Paul Soglin, George Washington, And The Symbolism Of Keys

The gotcha moment last week in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race was designed to create much chatter.  For having the ability to hit a controversial nail square on the head Governor Scott Walker succeeded.  Walker stated how alarming it was that in 1975 Madison Mayor Paul Soglin gave the key to the city to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  Politicos of all stripes are talking about it, mentioning it on social media, and writing columns concerning it in newspapers.

There are many favorable things to say about Soglin.  He is a respected leader, effective politician, and able to stand before an audience without notes and respond to questions with paragraph-length answers strewn with data.   One has to truly admire such a person.  Just recently I again called his office to register support for an action he took–the latest being his tough stand about liquor sales on State Street.

But when it comes to the symbolic move of giving the key of the city to Castro there is no way to say it other than to admit history agrees with Walker.  Except in some tortured revisionist writing the real world of the Castro dictatorship is well known.   Simply brutal and unforgiving.  That view of the Castro regime was known in 1975 when Soglin made his move.  As compelling as it may seem to link that symbolic gesture to improving communications and fostering better international relations in Cuba, let it not be forgotten that allowing a dictator to have the type of positive inroads with such propaganda was not warranted considering the despicable way he ruled.

Some argue that Soglin’s action was merely a symbolic move, and Good Lord, it was more than 40 years ago so let us move on and talk about the issues of the day.  But for many people symbolic actions are taken more seriously and it can be argued, should not be treated so cavalierly.

At George Washington’s Mount Vernon there is among so many artifacts, one that simply demands to be gazed at and pondered–regardless of how many others are pressing behind urging for those ahead to move along.  (Believe me, I know.)  Sent by Washington’s longtime friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, the key to the Bastille is hung prominently in the president’s state dining room.   The key represented a major turning point in the global surge of liberty.  It is noted Washington knew the significance of the key as a “token of victory gained by Liberty over Despotism by another.”

Do symbols, such as the key to Washington, or the one to Castro, matter?  I believe they do.

Not because they are, as in the case of the one in Virginia, something that can be seen and almost touched but because these symbols go beyond the tangible.  These symbols are steeped in their own significance of idealism and hope.

It is proper to always urge for the democratic rights of others in places around the world.  I applaud Soglin for making the verbal pleas for a more reform-minded Cuba during his discussions with Castro. But a repressive regime should never score a propaganda victory, as with a key to one of our nation’s capital cities.

Instead of Soglin now doubling down on why he thought the gesture with the key was important at the time, I wish he could be reflective about the decades of misery that Castro inflicted on his country.  I genuinely think elected officials who can concede making mistakes are stronger as a result.

And so it goes.

Changing Cuba Policy While Headlines Blare Trump’s Growing Russia/Comey/Obstruction Of Justice Problems

President Donald Trump is taking a pen, signing an executive order, and in so doing undermining most of the new Cuba policy correctly put into place just a few years ago by President Obama. This is major news. But due to the growing legal morass that Trump is facing, and those around him are now needing to combat as well, means the news about Cuba seems to have been relegated to the inside pages of newspapers.

I did a fast search of the front pages of a few of the daily ones that connect much of the nation and was rather surprised at what was found–or rather not found.

The change to Cuba policy is not on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or the Boston Globe. The Miami Herald’s website led with how Trump’s visit to that city would impact traffic more prominently than a deeper story on how this impacts international relations.

This all matters as ending the 50-year madness of the Cold War was diplomatically and economically the correct thing for Obama to have done.  It should have been done decades earlier.

Now Trump is returning to that Cold War position of highly limited economic engagement with Cuba.  Commercial flights will still be allowed to continue on to the island nation but most travel by Americans will need to be reviewed by the US Treasury Department.   Good Lord!

And booking a stay at most of the country’s major hotels will be banned since they are owned by the Cuban military.

The shortage of front page news about this matter is disturbing.  It is one more sign that the nation is being saddled with the biggest embarrassment ever to be found in the White House.  And that includes Andrew Johnson landing there in 1865!

The scandals that are rocking this administration and being investigated in growing leaps and bounds has had dire effects.  Not only on a legislative agenda, the mood of the citizenry, but also the ability of the press to present all the news that we need to know and understand.

Trump is ruining so many things.

It All Comes Down To Temperament

Upon hearing the news today that Cuban President Fidel Castro had died there were two separate expressions given.

