At one point he [Eisenhower] says to me, ‘Who’s your chief of staff?’ I held my temper. I said to him, ‘The President of the United States is his own chief of staff.’ But he just could not understand that. In all the years he was in the White House he never did understand that the President has to act. That’s why the people of the United States elect you They don’t elect you to sit around waiting for other people to tell you what to do.
Now when Castro came into power, if I’d have been President, I’d have picked up the phone and called him direct in Havana. I wouldn’t have gone through protocol or anything like that. I’d have called him up, and I’d have said, ‘Fidel, this is Harry Truman in Washington, and I’d like to have you come up here and have a little talk.’
He’d have come, of course, and he’d have come to the White House, and I’d have said, ‘Fidel, it looks to me like you’ve had a pretty good revolution down there, and it’s been a long time coming. Now you’re going to need help, and there’s only two places you can go to get it. One’s right here, and the other’s — well, we both know where the other place is. Now you just tell me what you need, and I’ll see to it that you get it.’
Well, he’d have thanked me, and we’d have talked awhile, and then as he got up to go, I’d have said to him, ‘Now, Fidel, I’ve told you what we’ll do for you. There’s one thing you can do for me. Would you get a shave and a haircut and take a bath?’
Of course, that son of a bitch Eisenhower was too damn dumb to do anything like that. When Castro decided to go in the other direction for support, Eisenhower was probably still waiting for a goddamn staff report on what to think.
It’s been 56 years. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama have all tried in their various ways to bring down Fidel and Raul and the Cuban Revolution. They’ve all failed. They will always fail. Someday, Fidel and Raul will die (I think), but this little vendetta has done nothing but embarrass eleven Presidents and hurt generations of regular Cuban people.
We can be friendly and deal with Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Putin’s Russia, and dozens of other countries and regimes where human rights concerns are far worse than that little island 90 miles off of the Florida coast that we raped for 75 years and have stalked for 200 years. It’s ridiculous. End the blockade — it’s not an embargo, it’s an economic blockade — normalize relations, remove our foot from the throat of the Cuban people, and cut the petty bullshit. It’s time. We tried the “Good Neighbor Policy” before; how about we just go with the “Stop Being Assholes Policy”.
And if we’re really concerned about human rights, how about we not have our President go hang out at King Abdullah’s lavish desert retreat in Saudi Arabia where women are treated little better than property? Oh, good thing we closed Guantanamo, too. Hey, look what we did, we arrested people from all over the world, tortured many of them, charged almost none of them, allow them few rights, have held them without trial for years…and we stuck them where?
(This is where Frank Underwood would break the fourth wall and look at the camera.)
So, USAID covertly funded and created a “Cuban Twitter” called ZunZuneo in an effort to “destabilize” the Cuban government. Obviously worked out really well…oh wait…USAID ran out of money and it sputtered.
By the way, covert actions by federal agencies require Presidential authorization. Apparently, President Obama has learned nothing about the resiliency of the Cuban Revolution from his TEN IMMEDIATE PREDECESSORS.
I’ve probably answered this question ten times, and each time I’ve probably given a different answer. It usually depends on the breezes (and, sometimes, hurricanes) that blow through my mind.
At this point, I’d choose the night in Mexico when Raul Castro introduced Fidel to Che and they stayed up until morning discussing their plans for the world.
"Men are products, expressions, reflections; they live to the extent that they coincide with their epoch, or to the extent that they differ markedly from it." — José Martí, Cuban Revolutionary/Poet/Patriot, 1887
Men die — even Revolutionaries like Ché Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chávez (well, maybe not Fidel, he’s still fighting). The true measure of their impact, however, is not simply what they did, but what remains once they are gone. In my latest article for AND Magazine, “¿Viva La Revolucíon?”, I look at a connection between Ché and Chávez, and wonder whether their Revolutions died with the Revolutionaries. I also question those Americans who celebrated Chávez’s death much like they celebrated Osama bin Laden’s despite the fact that bin Laden planned terror attacks which killed thousands of Americans while Chávez was basically just an obnoxious presence. Is it as much of a capital crime to antagonize America with annoying rhetoric as it is to target innocent Americans for murder through terror? While I don’t make apologies for Hugo Chávez, in the wake of his death, I try to see his impact through the eyes of his neighbors in Latin America whose interactions with the late Venezuelan leader were largely affectionate. Go check out my article in AND Magazine, “¿Viva La Revolucíon?”, and please click the Facebook “like” or “recommend” button underneath the article’s title!
