Carl Hiaasen is a great novelist. So sayeth Tom Wolfe, which is good enough for me. Hiaasen is also a long-time South Florida resident who has left of center political views and airs those views as a regular columnist for the Miami Herald. Among his left of center political views has been to oppose the U. S. limited economic embargo towards Cuba. So right away we know that we are dealing with someone who, from a policy perspective, has been butting heads with pro-embargo Cuban Americans for a long time.
My views on the the CANF’s recent policy proposal are that, merits aside, it is always a smart political move to get out in front of change. I would make a case that this position need not be seen as a repudiation of the thinking which helped define previous policy positions. But for people who have disagreed with our position, it’s payback time. That’s what most interested me about Hiaasen’s column. He tried to be Michael [“it’s not personal … strictly business”], but his response was pure Sonny [after some college and much counseling].
Let’s take a step back, we are almost too close to appreciate what is being debated. Hiaasen’s column is about what the proper U.S. foreign policy disposition should be towards the Cuban government in 2009. A 50-year dictatorship which has caused the U.S. periodic immigration problems and attempted to destabilize the region. He used the following words, presented in order, with a negative connotation.
- fire-breathing opponent – CANF, before their enlightenment
- failed strategy – CANF’s previous support of embargo
- hard-line – people for embargo
- utterly failed – results of U.S. embargo position
- bombastic leader spinning in his grave – Jorge Mas Canosa, founder and former leader of the CANF
- n/a – no actual words to quote here, but I am awarding bonus animus points for ripping a man who died of cancer over a decade ago in a current policy dispute
- treasonous – Hiaasen is predicting the language used to oppose the change in policy on AM radio by pro-embargo Cuban-Americans
- exile radio hosts – in any other market, they would just be local radio hosts
- decades of frustration and futility – effects of U.S. embargo position on Cuban-Americans
- huffing macho, as always – Bush administration
- tough rules – rules which limited remittances and travel
- cold-hearted – pro embargo position
- long-running botch job – results of U.S. embargo position
- Libya – direct role in blowing up plane
- vocal exile lobby – pro-embargo Cuban-Americans who vote
- fruitless course – pro embargo position
- chronic economic mess – Cuban economy
So there you have it, in an 811 word column, Mr Hiaasen makes 17 negative references, one against the Cuban economy, one against Libya, and the rest against, well … us, pro-embargo Cuban-Americans.
Here’s my take on the above language, it’s over the top, relative to a column about a former policy opponent which has amended their position. Someone is trying too hard when they resort to the language I’ve highlighted above. Typically, the better your argument, the less you resort to hyperbole–i.e. see any George Will column. When the person trying too hard is also a great novelist, that’s when you know the issue is not just business, it’s personal.
Given that we are now in the Easter season, I must make the most generous assumption possible in guessing at Mr Hiaasen’s motivations. Like Sally Fields, I can only hope that Carl really, really likes us–if only for all the material we provide–so I exclude personal animus towards us long-standing pro-embargo Cuban-Americans. No, I blame the ‘Long Suffering Dinner Party Leftists Syndrome’ [LSD-PLS].
I can’t help but think of Mr Hiaasen at all the ‘right’ dinner parties of the literary world or literary-world wannabees. I mean can’t you see and hear it too? Glasses, dishes and the silverware serving as a constant muted cymbals backdrop, cross-chatter with periodic laughter among the truly beautiful people, and then comes the inevitable question; “Carl, what’s it like down there with those [fill in the blanks]?” If you went to Vegas right now and wagered $1 that he typically answers that we are, on balance, the embodiment of the American dream as can be experienced by immigrants, you may have just won $10 million dollars!!!
See, Mr Hiaasen is their voice in this fight, made all the more heroic because of his Jonas-like location. Although the belly of a typical pro-embargo, middle-aged Cuban-American takes a back-seat to no whale, this crowd hungers for any leftist political victory, albeit one of a watered-down, too-little too-late variety.
As usual though, I think they and Mr Hiaasen have missed out on the bigger picture. You see the conversation on the other side of the table was about what a genius Bernie Madoff was, but the Hiaasen-wing of the dinner parties were in full-spittle fury at us at the time and thereby missed out on the hot financial tips.
