What happened
Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro over the weekend ridiculed President Bush’s renewed calls for democratic change on the communist island. Bush last week vowed to maintain pressure on Cuba and urged ordinary Cubans to “shape your own destiny” by demanding democratic change. In an editorial published Sunday, Castro said all Cubans were “born free and equal,” and likened revolutionary figure Che Guevara to Abraham Lincoln.

What the commentators said
“George W. Bush is irrelevant to the future of Cuba,” said Carl Hiaasen in The Miami Herald (free registration), “but that didn't stop the lame-duck president with gutter poll ratings from delivering another shopworn, knee-jerk lecture to the communist nation.” Bush’s hard line on Cuba is merely recycled rhetoric that has been used by every president since John F. Kennedy. It has never done a thing for the Cuban people in the past, and it won’t now.

No matter what Bush says, said The Boston Globe in an editorial (free registration), U.S. policy toward Cuba is going to change, and soon. “The aging Fidel Castro’s rule is bound to end.” The reality is that, since the end of the Cold War, Castro and his brother Raul have stopped sending fighters abroad to foment revolution. And they have enough money to keep their system afloat “whatever the United States does.” So why not “replace isolation with engagement,” and “surprise the Castro brothers?”

“The international community and all Americans should be just as outraged over the tragedy of Cuba” today as they ever were, said Carlos Gutierrez in USA Today. Cuba’s communist government hasn’t changed, so the Castro brothers don’t deserve any relief from economic sanctions and heavy diplomatic pressure. Why “give oxygen” to a regime that “uses its resources to crush dissident voices, suppress individual freedoms, and condemn its people to a life of poverty, misery and despair”?