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A Limp-Wristed Finale to the Cold War

Among all the iconic moments of the great Cold War struggle, from Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” oration to John F. Kennedy’s promise to pay any price and bear any burden to Ronald Reagan’s bold challenge to “tear down this wall,” we will have to include the incongruous footnote of an irrelevant communist holdout dictator in godforsaken Cuba raising the literally limp-wrested arm of an American president in a gesture of newfound solidarity.
The president’s apparent skittishness in the video record of the event was about as far he got to resisting the embracing of Raul Castro’s authoritarian regime on the otherwise lovely island nation during his historic visit there. President Barack Obama took the occasion to boast that the last president arrived with gunboats and that he’s the first to arrive by welcomed jet, and to agree with much of the totalitarian communist regime’s critique of America’s still-somewhat privatized health care system and other not-up-to-communist-standards policies, and politely left unmentioned all the dissidents who have been slaughtered over the past 56 years or the ones who were rounded up just days and hours before the historic visit. Both sides promise that the countries will grow closer together, but it’s not yet clear which one will be making the movement, and by now that whole iconographic Cold War history we once enjoyed seems in doubt.
We’ve had occasion lately to chat with a most delightful young woman who happily and enviably admitted that she had no idea what a “Pinko” or a “Red” or a “Commie” was, and she was charmingly free of any opinions regarding America’s recent rapprochement with those Pinko Commie Reds down in Cuba, and she struck us as otherwise quite bright, so that limp-wrested salute by American president might not be the denouement of the Cold War, after all. Socialism seems all the rage in the Democratic party, even if the clear front-runner is having a hard time disavowing the term, and the front-runner in the Republican party is merely promising the sort of gold-plated-telephone deals you saw in “Godfather II,” and the crazily conservative Cuban-American is lagging in the polls, and there doesn’t seem to be any triumvirate the likes of Reagan and Thatcher and Pope John Paul II to be around.
Don’t worry, the commies aren’t literally poisoning you, at least not here in Wichita, where the water is still fluoride-free, but there does seem a certain insidious effect afoot, and an American president letting his arm be raised up in such literally limp-wrested fashion isn’t at all encouraging.

— Bud Norman</

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We’ll See You in C-U-B-A

Press reports indicate that President Barack Obama’s image now occupies a place of honor on the Havana street posters that was once afforded to Che Guevara. When Obama touches ground on Cuban soil on Sunday to usher in a new era of diplomatic relations with that unfortunate island’s totalitarian communist government he will no doubt be flattered by the comparison to such a mass murdering terrorist thug as Guevara, whose ruggedly handsome and martial image still adorns many a hipster’s t-shirt and countless college dormitory walls and is by now as iconic as that upturned chin of Obama’s in the equally kitschy “Hope and Change” poster, but such aging Cold Warriors as ourselves can only sigh at what’s become of our supposed victory.
The first presidential visit to Cuba since long before it became it a totalitarian communist state is being hailed in much of the press as a crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy, even as those same media are obliged to admit that the eastern European and Middle Eastern and South China Seas and hasn’t been so nearly have been ore significant setbacks, but our perspective yields a differing view. We were born the same year that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and their fellow mass murdering thugs gained control of the country, and they’ve remained in the bad news long after such mass-murdering thugs as Yasser Arafat and the Ayatollah Khomeini and the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union and such exemplary leaders as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II faded away, and we’d held out faint hope that we’d outlast Cuban communism as well.
This hope now seems dashed, though, and we expect that for now it will be regarded as a crowning achievement of the current administration that he has supplanted the great Che Guevara on Havana’s street posters. We recall a recent conversation with a young fellow we rather like who thought that Obama’s Cuba policy regardless of whatever that country’s totalitarian government had done in the past was surely no big deal, and we noted that what Cuba had done in the past was steal billions of dollars of American investments in the country while murdering countless of democacry-and-freedom-loving dissidents to install a regime that invited nuclear weapons that brought the world to the brink of nuclear apocalypse and fomented disastrous revolution South America to Africa, and was appallingly anti-homosexual and racist and sexist to boot, and that it had done it all in our our very own lifetime, which doesn’t seem all that recent. Throw in the fact that our first girlfriend and one of our middle-aged crushes was with Cuban-Americans whose families who had escaped that hellish routine, and that one of them’s brother is also a good friend, and that two of our city’s best mayors have been Cuban-Americans and one of them was the father or our aforementioned first girlfriend, as well as all the hours we’ve spent grooving to Mongo Santamaria records, and that our choice for the next president is a Cuban-American, so we take our opposition to Cuba’s too-awful-to-deal-with government rather personally.
Obama’s line seems to be that American rapprochement with Cuba will surely insert its insidious capitalist influence and thus drag it ever closer to our more capitalist and gay-friendly standards, but we doubt he really believes in any of that. Our guess is that he admires its socialized welfare system and press restraints and ability to to send dissidents to the torture chambers, and hopes that his much admired rapprochement with the totalitarian government will nudge us ever closer to that model.
He’ll soon be gone, thanks to that presidential term limit that the Democrats insisted on during Eisenhower’s popular anti-communist administration, but the policy will likely linger. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will be on board, and Republican front-runner and deal-making-businessman Donald Trump says he has no problem with the concept of dealing with the Cuban communists but promises a much better and really “yuge” deal, so the best case scenario is that scene from “Godfather Part Two” where they’re passing the gold-plated phone from Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth to set up casino with a well-endowed “superman” sex show. The insidious influences of capitalism might yet prevail, no matter the outcome of some Democrat-versus-Republican showdown, so at least we’ll hold onto that faint hope.
In the meantime those images of Obama’s upturned chin and Guevara’s scowling-yet-handsome visage are equally iconic, and we wish the best for the freedom-loving peoples of both the United States of America and Cuba.

