Taking Cuba Personally

A good friend just called to say that I “seem emotional” about the U.S. recognition of Castro’s Cuba on Friday. And am I okay?

Well, no.

Friday’s flag-raising was personal for me because, being 61, I remember the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Especially the latter, when my parents and I and thousands of other Catholics stood in line for confession that weekend because, well, we thought we just might be about to die.

As Mr. Obama might say, “that was before I was born.” So, to our 44th President, it’s just not relevant.

It is to me.

This American president just recognized the same Communist dictator who, in 1962, allowed the Soviet Union to station nuclear-tipped missiles 90 miles off the American coast.

This American president also just repudiated a solemn promise of his martyred Democratic predecessor, John F. Kennedy. Before he was assassinated by a pro-Castro, Communist American defector named Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK laid down an important marker -- which Mr. Obama just threw away.

After the Bay of Pigs survivors were ransomed by the United States government in December 1961, President Kennedy flew to Miami to greet them. Speaking in the Orange Bowl stadium, JFK accepted from Brigade 2506’s commander a Cuban flag which they had carried. In a fiery speech, President Kennedy assured them that the flag would be returned to the Brigade in a free Cuba.

Moreover, President Obama has betrayed the legacy of a second Democratic president whom we learned last week is gravely ill. It was President Jimmy Carter who, in 1980, took in Castro’s Mariel Boat Lift.

Twice, a flood of Cuban exiles from the Castro regime has enriched our nation. We even have two presidential candidates running today for our highest office who trace their roots to Cuba a generation ago. They are -- as JFK would have to do today if he sought our highest office (listen to the Orange Bowl speech -- that was how Democrats used to talk!) -- running as Republicans.

Does anyone doubt that this American president, by contrast, is at best “philosophical” about the continued existence of the Castro regime and would spurn a third influx of freedom-seeking Cubans?

But let us be fair to President Obama. This Democratic affection/toleration for Cuban communism is not something new, unfortunately. Nor did it begin with this president.

Just ask John Kerry.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan launched a worldwide confrontation with Communism, pushing back against the Soviet Union in Europe and actively trying to roll back, via proxy wars, Soviet advances in Africa, South America, and Asia. Thanks to Charlie Wilson’s War, most folks know about the American effort in Afghanistan. Far fewer know about the American covert wars with Cuba and its guerrilla allies in Colombia, Mozambique, Angola, and the Horn of Africa.

Nor do they recall that, at all points, the Democrats strongly opposed that effort -- as they did Mr. Reagan’s military buildup and his move to confront the Soviet Union. One leader of that opposition was Senator John Kerry, now our secretary of state.

As they had when they cut off U.S. military aid to the South Vietnamese government in 1974, congressional Democrats sought in the mid-‘80s to assure a Communist victory in Central America. They banned aid to the Contras in Nicaragua and to the government of El Salvador. And they tried hard to impede our efforts to defeat Cuban troops and their guerrilla allies fighting in Colombia and Africa.

Well, they didn’t succeed.

The Reagan White House refused to accept a repeat of the fall of Southeast Asia in 1975. The response became known as Iran-Contra -- and it yielded a defeat of the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua and a win for the West in El Salvador. Iran-Contra, however, also yielded a major political scandal.

The Democratic congress exploded. An independent prosecutor was appointed, indictments followed (including of the secretary of defense). Not least, Iran Contra yielded -- with considerable help of one Ross Perot -- the political defeat of President George H.W. Bush in 1992 by Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton promptly recognized the Communist government of Vietnam, as Mr. Obama has now done with Communist Cuba.

What would Harry Truman, JFK, and LBJ make of all that?