Carl, like Footprints in the Sand, we were there for you and you didn’t even know it.
Column referenced is copied in full at end of post.
CANF makes sober proposal about U.S. policy on Cuba
Posted on Sat, Apr. 11, 2009
By CARL HIAASEN
In an historic turnabout, the most prominent Cuban exile organization in the country now wants the Obama White House to expand and enhance relations with the Castro regime.
The Cuban American National Foundation, once a fire-breathing opponent of dialogue with Cuba, has produced a comprehensive 14-page proposal for a different — and long overdue — approach.
Published last week, the white paper is titled “A New Course for U.S.-Cuba Policy: Advancing
People-Driven Change.” It urges the Obama administration to discard the failed strategy of ”containment” in favor of a “people-to-people” initiative that focuses on improving the lives of Cuban citizens.
The paper is a frank acknowledgment that the old hard-line policies have utterly failed to destabilize Cuba’s communist leadership, or bring any meaningful reforms to the island.
As foundation president, Francisco J. Hernández, a Bay of Pigs veteran, explained: “For 50 years we have been trying to change the Cuban government, the Cuban regime. At the present time, what we have to do is change the emphasis to the Cuban people — because they are going to be the ones who change things in Cuba.”
For the first time, CANF is advocating direct diplomatic engagement between the United States and Cuba. Jorge Mas Canosa, the bombastic leader of the foundation in its early years, must be spinning in his grave.
The idea of communicating with Cuba will be denounced as treasonous by some exile radio hosts, but their time is fading. Polls show that a rising percentage of Cuban Americans are ready for a change, which isn’t surprising after decades of frustration and futility.
For many, the tipping point came in 2004 when the Bush administration — huffing macho, as always — imposed tough rules limiting how often exiles could visit relatives on the island, and how much cash they could send to family members.
The cold-hearted plan accomplished nothing except punishing the Cuban people. The Castro brothers suffered not one bit. That fairly sums up the story of the long-running botch job that passes for America’s Cuban policy.
We have diplomatic relations with many countries whose human-rights records are as bad, or worse. We eagerly converse (and heavily trade) with nations that lock up dissidents and journalists, or have no serious democratic aspirations.
We talk with China, Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia — even Libya, a regime that had a direct role in blowing up a Pan Am jet full of innocent people.
It’s mainly because of South Florida’s vocal exile lobby that the United States has persisted on its fruitless course of trying to isolate Cuba. Ironically, the trade embargo turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Fidel Castro, presenting him with a ready scapegoat for the country’s chronic economic mess.
Although the CANF white paper doesn’t call for an end to the embargo, the foundation does support a plan for allowing Cuban Americans and others to send cash, building materials and farm equipment to the island. It also favors an executive order allowing direct aid to pro-democracy groups in Cuba, which have struggled for outside funds under rules enacted during the Clinton administration.
As a top priority, CANF strongly supports President Obama’s promise to remove the punitive restrictions on travel and remittances, which the White House has said will happen probably this week.
Obama made this one of his campaign pledges, rightly calling it a humanitarian issue. Cuban Americans should be able to visit family members in Cuba as often as possible and send them as much money as they wish, as other immigrants and exiles are allowed to do.
The dramatic about-face by the Cuban American Foundation could bolster current efforts in Congress to broaden contact with Cuba. Both the House and the Senate are considering bipartisan legislation that would basically permit all Americans to travel there.
It’s likely that the Cuban-American members of South Florida’s congressional delegation will stick to the shrill hard line, but the political tide is turning. Many U.S. companies have been pushing for years to get the trade barriers lifted, and a receding domestic market makes Cuba look even more appealing.
With Fidel frail and fading, and Raúl seeking to make his own mark, there’s an opportunity for the United States to finally start making a positive difference in the country. The best way is to establish a presence, beginning with tourists and then trade.
Nothing promotes capitalism as effectively as saturating a place with products, services and entertainment supplied by a capitalist system. China is still not a democracy, but its people today have more freedom — and a bigger appetite for freedom — than ever before.
What happened in Beijing could happen just as quickly in Havana, if the United States ever unleashed its potent weapons of mass consumption: Mountain Dew, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Levi’s jeans . . .
Raúl wouldn’t know what hit him.