— Bud Norman

Re-Negotiating the Cold War

America’s declaration of victory in the Cold War might have been premature. Cuba is still communist, and by the time its upcoming negotiations with President Barack Obama are concluded it’s likely that impoverished and totalitarian worker’s paradise will have the last laugh.
Cuban dictator Raul Castro has opened the bargaining about normalization of relations with demands that include America’s withdrawal from Guantanamo Bay and reparations for the past 55 years of American embargo and assorted other imperialist sins, and it strikes us as a shrewd negotiating tactic. Castro has apparently been watching America’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program and realizes how very generous our president can be when he’s eager to strike a deal, and he’s no doubt aware that Obama is a pure product of an American left that has always been sympathetic to Cuba’s communist dictatorship. We keep reading that Obama surely won’t cede to such outrageous demands, but we’re not at all confident that he won’t seize such a ripe opportunity to finally be rid of that Guantanamo Bay detention camp and spread some American wealth to an especially sleazy portion of the third world and prove his Nobel Peace Prize-winning solidarity with the oppressed workers of the world in the process.
Obama has already made a significant concession by telling the leaders of 35 nations at Summit of the Americas that “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.” This is an apparent reference to the Monroe Doctrine, which through 192 years of Democratic and Republican administrations successfully kept the European powers from meddling in Latin American affairs, then guided our efforts to keep the Soviet Union from meddling in the hemisphere, and has more lately prompted resistance to Iranian and Chinese meddling. The American left has long hated the Monroe Doctrine, especially when it was employed to thwart Soviet meddling, and will now be quite happy to leave all the meddling to Iran and the Chinese.
The Cubans will be eager to continue their own meddling in other Latin American countries, of course, and if they get another one of their demands met they’ll be able to do so without being included on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring governments. “We indeed have acted in solidarity with many peoples that may be considered terrorists” under the view of “imperialism,” Castro told the assembled leaders at the summit, adding that he was “referring to Cuba’s humanitarian missions in various developing countries.” These humanitarian missions have involved fomenting Marxist revolutions throughout Central and South America as well as Africa, and we suppose he’d also regard the Cuban dictatorship’s invitation to launch Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba as humanitarian, but almost all of it has met with favor from the American left and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. The promise that America won’t counter-meddle already constitutes a major victory for the Cuban dictatorship, and one can hardly blame them for pressing for further concessions.
The equally odious government of Venezuela, which was Cuba’s most important post-Soviet benefactor until America’s fracking boom lowered the price of crude oil and brought its economy to a Cuban level of despair, is also demanding an obsequious apology for all those years of Monroe Doctrine, but it seems they’ve already got that. So far Obama is insisting that there will be disagreements with Cuba and demands for greater freedom in prison nation, but except for Cuba’s horrific treatment of homosexuals we can’t see him finding much fault with the rest of its present system of governance. Obama also spent some of his time at the Summit of the Americas that domestic criticism of his negotiations with Iran “It needs to stop,” so the Cuban dictatorship’s habit of quashing dissent surely won’t be objectionable. There’s that communist economic system and all the material deprivation that it has imposed on the Cuban people for the past 55 years, but Obama will likely be obliged to note equality of all that poverty, and of course there will be frequent mention of the universal health care they’ve got down there. Castro has already absolved Obama of America’s sins, and Obama is likely to regard that as ample compensation for any concessions he might make.
Whatever problems Marxism has thus far encountered in Latin America, American meddling will no longer be one of them. Which is not to say that the commies will get the very last laugh in the western hemisphere. Whatever Obama wants to do will meet fierce resistance in Congress, even from some Democrats with large constituencies of refugees from Latin American Marxism, and even an American public grown inured to the administration’s obsequiousness will surely balk at paying reparations to the commie Cubans who stole legally contracted American holdings in Cuba and then pointed nuclear weapons at us. The green light for foreign meddling in Latin America might encourage the Marxists who are tyrannizing their own countries and supporting the terrorist assaults on freer nations in the hemisphere, but none have ever worked out, and none ever will. Even the most abject American apologies and bone-headed agreements won’t change that.

