Obama Shows Good Foreign Policy Judgment on Cuba

I wrote this for today's Beyond Chron, San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily

One of the media narratives going around lately is that Barack Obama lacks the foreign policy "experience" to be President.  So after he wrote an op-ed where he said we should loosen our embargo on Cuba, CNN was quick to gloat that he had caused "another foreign policy stir." But Obama is absolutely right about this issue: why should politicians pander to a fringe group of right-wing extremists when it comes to our policy with Cuba, just because Florida has 27 electoral votes?  Hillary's response to Obama - that we should maintain the status quo - reinforced her bad foreign policy judgment, and is telling given that her husband signed the Helms-Burton Act of 1996.  Far from showing a naivete in foreign policy, Obama's stance proves his ability to be the candidate of change.

It's hard to think of another issue where U.S. foreign policy is completely held hostage by less than one percent of our population.  Like NRA members, anti-Castro Cuban exiles are single-issue voters who can make or break any presidential candidate.  Clinging to an outdated and deeply flawed policy, the Cuban exile community has pursued a 47-year vendetta against their native homeland - without any regard for sanity, reason or justice.

And it's worked.  In 1961, John F. Kennedy got the CIA to stage the Bay of Pigs Invasion, where Cuban exiles (most of whom had lived a wealthy lifestyle under the corrupt Bautista regime) tried to topple Castro's government - with disastrous results.  And in a blatant act of pandering for his presidential bid, Al Gore publicly disagreed in 2000 with the Justice Department's decision to return Elian Gonzalez to Cuba.  Of course, Gore figured that would help him win Florida.

If you read Obama's op-edin the Miami Herald, his stance is not really that controversial.  He criticizes the Bush Administration's policy that prevents Cuban-Americans from visiting their relatives, and says he will grant "unrestricted rights" to visit family and send remittances there.  He also says that if Fidel Castro begins opening Cuba to democratic change, he will revisit easing the embargo that has lasted for five decades.

Even the most fervent anti-Communists will admit that the U.S. embargo against Cuba is counter-productive.  It gives Castro an excuse to blame America for his country's economic woes, while causing unspeakable damage to the lives of his people.  Practically nobody outside of the Miami Cuban community disagrees.  When Daily Kos did an informal survey on this question, 96% of respondents agreed with Obama.

But on this issue, Hillary Clinton sided with Bush.  "She supports the embargo and our current policy toward Cuba," said spokesman Mo Elleithe, "and until it is clear what type of political winds may come with a new government - if there is a new government - we cannot talk about any wholesale, broad changes to U.S. policy." In other words, she would continue the American government's pander to the Cuban exile community.

Clinton's position is telling when you consider that her husband signed the Helms-Burton Act in 1996.  Sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), the law says that any non-U.S. corporation trading with Cuba can be subject to legal action and its leadership barred from entry into the United States.  It allows Cuban exiles to sue the Cuban government for lost property, and bars recognition of any Cuban government with Fidel or Raul Castro.

The Helms-Burton Act has been harshly condemned by the European Union and the United Nations.  Canada and Mexico have passed laws in their own countries to protect their nationals who may get sued under Helms-Burton.  Executives from Italy, Mexico, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom have been barred from entering the U.S. because their company does business with Cuba.  While the law originally had a waiver that could prevent its enforcement, Congress removed it in 1999.

Bill Clinton signed Helms-Burton in 1996 because he was up for re-election and wanted to deprive Bob Dole of a campaign issue.  For the same reason, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act and the Welfare Bill - two other laws that Hillary refuses to say she would repeal.  But Helms-Burton helped Bill Clinton win Florida's electoral votes; with 40% of the Miami Cuban vote, he won the state.

Now that Obama says we should relax our draconian policy on Cuba, the media has framed him as naïve and inexperienced - while Hillary is politically smart for pandering to the exile community.  But as Obama likes to say on the campaign trail, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had all the foreign policy experience in the world, and look where it got us.  Good judgment, not experience, is more important when it comes to selecting our next President.

