Sunday, March 27, 2016

Editorial: Time to Reopen Cuba

President Obama went a long way toward dismantling the failed embargo of commerce with Cuba with his trip to the communist-governed island.

“I am here to bury the last remnants of the Cold War in the Americas. I am here to extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said in an eloquent speech in Havana that was broadcast live to the island nation March 22.

Obama noted that there are still opponents to normalizing relations between the two nations. The key reason why he supports ending the 54-year-old embargo, he said, is because it isn’t working. “A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century,” Obama said. “The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people instead of helping them. And I’ve always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called ‘the fierce urgency of now’ — we should not fear change, we should embrace it.”

Creo en el pueblo cubano,” Obama said, Spanish for “I believe in the Cuban people.” But he also has to get Congress to believe.

Predictably, Republicans first criticized Obama’s decision to go to Cuba and then criticized his decision to remain in Cuba in the wake of the terrorist bombings in Brussels, but Obama was right to push back at the reactionaries. He noted that cutting short his trip would have played into the terrorists’ hands.

“It’s always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world, particularly in this age of 24/7 news coverage,” Obama told ESPN at the top of the third inning in an historic baseball game in Havana between Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team March 22. “You want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation, but the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives.”

Acknowledging the calls to go back to the US or Brussels to lead, Obama shared what he called one of his proudest moments as president — when Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz told fans in a pre-game speech following the Boston marathon bombing: “This is our f***ing city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

“Probably the only time America didn’t have a problem with somebody cursing on live TV was when he talked about Boston and how strong it was and wasn’t gonna be intimidated,” Obama said. “That is the kind of resilience and the kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists. They cannot defeat America.”

Hours after the game, in which Tampa Bay defeated Cuba 4-1, Politico noted that Donald Trump tweeted that Obama “should leave the baseball game in Cuba immediately & get home to Washington- where a #POTUS, under a serious emergency belongs!”

But Obama had departed the game long before the final out, traveling to his next stop in Argentina.

Cruz No Improvement Over Trump

After the attacks in Belgium, Ted Cruz said, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” He also reiterated his call to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” which 1) it would be a war crime and 2) could put a strain on our allies since it appears that the Brussels bombers were Belgian or French nationals.

Cruz’s blowhard reaction to the Brussels bombings showed that Republican leaders’ rallying around him in a desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump from getting the GOP nomination amounts to trading one dangerous charlatan for another. It probably is too late, anyway, since Trump picked up another 58 delegates from Arizona on March 22, giving him 738 of the 1,237 delegates he needs for the nomination with 18 states to go. Cruz got 20 from Utah, which left him with 463. John Kasich stands way back at 143.

Republicans should take a long look at Cruz’s radical concept of “religious liberty,” which does not necessarily extend to all Christians, much less non-Christian religions — or atheism.

John Fea of Religion News Service wrote in the Washington Post Feb. 4 that Trump appeals to evangelicals connected with the Christian prosperity movement, a form of evangelicalism that celebrates the accumulation of wealth as a sign of God’s blessing.

Cruz resonates with the evangelical culture warriors. He believes that he is engaged in a fight with the devil for the soul of the nation. It is only a matter of time before Cruz assumes the role of the Old Testament prophet Elijah and tries to cast down fire from heaven to destroy the “prophets of Baal” who oppose his campaign, Fea noted.

“Anyone who has watched Cruz on the stump knows that he often references the important role that his father, traveling evangelist Rafael Cruz, has played in his life,” Fea wrote. “During a 2012 sermon at New Beginnings Church in Bedford, Texas, Rafael Cruz described his son’s political campaign as a direct fulfillment of biblical prophecy.”

Rafael Cruz and Larry Huch, the pastor of New Beginnings, preach a brand of evangelical theology called Seven Mountains Dominionism. They believe Christians must take dominion over seven aspects of culture: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.

Cruz is not interested in crafting new models of American pluralism to respond to the country’s ever-growing religious diversity. Rather, religious liberty is a code word for defending the right of Christians to continue to hold cultural authority and privilege, Fea wrote.

Cruz does not use the terms “dominionism” or “seven mountains” when he is campaigning, Fea wrote. But he has never publicly rejected these beliefs.

It’s hard to tell whether Trump or Cruz believe their own demagoguery, but it doesn’t speak well for either of them that we hope they’re fooling.

Bern On

Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, but Bernie Sanders hasn’t given up, nor should he. On March 22, Sanders won two states, Idaho and Utah, while Clinton won Arizona. The corporate news media portrayed it as another good night for Clinton, because she won the biggest prize, Arizona, in a contest that was decided relatively early, but Sanders picked up 73 delegates that day, while Clinton got only 55. So Bernie won the night — though he didn’t get much credit because the Idaho and Utah caucus results came in after the late news and the Brussels bombing that same day was getting more coverage anyway.

A week earlier, Clinton was credited with sweeping the five states at play on March 15 (Politico called it “a five-state rout”). In fact Sanders effectively tied Clinton in Missouri; Clinton narrowly outpolled him 49.6% to 49.4% in the Show Me state but they split the state’s 68 delegates evenly.

In Illinois, Clinton won 50.5% to 48.7% and split the state’s delegates 76-73. Sanders did get drummed in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, where Clinton won delegates by 136-67, 59-45 and 81-62, respectively, but Sanders was competitive in all three states, particularly among white men and younger voters. Clinton’s strength among white women and black and Latino voters helped her carry the day, according to CNN exit polls, but Sanders has shown he can attract Latino votes, getting 53% of Latinos in Nevada caucuses.

As of March 23, Clinton has won 18 states and two territories (Guam and Northern Mariana islands) and 1,223 pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 11 states plus Democrats Abroad, with 920 pledged delegates, the New York Times reported. The winner needs 2,383 delegates.

Some Democrats reportedly are pressuring Sanders to ease up on Clinton, but Bernie still has a longshot chance of catching up with Hillary. He can keep Clinton addressing progressive populist issues, which also pumps up the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. That could help elect Democrats to Congress and state legislatures in November. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2016

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