— Bud Norman

Normalizing Dictatorships

A communist dictatorship seized power in Cuba the year of our birth, and has been nothing but trouble to the world ever since. The dictatorship pointed nuclear weapons at the United States which almost triggered an apocalyptic war, fomented similarly dictatorial revolutions throughout Latin America and Africa, emptied its prisons onto American shores, and even after the demise of its Soviet patron has continued to abet the mischief of its fellow pariah states and imprison its own population in a totalitarian gulag. Now we read that America will normalize diplomatic relations with this cruel government, and can only wonder that it has taken so long.
The left hasn’t had much enthusiasm for opposing any sort of communism at least since George McGovern won the Democratic nomination, after all, and has always had a special sympathy for the Cuban variety. Countless documentaries and feature films, pamphlets, symposia, and the breathless testimonials of too many hipsters in Che Guevara t-shirts have portrayed Cuba as a tropical workers’ paradise where rhythmic and revolutionary cumbias fill the air and high-quality free health care is available to all. We never heard of anybody tying a bunch of inner tubes together and trying to get to Cuba, while hundreds of thousands have resorted to such desperate measures in order to get out, but the myth persists. Normalizing diplomatic relations with the communist dictatorship will prolong its power, but the left no longer sees this as a problem.
In his last campaign debate the president chortled to his opponent that the Cold War was long over, clearly amused that such confrontational thinking still happened, and indeed that epic conflict was so long ago that the collective memory has faded and only the liberal myths prevail. It was so long ago that the current president was smoking that high-quality Hawaiian pot with the “Choom Gang” when the west was winning the conflict, and went on to tell an adoring crowd of Germans at the former site of the Berlin Wall that it was because the world stood as one, and the former long-haired hippie who testified to Congress that it was futile for American to resist communism is now the Secretary of State, and the idea that communism wasn’t really so bad after all is now a fixture of the campus curriculum. The hammer and sickle never achieved the same intolerable status as the swastika, even if it represented the same brutal totalitarianism, and the likes of the mass-murdering Che Guevara became fashionable attire.
By now the decision to open an embassy in Havana will probably be of little political consequence. The left will be pleased with their president’s daring, the Americans of Cuban heritage will be mostly outraged but of few numbers, maybe not even enough to swing to Florida’s electoral votes back to the Republicans, and the old-timers such as ourselves who proudly recall a time when America was the reason communism’s evil didn’t prevail probably would have voted Republican in any case. The Cold War is long over except for those unfortunate folks in Ukraine and Cuba and the South China Sea who are dealing with its unpleasant aftermath, the threat of a nuclear conflagration has been downgraded to the possibility that Iran or North Korea or another of Cuba’s allies will someday launch one, and the left is already looking for rationalizations if that ever happens.