President Barack Obama, who has made restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba a hallmark of his administration, offered America’s hand in friendship to the Cuban people following the passing.  ‘History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,’ Obama said in a statement.

Obama was mature and speaking to the future needs of the international community.

Meanwhile Donald Trump tweeted at 8:08 a.m.: “Fidel Castro is dead!”

The tone of his comment will also be noted.

Fallout Over Donald Trump’s Business Connections With Castro’s Cuba

It comes as no surprise this election cycle–given what we have seen–that we now know thanks to a Newsweek story that Donald Trump indirectly did business with Cuba in the 1990s.  In so doing he violatied the embargo that the U.S. has had with the Communist nation for decades.   Whether we agree or disagree with that embargo no one can just flaunt the law.

The story in Newsweek by Kurt Eichenwald reported that Trump had violated the embargo by hiring a consulting firm to probe the possibility of doing business on the island, an action that the story concludes violated U.S. law at the time but which is no longer punishable because the statute of limitations has expired.

But Trump’s action at the time was illegal and speaks to the need for voters to determine the content of Trump’s character. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke to the issue and was spot on about how we need to view this matter.

Clinton said “He has consistently mislead people about doing business in Cuba. So this adds to the long list of actions and statements that raise doubts about his temperament and qualifications to be president and commander in chief.”

My concern is also how many others feel about Trump and that can be summed up by saying he always has placed his own business needs ahead of the national interest.  This is not a person who can be trusted with the public needs which a president must always have as a first priority.

Cuban Immigrant Black Female Responds To Baltimore Riots

In regards to the Baltimore riots this week a Facebook friend had a most straightforward message that I felt everyone who stops by CP should be able to read.  Here is a woman who immigrated from Cuba and made her life count for something in America.   Her thoughts are correct and I am most proud to place them on this blog.

That doesn’t give them free license to behave as animals and then blame society as the reason for their criminal acts. There’s a lot of us that didn’t have the opportunities that others had when we were kids. But you know what? We didn’t destroy property and looted and hurt innocent people. We worked with what we had, studied our asses off, worked harder than any of our peers and obtained what we have today with hard work and determination. This is coming from someone that wasn’t born here, did not know the language or the system, and had every obstacle you can think of thrown in her path. If a Cuban immigrant black female can get ahead in this country with both hands tied behind her back, so can these young people living in Baltimore. I’m so tired of listening to people blame the system whenever young people act like idiots. Grow up, take responsibility and put 110% of effort into breaking the cycle and the blame game. No one is giving you a free ride because you are Black, Hispanic, poor or from a gang infested neighborhood. Stop making excuses for yourselves and start building instead of destroying.

Cuba Restrictions Lifted….Why The Wait?

For many of us the decision by President Obama today was the correct and moral one to take in regard to Cuba.  But there still remains the obvious question, why has it taken so many administrations to get even to this point?  I am not trying to point the finger so much at Republicans, or even conservative Democrats, but instead question how logic has been so far removed from foreign policy in regards to Cuba for all these decades.  When can all these arcane restrictionsbe lifted with one of our neighbors?  Let the trading and working relationship get underway.  The people want it, even if some out-of-touch politicians are not yet in the loop.

President Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.

The move represents a significant shift in a U.S. policy that had remained largely unchanged for nearly half a century. It comes days before Obama leaves for a key meeting of hemispheric powers, the Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago.

“President Obama has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights and to freely determine their country’s future,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Obama also ordered new steps to promote the “freer flow of information among the Cuban people and between those in Cuba and the rest of the world, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian items directly to the Cuban people,” Gibbs added.

The president took “these steps [in part] to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families.”

Restrictions Lifted On Relations With Cuba

Next step is to lift the ridiculous embargo of Cuba.  Talk about an antiquated policy that serves only the limp-minded.

But for now there is some progress being made.

The US Congress has voted to lift restrictions on relations with Cuba imposed by the Bush administration.

Cuban-Americans will be allowed to travel to the island once a year and send more money to relatives there.

Curbs on sending medicines and food have also been eased. The measures were part of a $410bn bill to fund US government operations.

The legislation was approved by the Senate after clearing the House of Representatives last month.

The bill was supported by two Cuban-American senators who had initially opposed it.

They changed their votes after receiving assurances from the Obama administration that the changes did not amount to a major reversal of the 47-year-old US trade embargo on Cuba.