While Hillary tries to re-invent herself as an agent of change, reality is now stepping in the way.  And with Obama's position on the Cuban embargo and her reaction to his modest proposal, the true difference between them is crystal clear.

Send feedback to paul@beyondchron.org

Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Cuba foreign policy, Fidel Castro, Helms-Burton, Hillary Clinton (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

Re: Obama Shows Good Foreign Policy Judgment on Cu

No wonder you wrote that crap about Hillary Rodham Clinton's appearance at Yearly Kos and you were roundly denounced by most people from here to daily kos.

You are a hater with no credibility , so your post is worthless to me.

by lori 2007-08-23 07:10AM | 0 recs
another worthless piece

sigh. To get an endorsement from Cuba's foreign minister is really good news for Obama.

by areyouready 2007-08-23 07:16AM | 0 recs
If he is really lucky Chavez will get on board

by dpANDREWS 2007-08-23 09:17AM | 0 recs
Call me cynical

I'll take FL, and the White House, for Democrats, over idealistic calls for change anyday of the week.

Before we can undo the damage caused by Bush and the Republicans we need to take back the White House.  That is job number 1.  The windmill jousting can come later.

by dpANDREWS 2007-08-23 09:16AM | 0 recs
Then you won't be voting for Hillary

Hillary's high negatives aren't the only thing Karl Rove is drooling over these days.  It's where those negatives occur that has him so giddy.  Hillary's fatal flaw is her support is lopsided and she is extremely weak in rural America.  She has enough support to win a popular vote but the electoral college is another matter.  Most of Hillary's support is in New York, Los Angeles and Miami but she polls worse than illegal immigrants in rural America.

"Hillary rated as unpopular as illegal immigrants"

Poll: Rural Vote No Longer a Lock for Republicans
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story .php?storyId=10922584

With strong support in Miami, Hillary may be able to pick up Florida but she will have a great deal of trouble in Ohio and typical blue states like Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon.

by Todd Smyth 2007-08-23 11:43AM | 0 recs
She be fine --and YES I'll be voting for her

http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/8/23/1655 46/816

http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/8/23/1115 22/306#commenttop

http://www.mydd.com/section/Diary/3

http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/8/22/1733 8/9746#commenttop

In fact multiple recent polls have Hillary up over all the GOP frunt runners in OH.  She is up huge in AK -- which voted for Bush twice.  She is up head to head in VA, IA, NA, MN.

Read what Gallup said about Rove's comments.   Look at the trend in the first link I provided.

The facts are clear, the unelectable / unfavorable arguement that the anti Hillary crowd spews is just as full of holes as the rest of their wasted theories.

by dpANDREWS 2007-08-23 02:40PM | 0 recs
Re: She be fine --and YES I'll be voting for her

She's up in...NA?

Narcotics Anonymous?

by Namtrix 2007-08-23 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: She be fine --and YES I'll be voting for her

nm

by dpANDREWS 2007-08-23 04:39PM | 0 recs
Sure thing

"You're cynical."

by Korha 2007-08-23 03:51PM | 0 recs
Great job, excellent post

Don't mind the Hillary trolls lori, and areyouready, they sound scared.

by Todd Smyth 2007-08-23 12:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Great job, excellent post

Scared of what? We're not scared. We have every right to defend our candidate just like you guys slander our candidate.

by RJEvans 2007-08-23 05:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Great job, excellent post
Obama is a visionary.
A wonderful confident Commander in Chief.
God Bless him.
by win 2007-08-23 07:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shows Good Foreign Policy Judgment on Cu

first of all, get your facts straight on the Bay of Pigs. JFK did not support the CIA-hatched plan. Second of all,  a vote for HRC IS a vote for Bush-Lite. One look at the last years of Clinton WH shows that. She is not a progressive.

by boatsie 2007-08-23 08:17PM | 0 recs
Her Record is Actually

Very progressive.

by Edgar08 2007-08-23 10:59PM | 0 recs

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