Ron Radosh

Ron Radosh

My End of August Election Predictions

August 31st, 2015 - 7:49 am

Donald Trump is right about one thing — so far his campaign has been incredibly successful. Despite his narcissism and his ad hominem attacks on other candidates and people who annoy him, he told his Nashville, Tennessee, audience:

This is a movement. I don’t want it to be about me. This is about common sense. It’s about doing the right thing.

At the beginning, many thought The Donald would flame out, but now it seems that some in the media, like Noah Millman at The Week, are not only accepting that his campaign is a serious threat to other Republicans as well as to Democrats, but that it might not be so bad if he actually got the nomination.

Others, like the conservative political analyst Henry Olsen, argue the following:

Trump may have more appeal among tea-party and “very conservative” voters than among others, but he is primarily a protest candidate for the angry of all persuasions. Unless he can somehow persuade women, the college-educated, and those from the center and the center–left of the GOP to change their minds, he is very likely to find his upside limited as other candidates start to drop out, assuming that he is in for the duration. This suggests that an establishment alternative will still have the advantage, passions unleashed by Trump notwithstanding.

But as successful as Trump’s campaign is now, there is a lot that can happen before the primaries and the election. As Michael Isikoff pointed out, Trump has a number of lawsuits pending against him which could cause a snag. As much as the Republican base claims they do not want a member of the political class, when it comes down to it, I think they will turn to a candidate who has a successful conservative political record of getting things done.

Here are my thoughts on what could happen as the months go by.

A Winning Republican Ticket That Does Not Seem Likely Now

If a Republican is to win the Electoral College vote, he has to get the support of the majority of Republicans, traditional Democrats in blue states, and a good share of independents. The candidate best poised to do that — and so far, he’s still near the bottom in the polls — is John Kasich, governor of Ohio. This might not help him with conservatives, but Democratic columnist Frank Bruni has made a case for him:

He won re-election [as Governor of Ohio] there last year with 64 percent of the vote. That largely reflected the weakness of his Democratic opponent, but Kasich’s current approval rating in Ohio of 61 percent affirms his ability to please a constituency beyond Republican partisans and to attract Democrats as well. His popularity with the voters who know him best came through in a recent poll showing him well ahead of Donald Trump among Ohio Republicans.

By cutting taxes and controlling spending in Ohio, he proved his conservative bona fides, at least on fiscal issues, something being stressed in a clever new commercial – note the female and black faces, along with the use of the moon landing to capture a yearning for American greatness — that’s being shown in New Hampshire.

No candidate for president can win without Ohio. Florida is crucial as well, and if Marco Rubio ran as Kasich’s vice president, the Republicans likely would have a successful ticket.

Trump Erodes, Walker Benefits 

I believe Trump’s support will erode and the people will choose a conservative candidate with actual political experience. Since Kasich shows no sign so far of gaining enough ground, that leaves two candidates who might actually receive the nomination: Ted Cruz, who is hoping to inherit Trump’s supporters and has big bucks behind him, and is working hard to prove that winning key southern state primaries will generate similar results in other regions of the country; and Scott Walker.

Of the two, I pick Walker as the eventual winner because of his record and his proven ability to win elections in the blue state of Wisconsin. His recent TV appearances and his foreign policy address the other day show that he is improving his performance and seriousness. Also attractive is his Midwestern persona and ability to relate to regular folks without the bombast and denigration of opponents on display with Trump. (Ben Carson also has these traits, but again I think his lack of political or executive experience will sink him.)

I don’t think the Republican candidate will be Jeb Bush. I have to agree with Trump here: Bush seems low energy, which makes you wonder if he really wants the grueling job.

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For decades, the stalwarts of the American Left depicted all accused of disloyalty in the so-called “McCarthyite” era as victims of the Cold War and an American “witch-hunt.” One such individual, who until his death made a good living portraying himself in this fashion, was Cedric Belfrage, a British expatriate who lived in the U.S. from the ’40s until 1955.

Belfrage was the founder and editor-in-chief of what was the major fellow-traveling American weekly newspaper, The National Guardian, which was created in 1948 as an adjunct of the presidential campaign of Henry A. Wallace on the Progressive Party ticket. The British subject Belfrage was hauled before both Senator McCarthy’s Senate subcommittee and by HUAC in the 1950s, where he invoked the Fifth Amendment. Eventually, he was arrested and deported back to Britain in 1955.