— Bud Norman

Questioning Camelot

Our favorite gag by the late Johnny Carson always followed his occasional failed monologue jokes about Abraham Lincoln., when he would exaggeratedly grimace at the audience’s silence and then turn to Ed McMahon to say “Too soon.”
The old show-biz admonition to allow a considerate pause between tragedy and comedy is very much on our mind as we approach Friday’s 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. A half-century is still too soon to be jocular about something so tragic as a presidential assassination, but neither are we inclined to join in the incessant hagiography that has become a cottage industry since Kennedy’s death.
It is altogether fitting and proper that the coverage of the anniversary should be respectful, but it should also be true. Most of the media can be expected to take full advantage of the opportunity to trot out all of the left’s most cherished myths about St. Kennedy of Camelot, which will be presented anew to the gullible generations too young to recall the reality of his presidency and too incurious to have learned about it, and there will be the usual efforts to cast the light of this revisionist history on current events. A more truthful account, as usual, would be more useful.
Kennedy will be recalled as a charismatic exemplar of modern liberalism, a sort of paler ‘60s prototype of President Barack Obama without all the computer glitches, but many of his policies would be anathema to today’s Democrats. Perhaps Kennedy’s brightest idea was a massive tax cut, which not only drastically lowered rates for businesses but also dropped the now-hated top 1 percent’s rates from the confiscatory 91 percent that had last through the allegedly right-wing Eisenhower administration to a still-exorbitant 70 percent, and it set off such an economic boom in the ensuing decade that the country could afford hippies. Some of his policies reflected the traditional Democratic enthusiasm for busy-body big government, but on the whole the bootlegger’s son seemed to have a natural affinity for capitalism.
The peaceniks in the Democratic party should also be reminded by that Kennedy ran as a stauncher cold warrior than the world champion commie-baiter Richard Nixon, and cultivated a very masculine image based largely on his war exploits. He vowed at his inaugural to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” which is hard to imagine Obama ever uttering, and was true enough to the words to incur the wrath of at least one Castro-loving left-winger with Marine marksmanship training. After failing to pay any price or bear any burden during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs attack in Cuba, and an unimpressive summit in Vienna, Kennedy made less of an impression on the Soviet leadership, leading to the Berlin Wall crisis and the Cuban missile crisis and a widespread uneasiness that the world was about to go up in a nuclear mushroom cloud, but the response was least more muscular than the modern Democrats would be comfortable with.
There’s no way of proving or disproving the left’s holy writ that Kennedy would not have further involved America in the Vietnam War, which is the basis of all the more creative conspiracy theories regarding his assassination, but there is cause for doubt. It should be noted that Kennedy did increase the number of military advisors in the country, that President Lyndon Johnson further escalated the war with combat troops on the advice of the same “best and brightest” advisors that Kennedy had chosen, and with the same “pay any price, bear any burden” rhetoric of his predecessor, and that Kennedy had been sufficiently interested in Vietnam’s civil war to tacitly green-light a coup that led to the assassination of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem. Kennedy’s father had seen his own presidential ambitions devastated by a defeatist isolationism prior to World War II, and his brief years in office suggest he had learned well not to pass on a war that might prove popular. Liberals are still entitled to their Gnostic faith that no Castro-loving left-winger would have ever shot Kennedy, we suppose, but the enduring theory that the Great Society and the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Act and the rest of the Johnson administration was a right-wing conspiracy strikes us as highly implausible.
Kennedy wasn’t so liberal as Johnson, but he wasn’t nearly conservative enough that the right should embrace his legacy. His initial wobbliness on foreign affairs was almost Obamaian, he had the same rhetorical tendency as his Democratic successors to ink of his countrymen as a collective rather than individuals, and of course there was the reckless and dangerous womanizing that liberals were obliged to defend during the Clinton years. Most of the blame for the disastrous social engineering efforts of the ‘60s falls on Johnson, but almost all of it was sold as an idea that the sainted Kennedy had vaguely proposed in one of his bleeding heart speeches. That Kennedy remains such an iconic figure on the left is sufficient reason to question his legacy thoroughly.

— Bud Norman