Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Cuba thing

Forgotten among this week's stock-market flattening and Barack Obama's subsequent call to halve the national deficit by the end of his first term was an intriguing item from the desk of Indiana senator Richard Lugar.

The senate's longest-serving Republican called for a re-thinking of U.S. policy toward Cuba.

In a 23-page report that will be handed over to Congressional members later this week, Lugar wrote "We must recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests."

It's basically a proposal to end the 47-year embargo of the island, and idea that's time has come.

Although it seems its been conservatives who have been most adamant against Cuban reconciliation, I'm not surprised to see Lugar be the one to propose it.

Despite my liberal leanings, I've always held a great respect for Lugar, a sober-thinking and candid foreign-relations master among the first to criticize former President Bush's handling of Iraq.

He's also worked closely with Obama. When the prez was in the senate, the two collaborated on the Lugar-Obama bill that diminished nuclear proliferation.

(The pair are so tight that scuttlebutt at one time suggested Lugar would be tabbed for Secretary of State, a position that eventually went to H-Rod).

Despite the closeness of the prez and the Senate's eldest Republican, I don't think the Cuba idea will get much traction.

For one, given the economic turmoil, a Middle East in disarray, the energy crisis and our current two-front war, the last thing Obama needs to do is stir up that hornet's nest.

And electorally speaking, the last thing Obama needs to do is stoke sentiment against him in South Florida, a state he won in no small part because of his support from Cuban Americans. To approach Cuba now would be akin to deserting that support.

A better solution would be if the idea of ending the embargo is shelved until Obama's second term.

Then, he has no electoral issues to worry about, and better, the odds are pretty good the Castro regime will be finished. Once Castro's gone, the road to re-establishing economic and diplomatic ties becomes far easier.

For now, the groundwork for such a scenario has been set into place.

I, for one, hope it gets done.

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At 7:48 PM, Blogger Smokey Robinson (aka Matt) said...

Did I ever tell you I saw Dick Lugar? In Cuba?

No, that's not true. But I did see him on foreign soil. It was in a hotel in Talinn, Estonia, in 1996. He was flanked by about six personnel, and only I and one other wonk knew who he was.

Unfortunately, thanks to the napkin on my lap and the forkful of eggs on its way to my mouth, I was unable to stand up and shake the man's hand. Well, that, and the fact that I'm not sure I could have penetrated his entourage. They looked pretty stern.


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