Belfrage then wrote a few books. Among them was one published by a major American publisher in 1973, The American Inquisition: 1945-1950, in which the author claimed that he too was a victim of vicious false accusations that he was a Soviet agent.

We have known for some years, from both the Venona files and the Vassiliev KGB Notebooks, that in fact Belfrage was working for the KGB. In one of their books, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes call him a “Betrayer of Two Nations.” Writing in Venona, they describe how KGB defector Elizabeth Bentley told the FBI that, while in the U.S., Belfrage regularly met with Soviet agent Jacob Golos to hand over material — both American and British — which he had obtained from the British Security Coordination Office for which he worked.

Bellfrage invented a fanciful story to explain his activities to the FBI when they interviewed him in 1947. He claimed that he had only met with U.S. Communist Party officials in order to gather information on what they knew about Soviet policy to pass on to the British. So in order to establish his credibility with the Soviets, he thought he had to give them some information about British policy.

Belfrage, of course, was lying. Cables proved that he had given the KGB an OSS report on the anti-Communist Yugoslav resistance during World War II, and that he had told the Soviets what Belfrage’s chief in Britain, William Stephenson, had said about the issue of a second front after a meeting Stephenson had with Prime Minister Churchill.

Belfrage also had given Golos actual documents he brought back with him from Britain that were classified.

Only after the FBI informed the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that he was involved with Soviet intelligence did they move to deport him.

Now, many decades later, London’s Daily Mail features a story about Belfrage providing more information about his espionage in Britain for the Soviet Union. Newly declassified MI-5 files reveal that the information from both the Vassiliev Notebooks and Venona decrypts are totally accurate.

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Populism Is Back, on Both Left and Right

August 17th, 2015 - 2:42 pm

Populism from both the right and the left is sweeping the country, represented by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump says he is a conservative while Sanders says he is a democratic socialist, but labels aside, the issues they are emphasizing which are drawing the big crowds often parallel one another.

This week, Trump unveiled his immigration plan. Emphasizing “jobs, wages, and security” in a section titled “Put American Workers First,” Trump writes:

The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans — including immigrants themselves and their children — to earn a middle class wage.

We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to: help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities’ rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream.

If you check some of Sanders’ speeches, he says the exact same thing.

In an interview with Ezra Klein in Vox, Sanders rejects “open borders” as both a Koch family desire as well as that of those he calls “the right-wing.” He tells the interviewer:

Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you’re a white high school graduate, it’s 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

Or, as Daniel Costa writes on the leftist Economic Policy Institute website:

[I]n some cases the importation of new foreign workers can negatively impact the wages of workers in the United States.

Sanders understands that having eight million people working in the U.S. labor market without labor and employment rights puts downward pressure on the wages and working conditions of all workers.

In foreign policy, both Trump and Sanders claim that they always objected to the U.S. war in Iraq. As a congressman, Sanders broke with the House Democrats who supported the war, and he was a critic of Bush 43’s intervention after he was elected to the Senate. Trump also makes clear his major disagreement with the Bush administration, which, as he said to NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Presssquandered billions and condemned many Americans to live with severe wartime injuries while thousands of others died from them.

Populism has a long history in America, heralded by candidates and leaders who have addressed problems that mainstream politicians have avoided. Indeed, the old Populist Party of the 1890s took on the big banks and railroads. Its heyday came in 1894, when Americans gave them 10 percent of the popular vote. Uniting farmers concerned with falling prices for grain and people frightened with the railroads who charged high prices to ship goods to the cities, they believed the solution was free and unlimited coinage of silver while denouncing the gold standard.

In 1896, their concerns were echoed by one mainstream political candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who electrified the Democratic Convention with a stirring speech that ended with his fighting words: “Mankind will not be crucified on a cross of gold.” Bryan, in effect, had co-opted the Populists’ program, bringing its independent-minded voters into the Democrat Party and putting an end to an independent Populist Party.

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Give Chuck Schumer credit for political courage. The New York senator, on the road to becoming the Senate Democratic leader after Harry Reid’s departure, might be risking his political career by announcing that he will vote against President Obama’s major foreign policy “achievement.”