The weekend is almost here, and with it comes two, brand-new, feature-length articles from me in AND Magazine!
Both articles will spend time on AND Magazine's cover page this weekend, but my loyal followers here on Dead Presidents don’t have to wait. You can check them out now, in their entirety.
¿Viva La Revolucíon? looks at the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, its impact on his country, and Chávez’s influence on Latin America and the regional leaders who came to power during (and often because of) the Chávez era. ¿Viva La Revolucíon? also examines the life and legacy of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution and Hugo Chávez’s relation to that movement as well as his connection to one of the Revolution’s enduring symbols, Ché Guevara.
In my other new article, Sede Vacante: Historic Happenings at the Vatican, I focus on the Papacy in transition following the surprising and extraordinarily rare resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and write about what we might be able to expect, from a historian’s point-of-view, as the College of Cardinals meets in a Conclave to elect a new Pope under almost unprecedented circumstances — a perfect storm of uncertainty in which a Papal vacancy, scandals in the Church, a shift in worldwide Catholic demographics, and a Conclave held in the wake of a voluntary resignation rather than under the solemnity and sadness of a Pope’s death may result in a far more political process (at least openly) than usual.
Check my articles out now, before they even hit the cover page at AND Magazine! And, if you do read ¿Viva La Revolucíon? or Sede Vacante, please take a moment to click the Facebook “like” button near the top of each page. In fact, even if you don’t read the articles, just go to the page and click that “like” button because it helps me a whole lot. Seriously, you don’t even have to read the articles right now, just go to those links and click the Facebook “like” button and I’ll be your friend in real-life, be the godfather to your children, hide your murder weapon like Robert Kardashian (allegedly) if you pull an O.J. Simpson (allegedly)…whatever you need, I’m there if the Faceboook “likes” on each article gets over 100, okay? Cool.
I have long been drawn to Cuba, as I believe I have shared before. I don’t quite understand why. I’m not Cuban. The part of me that is Hispanic is Mexican — old, indigenous Mexican rather than Spanish — so there is no ethnic or familial connection to Cuba. Yet, I’ve always been drawn to that little island that is about the same distance from Florida as Sacramento is from San Francisco. There’s just a mystique to it — not only because of Fidel and Ché and Camilo Cienfuegos and Celia Sánchez — but dating back to the words of José Martí. There is something resilient about the Cuban people that fascinates me.
Last year, I shared the story of my friend Sarah, who I met during the first Obama campaign and who has been studying medicine for the past few years in Havana courtesy of the Cuban government. I wanted to experience Cuba even before I met Sarah and I’m working hard to try to visit Havana sometime this year. What I really want to experience is Cuba while Fidel Castro is still alive. While Fidel is no longer in power, I just feel like being on the island while he is still living will be a completely different experience than when he is gone, even if his brother Raul remains in power and the country continues to be Communist. If I went to Cuba today, I think I’d still feel like I was in Fidel Castro’s Cuba and that’s the unique experience I want to have, even for just a week.
I’m beginning to think my odds of making it there before Fidel dies aren’t so great, however. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández visited Havana last week and paid a courtesy call on the former Cuban leader, who will turn 87 in August, and it certainly looks like I need to step up my efforts to visit Sarah in Cuba if I want to experience Cuba while Fidel Castro is still alive:
So, Comandante, for purely selfish reasons, can you just hold on for a little while longer while I try to get everything in order for my visit? I’m really trying to do it this year — maybe even late Spring. Cool? Comandante? Fidel? No, I’m over here where your brother and Cristina are looking. I’ll bring you some of that adidas gear you seem to dig so much.