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Hearken to Harkin

In “Useful idiots, PBS edition,” I wrote about Ray Suarez’s paean to the glories of the Cuban health care system three years ago on the PBS NewHour. My post was prompted by Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s Wall Street Journal column “A Cuban fairy tale from PBS.” I piled on Suarez together with O’Grady.

Now comes five-term Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and his cookie-cutter rendition of the achievements of Communism in the Castroite satrapy. Harkin’s report on his travel to Cuba on the floor of the Senate inspired Marco Rubio’s memorable response, posted here by John. Let’s pause over Harkin.

Both Harkin and Suarez recall the phenomenon of useful idiocy. They appear to be throwbacks to it. Paul Hollander devoted a classic study to the phenomenon back in the early ’80s, if I remember correctly.

Neither Harkin nor Suarez appears to have gotten the message that the Soviet Union lost the Cold War. They are like Japanese soldiers carrying on the battle for the Emperor in a Philippine jungle long after the Emperor surrendered. They seem not to have gotten the word.

Nevertheless, I concede that Harkin and Suarez aren’t carrying on the old battle for Communism in the Soviet Union. I deduced that Suarez was motivated by the desire to assist Obama in the enactment of Obamacare. I thought it was a plausible hypothesis (and still do). The timing fit.

What is Harkin up to? I confess that I’m stumped. He must be a man of the hard left with a fathomless ignorance and an incredibly small circle of friends. I suspect that his inspiration is similar to Suarez’s.

Cuba is a national museum of Communism, and Harkin is a museum-quality specimen of the phenomenon of useful idiocy. If he has any friends, it’s time for an intervention. The guy requires Communist detox.

Suarez cited statistics supporting the glories of the Cuban health care system (and it sounds like Harkin did likewise): “Cuba has, for a country of its income, very high life expectancy. Cuba has, for a country of its income, low infant mortality. Cuba has, for a country of its income, low rates of infectious disease.” I think Harkin got his “information” from the same place Suarez did. He might have gotten it from Suarez, but I think he went to the source.

Drawing on the field work of Katherine Hirschfeld and other knowledgeable sources, I criticized Suarez precisely for his reliance on Cuban health statistics. Fausta Wertz said it all in her brief comment on Suarez’s response to the Wall Street Journal columnist who had teed off on Suarez: “Suarez forgets to mention that the statistics for any of these are provided by the Cuban government, the same government that has refused access to any independent outside organization to examine the statistics, the criteria for the data, or how the statistics are gathered. Suarez can’t seem to realize that any statistics put out by a totalitarian regime in a closed society are to be questioned.” Senator Rubio makes the same point in his speech responding to Harkin.

Younger readers may not be familiar with the phenomenon of useful idiocy that we grew up with politically. Harkin goes to show that when we say “idiot,” we mean idiot. When we say “useful,” we mean useful to the Castros and those whom they admire in the promotion of nationalized health care. And you know who they are.

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