Speculation was that Schumer would not make his decision public, but quietly vote against it. Such a path would have allowed him to avoid the wrath of the large Jewish community that had lobbied him against the deal, as well as the administration and other Democrats who would be grateful that he had not made his decision known in advance. Schumer did not do that. While the administration anticipated that he would ultimately vote against it, they are furious that he made the announcement with so many weeks left to go before the vote when it might influence other Democrats to follow him.

Not only did Schumer write a powerful explanation of why he reached his decision, but he then had a spokesman tell Bloomberg’s Eli Lake “that Schumer would also vote to override an expected Obama veto if the rejection measure passes Congress.”

Schumer made his decision after serious consideration of the deal’s terms. The New York Times reported  that before reaching his decision, he met individually with both the president and secretary of State, with the chief negotiator Wendy Sherman, and with other members of the negotiating team. He got answers to 14 pages of questions he had submitted to them.  Then he met with others including Dennis Ross, Sandy Berger, and Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli air force general. Finally, he spoke with AIPAC leaders who are lobbying against the deal, and with J Street, the leftist Obama apologists who are working on the deal’s behalf. To put it bluntly, Mr. Schumer took his job seriously, and left no stone unturned before deciding to publicly oppose the deal.

That defection is being taken quite seriously by the administration. Indeed, fear of Democrats deserting the administration is precisely why President Obama gave his speech at American University. But instead of drawing praise and support, the president’s snarky remarks and claim that those opposing the deal are warmongers who made “common cause” with the hardliners of Iran only brought on more criticism for his divisive attitude and his clear attempt to not take the fears of opponents seriously. Now he can add Schumer to that list.

Despite this, some conservatives are skeptical about how much Schumer will do to get other Democratic fence-sitters to join him. Writing in Commentary, Jonathan Tobin argues that to prove he is really against the deal, Schumer has to work hard to rally other Democrats to join him. Otherwise, Schumer might simply sit out the fight, or even “work behind the scenes to ensure that Obama will get enough votes to sustain a veto of a resolution rejecting the deal.” He concludes:

That is why Schumer and others who also see themselves as guardians of the alliance [between the U.S. and Israel] can’t merely vote no and then shrug their shoulders while other Democrats allow this disgraceful act of appeasement to survive Congressional scrutiny. The fact that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a close Schumer ally, has now said she will vote for the deal is an ominous sign that New York’s senior senator is sitting this fight out.

Tobin has a point, but I agree with his colleague at Commentary, Max Boot, who writes that even if the argument made by Tobin and others has merit, “it still means something when the likely next leader of the Senate Democrats announces his opposition to the signature foreign policy achievement of a Democratic president.” And most importantly, Schumer’s opposition “exposes the deep flaws in the agreement” and undermines Obama’s and Kerry’s key arguments for the deal.

That is why the administration is hitting back.

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The Obama administration is becoming desperate in its attempt to sell the Iran deal. Bloomberg.com reports that “administration officials are increasingly finding themselves on the defensive against criticism from Republicans and some Democrats, as well as vehement opposition from Israel, according to three officials, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal political deliberations.”

The president probably has enough votes in Congress to sustain a veto should Congress reject the deal, but it still would not look good and would be a rebuke to him if so many in the Senate reject it. That is why, as Politico reports, the president is inviting congressional Democrats to Capitol Hill, and is putting his “focus on marshaling enough Democratic votes to sustain a veto of legislation disapproving of the nuclear deal.”

To deal with this problem, especially given the intense lobbying on the Hill by AIPAC (which plans to take key members of Congress on a trip to Israel during the recess) and the opposition to the deal by mainstream Jewish groups, the Obama administration yesterday took a new step to gain support.

For the first time, the administration has turned to both the far Left and to Iranians who favor détente with Iran to, in effect, become community organizers on its behalf. Yesterday, the president held an unprecedented conference call with left-wing groups, including Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun magazine subscribers and his “Network of Spiritual Progressives,” and MoveOn.Org. (For those who don’t know, Tikkun is a San Francisco publication published and edited by Lerner, a veteran of the extreme elements in the New Left. Like J Street, it claims it is pro-Israel, pro-peace and pro-Palestinian.)

Writing in the Forward, Nathan Guttman reports that Obama made the following argument:

Obama repeatedly weaved two themes known to strike a chord among progressives: the Iraq war, and the role of big money in Washington’s decision making process.

