expanding girth was merely his personal, one-man carbon sequestration project.  Now the problem with humor like this is that it runs the risk of coming true, and then you’re defeated as a satirist.

Sure enough, dieting contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.  As reported in EurekaAlert, a British Medical Journal study finds:

The authors show that losing 10 kilograms of fat requires 29 kilograms of oxygen to be inhaled and that this metabolic process produces 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide and 11 kilograms of water. . .

If you follow the atoms in 10 kilograms of fat as they are ‘lost’, 8.4 of those kilograms are exhaled as carbon dioxide through the lungs. The remaining 1.6 kilograms becomes water, which may be excreted in urine, faeces, sweat, breath, tears and other bodily fluids, the authors report.

So another reason to stop exercising and load up on donuts and cheeseburgers instead.

Meanwhile, I wonder what are the greenhouse gas implications of releasing your inner chakra?  In three, two . . .

(Hat tip: JZ)

Breaking: McSally Wins!

Scott has followed Martha McSally’s race for an Arizona House seat here and here.  She’s just been officially declared the winner in the nation’s last remaining undecided House contest, by a margin of 167 votes.  From the AP:

PHOENIX (AP) — Republicans will have their largest U.S. House majority in 83 years when the new Congress convenes next month after a recount in Arizona gave the final outstanding race to the Republican challenger.

Martha McSally won a House seat over Democrat Ron Barber by 167 votes out of about 220,000 cast, results released Wednesday show. . .

More interesting in this story is that it appears the usual Democratic “vote finding” tactics didn’t work:

As he saw his lead slip away during the vote count, Barber fought in several venues to get additional votes counted but was turned away at every effort. He tried to get the board of supervisors from Pima and Cochise counties and the secretary of state to order rejected provisional and early ballots counted. When that failed, he turned to a federal judge to get the provisional ballots counted.

Separately, a group of voters tried to get the state Supreme Court to halt the recount because of the computer program used. That too was rejected.  (Emphasis added.)

Congratulations to McSally, and welcome to Washington.

Rubio responds to Bush’s preemptive strike

I suspect that Jeb Bush is launching his presidential bid so early in part as a preemptive strike against Marco Rubio, his fellow Floridian. If Bush gains the inside track on key donors, especially ones from Florida, it might cause Rubio to think twice about running. If Rubio stays out, the benefit to Bush is obvious.

To forestall Bush’s attempt at a preemptive strike, Rubio promptly announced that he is still prepared to seek the presidency. His spokesman declared:

Marco has a lot of respect for Governor Bush, and believes he would be a formidable candidate. However, Marco’s decision on whether to run for President or re-election will be based on where he can best achieve his agenda to restore the American Dream—not on who else might be running.

Rubio obviously believes he can “best achieve his agenda to restore the American Dream” from the White House, not as the junior Senator from Florida.

How formidable a candidate Bush will be remains to be seen, but it’s quite likely that Bush will be a formidable obstacle to Rubio. Tim Alberta of the National Journal reports that “many Republicans believe the popular former governor would suck Florida’s donor community dry and leave Rubio without a political home base.”

I doubt that Rubio needs “a political home base” in any geographic sense (funding, of course, is another matter). But he could use an ideological home base, either as the favorite of the “establishment” or as the favorite of the conservative base.

After his amnesty frolic, Rubio, it seems to me, has no chance of being the favorite of the base. And with the seemingly inevitable entry of Jeb Bush, his chances of being the establishment favorite — always problematic because Rubio is young, lacks experience governing, and sometimes comes off as wet behind the ears — have dimmed further.

But Rubio retains paths to the nomination. The first path is as the one candidate in, essentially, a three candidate race (let’s say a Bush-Cruz-Rubio contest) who is acceptable to both the establishment and the base. This path sounds better on paper than it probably is in reality. It used to work in the 19th century when nominees often were chosen in a smoke-filled room, but the last election I can recall it applying to is the fictional one in Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man.”

The 2016 election could be a pattern-breaker, but Rubio will need tons of money to hang in the race as everyone’s second or third choice. I think he’ll find it difficult to bring that money in on those terms.

The other path opens up if Bush can’t get off the ground and no other establishment favorite — neither Romney nor Christie — enters. Bush is vulnerable because of his support for immigration reform and common core and because of his name. Rubio is even more vulnerable on immigration and the Bush name will, if anything, help Jeb with establishment-leaning voters — the ones who paved the way for the last two Republican nominees.

This leaves common core. I don’t think this issue will keep establishment-leaning voters from supporting Bush in states like New Hampshire, Michigan, and Ohio, but who knows? And who knows how effective Bush will be on the campaign trail and in debates? It’s been a long time since he’s run for anything.

So Rubio, though he should be discouraged by Bush’s entry, still has good reason to pursue his presidential aspirations in this cycle, just as Jeb Bush was wise to try to get the drop on Rubio.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has reason to be happy that Rubio isn’t ruling out competing with Bush for donors and center-right support. And “anyone-but-Cruz-and-Paul” donors have reason to make an early call on whether to support Bush’s preemptive strike against other potential entrants of center-right orientation.