President Bush isn’t usually known as an environmentalist, said Carl Hiaasen in The Miami Herald, but his speech last week on Cuba was a masterpiece of recycling. Before a hand-picked crowd of Cuban exiles in Washington, Bush delivered the same old macho speech that every president since Kennedy has delivered, vowing to continue the U.S.’s economic embargo on the island, and urging Cubans to rise up and demand democracy when the ailing Fidel Castro dies. In 40 futile years, the ban on trade and travel between Cuba and the U.S. has brought hardship only to the Cuban people, and has actually helped Castro stay in power, by making the U.S.—and not communism—the scapegoat for Cuba’s desperate poverty. The tragic irony, said The New York Times in an editorial, is that there is finally real hope of change in Cuba. By insisting that we keep the embargo in place instead of actively engaging with the Cuban people, Bush only ensures that we’ll have no influence over the island’s future.
Intellectuals on the left have always disparaged the embargo, said Jay Nordlinger in National Review Online, because it’s easier than facing up to what Castro, their former hero, has done to Cuba and Cubans. The truth is it wasn’t the embargo that banned free speech in Cuba or threw dissenting voices into jail. It was Fidel Castro—and the world will one day thank President Bush for denouncing this evil regime as boldly and unapologetically as he did the other day. Castro’s chances of smoothly handing power over to his younger brother, Raul, are looking dicey, said Investor’s Business Daily. Raul is 76, known to be a hard drinker, and lacks Fidel’s charisma. So this was the right time for Bush to call communism a disgraced and dying order, and to explicitly offer U.S. help to Cubans who rise up and demand a democratic government.
How scared is Castro that Cubans might hear the call to freedom? said Albor Ruiz in the New York Daily News. So scared that he ordered Bush’s arrogant, patronizing remarks reprinted on the front page of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper and broadcast on national television. The Castro government knows that Cubans don’t want America’s laughingstock president dictating what they should do. If any further proof was needed of our president’s astonishing ability to misread an international situation or mistake his own fantasies for reality, there you have it. Just as he was with Iraq, Bush is entirely out of touch on what’s really going on in Cuba.