When put together it sounded something like this: Criticism of the deal, he said, comes “partly from the $20 million that’s being spent lobbying against the bill,” and “partly from the same columnists and former administration officials that were responsible for us getting into the Iraq war.”

Of course, the $20 million figure is a reference to AIPAC, as is his assertion that the same people who opposed the deal are the ones who got the U.S. into the Iraq war.  Some might, as Guttman writes, think that Obama accepts “the notion that the American Jewish community was behind the Iraq war” and that it is the same Jewish neo-cons who would take us to war again. William Daroff, an executive of the Jewish Federations of North America, immediately tweeted “Canard” as he heard the president say these words.

So when President Obama talks, as he did during the conference call, of “a whole bunch of folks who are big check writers to political campaigns, running TV ads, and billionaires who…are putting the squeeze on members of Congress,” he is clearly referring to AIPAC and other Jewish groups whose members are in opposition to the deal with Iran. With good reason, it is fair to refer to the words used by the president as bordering on old anti-Semitic tropes.

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This fall, PBS is presenting a Sundance Film Festival documentary titled The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution on its “Independent Lens” series.  (check your local TV schedule, and watch the trailer here). PBS describes it this way:

Directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” explores the history of the Black Panthers, founded in 1966 in Oakland, California. The group and its leadership remain powerful and enduring figures in our popular imagination. This film interweaves voices from varied perspectives who lived this story — police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters, detractors, those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Because the participants from all sides were so young in the ’60s and ’70s, they are still around to share firsthand accounts.

The director of the film, Stanley Nelson, is a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellow, a multiple Emmy Award documentary filmmaker, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in August 2014. In other words, he has all the correct liberal/left credentials.

PBS touts The Black Panthers as an exemplary documentary film, comparing it to Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam, adding that “nearly 50 years after the founding of the Black Panther Party, we think this powerful film is extremely timely, and therefore will resonate with a wide audience.”  I can attest that Nelson is a skilled filmmaker, having seen two of his films: The Murder of Emmett Till and Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. But despite the claims of PBS publicity, The Black Panthers is anything but an exemplary documentary that accurately depicts the once influential black revolutionary group.

What the film actually does is whitewash and praise what was in reality a group of Stalinist thugs who murdered and killed both police and their own internal dissenters. A devastating review of it is provided in an article by Michael Moynihan that appeared yesterday in The Daily Beast.

In airing this film, PBS is going down the road taken by Oliver Stone and Howard Zinn — that of airing propagandist documentaries meant to glorify leftist figures of our past as both visionaries and fighters for justice. But in the case of the Panthers, the film goes their efforts one better. A leftist might be able to make a case that an anarchist like Emma Goldman and a Socialist like Eugene V. Debs faced persecution for the beliefs they held and the words they spoke. But the Black Panther Party of Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale is a different story.

A lot of this was exposed years ago in the writings of Peter Collier and David Horowitz, as well as in scores of books by people in or close to the Panthers who told the truth in tomes that were hardly noticed. But coming now, as our country is consumed by new claims that the U.S. is still a racist country that has hardly progressed since the days of segregation, the airing of the Nelson film is sure to become a major hit, both in theaters and when it is aired in the fall.

The film, Moynihan writes, features a “cast of shriveled militants for [a] one-dimensional Panther festschrift – a film that doesn’t disturb the ghost of Alex Rackley [a Panther tortured and then murdered by his own group] or the many other victims of the party’s revenge killings, punishment beatings, purges, or ‘disappearances.’”

What is truly stunning is the revelation that some of those very Panther thugs are now professors at some of our most cherished institutions of higher learning. A man named Jamal Joseph, who went from the Panthers to the infamous Black Liberation Army, and who served twelve and a half years in prison for being part of the 1982 Brinks armored car robbery, in which three police officers were murdered in Nyack, New York, is now a film professor at Columbia University.

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President Obama’s decision to submit the Iranian nuclear deal to the United Nation Security Council before Congress has had their 60 days to review it could be as problematic for Congress as making a judgment on the deal itself.

Congress felt its responsibilities were already being usurped when they learned the Iranian deal would be treated as an agreement rather than a treaty. In response to widespread protest, the White House had to permit the agreement to be submitted to both houses of Congress for approval. Yet fearing that a negative vote — certain in the House — would occur, the administration decided to go to the UN immediately. This makes any congressional veto useless; the provisions of the agreement almost impossible to turn back.

