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Is Obama’s Cuba Policy Really That Different From Hillary’s?

Barack Obama's courage to speak the unspeakable about revising our disastrous and sclerotic Cuba policy is now matched by his willingness to pose as just another establishment candidate when it comes to the most sustained trade embargo in modern history. … Read More

By / February 20, 2008

Barack Obama's courage to speak the unspeakable about revising our disastrous and sclerotic Cuba policy is now matched by his willingness to pose as just another establishment candidate when it comes to the most sustained trade embargo in modern history.

Not missing an opportunity to miss the obvious, liberal blogger Steve Clemons opened his item about Fidel Castro's resignation as the world's most actuarially frustrating dictator today with this remark:

OK — Which of the presidential candidates is prepared to finally break US-Cuba relations out of the anachronistic Cold War cocoon they have been frozen in and initiate a new course that benefits American interests?

Barack Obama has sketched out the initial steps of a changed direction already, while Hillary Clinton in response said that the Bush administration's management of Cuba was just fine with her until something triggered a reason to change.

Now it is true that Obama published an op-ed in the Miami Herald in late August of last year arguing, reasonably enough, that the U.S.-imposed travel ban on Cuban-Americans, and the ban on allowing them to send money back to relatives on the island, should be lifted. The L.A. Times gave Obama credit for this judgment, tasking him only with not going far enough–the ban should be lifted categorically, for all U.S. citizens, the paper said. Obama had also listed Castro as one of the nefarious heads of state he wouldn't mind sitting down with as president, a hypothetical for which he was lambasted by Clinton as naïve and unready for the Oval Office.

But is Obama's position with respect to the trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962 and represents the most influential aspect of our non-engagement with Cuba, really all that different from Hillary's position, best defined as "Wait and see what Cuba does first"?

No.

Here is the Illinois senator's official statement responding to El Presidente's long overdue farewell:

 

If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades. The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring the Americans together.

 

If the Cuban leadership…. Nowhere do I see in this latest pivot any concession to altering the status quo without the first gesture coming from Havana. Obama may have toughened up his rhetoric on the Communist regime as a way of performing damage control for the Che Guevara flag incident that embarrassed his campaign last week. But his statement is virtually indistinguishable from what Hillary Clinton said today:

I would say to the new leadership, the people of the United States are ready to meet you if you move forward towards the path of democracy, with real, substantial reforms. The people of Cuba yearn for the opportunity to get out from under the weight of this authoritarian regime, which has held back 11 million talented and hardworking citizens of the Americas. The new government should take this opportunity to release political prisoners and to take serious steps towards democracy that give their people a real voice in their government.

Not that Clemons or any of the other members of the Advent of the Lord political blogosphere would purposefully perpetuate a false distinction between the Messiah and the Bitch, of course.

As Deval Patrick might have phrased it, "Helms-Burton Act — just policy."

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