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the Iranian deal. The 15-0 vote, the Times of Israel reports, “clears one of the largest hurdles for the landmark pact, which will now go before the U.S. Congress where it may face an uphill battle for confirmation.”

Only after it was a done deal did U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power choose to raise the issue of Iran’s continuing human rights violations. These were studiously avoided during the negotiations, when the U.S. had leverage.

Now, like bringing the deal to Congress, this is all for show.

This brings to mind an episode from the 20th century, when an American president similarly sought to force Congress to accept a mechanism for guiding foreign policy that would be determined not by the United States, but by the international community. After World War I, another “progressive,” President Woodrow Wilson, sought to limit America’s sovereignty when he insisted that the Treaty of Versailles incorporate the creation of a League of Nations. The victorious powers at the Versailles Peace Conference then merged the League Covenant and the terms of peace in one single package.

When he brought the treaty home for Congress’s approval, which was needed because it was a treaty, Wilson insisted that the heart of it was Article X of the League’s Covenant — which he had helped to draft. Article X, he insisted, would put an end to aggression and to war. It read as follows:

The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League. In case any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.

Instead of the approval he expected, he faced resistance. In March of 1919, Wilson met with members of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he was asked whether joining the League under the terms of Article X would infringe upon American sovereignty. It suggested that if a League member nation was attacked, America would be obligated to defend it, even though it would not be in the national interest to do so. Senate Republican leader Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts pointed out that the United States had no obligation to preserve the territorial integrity of another nation unless it was authorized by Congress.

Wilson was also attacked by radical isolationists like Sen. William Borah of Idaho, who argued that the League was not revolutionary enough, and was a mechanism for imperialist European powers to control the fate of the world.

Much to Wilson’s shock and consternation, when the Senate voted, American membership was defeated because of unity between the conservatives and isolationists, both of whom — for different reasons — did not sanction American membership in the newly created world organization. Although Lodge had created “reservations,” especially in regard to Article X, which if Wilson had accepted would have led to a vote for U.S. membership, he refused –he demanded acceptance of Article X as it was.

The Senate vote in November 1919 was 39 for and 55 against on acceptance of the treaty with reservations. A second vote, on acceptance of the treaty without any reservations, was 38 for and 52 against. A third vote in March 1920 was held, and the treaty was rejected 49 to 35, hence not receiving the two-thirds majority that was necessary for ratification.

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Bernie Sanders had a good month.

Ten thousand people came out to hear him in friendly Madison, Wisconsin, 5000 in Denver, 2500 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and 7500 in Portland, Maine. As the Wall Street Journal editors write, it’s a true “boomlet.” The editors, however, ask the fundamental question:

Could a 73-year-old self-avowed socialist from Vermont really win the Democratic presidential nomination?

The answer they give is one on which we all could agree — no.

Despite all his protestations that he is running to win and will do it, we can rest assured that Bernie will not be the Democratic candidate for president of the United States. He will not even be the vice president, and the anointed one — Sec. Hillary Clinton — will continue to publicly ignore him, unless and until she can’t.

What he will do, as I argued earlier, is succeed in pushing her to take even further-left positions than she already has. She wants to make it clear to her party’s base that she can be depended on to address the issues which have given rise to Bernie’s popularity.

Most analysts know that Sanders’ campaign will soon falter. Political analyst Nate Cohn explains that while Sanders has been able to consolidate liberal supporters dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, Clinton has a wide lead among moderate and conservative Democrats, including the white working class. Cohn also points out that Sanders is not likely to appeal to affluent, socially liberal but fiscally moderate Democrats, such as those who vote solidly Democratic in Silicon Valley.

The Sanders campaign reminds me of past efforts — all of them — by American socialists to enter the presidential contest. Eugene V. Debs, the leader of the Socialist Party in its heyday, ran for president five different times: 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. In 1920 he received 900,742 popular votes, about 6 percent of the ballots cast for president — the single largest tally any socialist candidate ever won in a general election.

Debs’ successor as head of the party, Norman Thomas, ran for president six different times, starting with each presidential election from 1928 through 1948. Thomas, like Debs, ran on the Socialist Party line not only against Republicans, but against the the left’s favored candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and finally against Harry S. Truman. He received an infinitesimally small amount of the popular vote, as even leftist American voters deserted him in droves. But Thomas’s goal in running was to popularize the socialist program, and to accomplish that he thought an independent socialist campaign would be necessary.

The only left-wing, third-party candidate of any significance in 1948 was Henry A. Wallace, who ran on the Communist-dominated Progressive Party label. He took a scant 2.4 percent of the popular vote, with close to one million Americans casting their ballot for him. However, Wallace claimed to be what he called a “progressive capitalist,” and never espoused a socialist program.

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“We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” said President Obama last week, while announcing that Cuba and the United States had reached an agreement to end Cuba’s diplomatic isolation.

The U.S., he says, will soon open its embassy in Cuba, and Cuba will open its embassy in Washington, D.C. After all, Obama said, Cuba’s isolation began in 1961, the year he was born, and for many Democrats, liberals, and much of the business community and the farm lobby, it is time to let bygones be bygones and to end the embargo imposed by the United States half a century ago.

Obama continued:

Our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people, but there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.

In other words, we should not be held captive by the shibboleths of the past. That’s standard progressive thinking — we must move with the times, and understand that the old ways of thinking are obsolete. Said Obama: “Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward.”

Those who agree with Obama’s opening to Cuba make the following arguments: the embargo hasn’t worked; the U.S. is only isolating itself; and the embargo has given Castro an excuse to blame Cuba’s tribulations and basket-case economy on the United States. To again quote Obama: “When something isn’t working, we can and should change.” In this, he has the support of the business community. A group called “Engage Cuba” is working with Procter & Gamble, Cargill, and the National Association of Manufacturers to establish lobbying for an end to the embargo. A vice president of the international division of the Chamber of Commerce has said:

There are so many state, local and federal entities that are going to be working to lift the embargo, and you start with travel … but you also need to keep your eye on the big picture.

They are pushing the additional argument that the influx of American tourists, combined with the new ability of American business to openly invest in Cuba and freely sell its products to the Cuban populace, will work to promote democratization and social change. Without this new interaction by business and vacationers, the Cuban regime will remain repressive.

All these arguments are highly tendentious and questionable.

Let us look first at whether or not it’s true that the embargo has been a failure. As Cuban writer Humberto Fontova points out, the purpose of the embargo was to put a monkey-wrench into Cuba’s sponsorship of international terrorism and the export of its revolution, not to interfere with its internal arrangements or to promote regime change. Towards its intended goal, it was more than successful. After Che Guevara’s dismal failure to foment revolution, Castro ordered an end to the formal spreading of revolution.

Nevertheless, even today Cuba funds terrorist groups like Colombia’s FARC, and has recently tried to smuggle arms to North Korea. Most of the Cuban people, especially its brave dissident community, favor keeping the embargo as a means to pressure the government to ease up on its repression of human rights at home.

Journalist Michael J. Totten, who originally believed the embargo should be ended, changed his mind after traveling to Cuba for World Affairs Journal. Totten explained:

After spending a few weeks in Cuba in October and November, however, I came home feeling less certain that the embargo was an anachronism. The ailing Fidel Castro handed power to his less ideological brother Raúl a few years ago, and the regime finally realizes what has been obvious to everyone else for what seems like forever: communism is an epic failure. Change is at last on the horizon for the island, and there’s a chance that maybe — just maybe — the embargo might help it finally arrive.

Totten cited an interview he held with the Cuban exile Valentin Prieto, who argues that the U.S. should not promote, fund, assist, or legitimize a regime that is repressive. Totten concluded:

Cuba’s Communist Party would rather rule alone in a poor country than share power in a prosperous one. No matter what the United States does or does not do, Cuba will underperform until that changes.

It is the embargo kept in place that will, Totten thinks, force them to choose prosperity or power.

Let me single out a common argument (quoted here) made by former Republican Governor of Illinois George Ryan, who favors lifting the embargo. Said Ryan:

I think we ought to treat Cuba like we do any other country in the world … our biggest commodity is democracy, and we ought to be spreading that any place we can. And what made this country great is free trade.

This leads to the second point in the arsenal of arguments by Obama’s supporters — that an influx of investments and tourists will help change Cuba. Are we really spreading democracy by promoting a surge of tourists, most of whom will go for Potemkin-style tours and time spent in luxury hotels on Varadero Beach?

Clearly, Obama is replicating his policy towards Iran in Cuba. In both cases, he seeks rapprochement without demanding any change for the better within the two countries.

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After the murders at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church by a young white racist, a consensus has been reached on the issue of taking down the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s soldier’s monument, where it has flown since being removed from the state capitol in 2000.

The flag was flown from the capitol only since the early 1960s, when segregationists resurrected what was in fact the Confederate battle flag as their symbol for opposition to desegregation. Other states quickly followed South Carolina’s example.

Evidently, this may not be enough to satisfy the cultural enforcers on the American Left.

Suddenly, anything in our history that is somehow connected with the sin of slavery — and it was a sin against humanity — is fair game to be excised from America’s past. As John Hinderaker writes at Powerline, the Democrats are getting “their crazy on.” First it’s the Confederate flag, then statues, monuments, and our currency that celebrate racists, then perhaps the American flag itself.

Remember those leftists who after 9/11 refused to fly the flag, since they argued it stood for oppression?

For a few years, I lived in West Virginia. Throughout the state, and indeed in many buildings at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, there are many buildings named after the late Sen. Robert Byrd. There are so many roads and institutions throughout the state honoring Byrd that you have to stop counting. Byrd, an honored Democrat who was considered the Senate’s master of its rules and a mainstay in the first two years of the Obama administration, was Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan.

After the Civil War, the Republicans were the party of civil rights; the Democrats the party of racism and the evolving system of segregation.

A few days ago, CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield moved on from the Confederate flag to demanding that Americans think about taking down the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Washington Monument will probably be next — after all, our first president was also a slaveholder.

Others have pointed out that Woodrow Wilson, upon taking office, moved to institute segregation in government offices as official policy. At Instapundit, Randy Barnett skillfully presents the entire racist record of Wilson’s presidency. How, he asks, can a scholarly center be named the Woodrow Wilson Center, or the political scientists’ association offer a Woodrow Wilson award, or professorships be named after him at Princeton University, at which he was once its president?

Others have noted the racist character of the multi-Academy Award winning 1939 release, Gone With the Wind. Should it no longer be shown or even celebrated, like MGM did at the time of its 75th anniversary with restored DVD box sets and screenings in both Atlanta and then throughout the country? I doubt that any plans for a 100th anniversary will still take place, as the studio obviously was planning.

For an excellent discussion on how we should handle impulses to expunge our past by rewriting history, I highly recommend a reading of film director Ronald F. Maxwell’s eloquent and powerful words, spoken on June 7, 2009, at the annual commemoration of the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery, and offered online at Huffington Post.

I know it may come as a shock to you that such a memorial exists. Even more shocking, however, is that President Barack Obama, as Maxwell writes, “to his everlasting honor, and in keeping with the tradition of his predecessors, on Memorial Day just two weeks ago sent a wreath to Moses Ezekiel’s monument to the Confederate dead.” Ezekiel, himself a Confederate soldier, went on to become one of America’s preeminent sculptors; he worked in Rome, to which he had moved. He had become, as his obituary in the New York Times stated, a “distinguished and greatly beloved American sculptor.”

President Obama sent the wreath despite having received a letter from a group of professors urging him not to do so. The list of signers includes very distinguished scholars such as James McPherson and Ira Katznelson. It also includes one Bill Ayers, who as we know is an expert in blowing up statues of which he disapproves. How did Obama deal with this? He also sent a wreath to the memorial of African-American soldiers who died fighting for the Union. Undoubtedly, the leftist professors would consider his doing so an act of “moral equivalency.”

Maxwell goes on:

We cannot wish our ancestors away, nor should we. In the act of designing and erecting these monuments and statues they are telling us what was important to them in their time. By leaving for us, their progeny, a record in stone, they are expressly calling upon us, their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren to remember.

Shall we do as the professors who signed the letter to our president asked him to do — shall we heap scorn upon these monuments and chastise those who will not? Should we do as their doctrinaire kin in Afghanistan did? Shall we, like the Taliban, destroy our statues with dynamite because they offend a prevailing dogma? Shall we disinter the bones of our ancestors like the radical Jacobins of the French Revolution did, scattering their unearthed remains to the winds — first to be reviled, then ever to be forgotten?

These lines nail it. If we tear apart our past because contemporary standards have changed, we will lose our understanding of how our democracy has been constantly evolving since the birth of the republic.

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