VIVA LA CUBA!
It is important to point out that this “normalizing” of relations with Cuba is a long way from lifting the 50-plus-year useless embargo on the Castro regime, which is still an oppressive communist construct and has little recourse but to run down the clock until the Castros die, something I brought up around six years ago in this space. Of course then it was under the same tired theme of hoping that Fidel Castro would die quicker than he is – the man has a Keith Richards like invincibility – so I can get cheaper Cuban cigars and not have to be forced to smuggle them in with my shaving kit from Mexico or Europe twice a year. Or paying $30-plus a pop for a Cohiba Rubusto because a few votes in Florida might go bye-bye.
Without being too cynical, a stretch for me, this is a way overdue move by the president, dare I say by far the best thing he has done (for me, personally) but it would have made more sense timing-wise with his party holding sway over the legislative branch, instead of the concussive slaughterhouse it has been for Democrats over the past three election cycles. But politically it was dangerous, which is why it never got done on either side of the ideological aisle for the past half-century, especially since the Soviet Union went bankrupt in 1989.
But, as stated, it had to get done, at least to the point of what the executive branch can accomplish. It takes congress to lift embargoes and it surely will not do so, because this congress does everything the opposite of this president, as illustrated over the last two editions, as will be the case with the new one to come, even if the issue at hand might make sense or even if it was a fairly Republican idea once when someone else was in charge. There is no sense dissecting that kind of childish minutia when I have Cubans to consider.
However, as long as this embargo stays in place then there will be no free and open market to bring down prices and get the distribution lines going. Sure, I can schlep to Cuba now and bring back around $100 of Cubans, but I would rather have it shipped – and by shipped I don’t mean my current available method of having a connection in Dublin, Ireland send me a box for an astronomically over-priced figure and hope it isn’t red-flagged. Only my absinthe gets here unscathed from Paris.
It’s hard to admit in print the volume of illegal shit that comes and goes from the Clemens Estate, even in this most austere time of spying and lock-down. It has not stopped the flow of contraband and it never will. This is what New Jersey deems a “free zone”, something I negotiated in 2005 when attempting to secede from the county and was rebuffed with extreme prejudice. The paperwork alone could choke a dozen lawyers, but it did grant me a crow’s nest described in the permit as a “balcony” and a ten-day a month grace period to gain access to my nineteenth century canon.
What we’re talking about here is easing the burden of simple price gouging and I have to think about the bottom line. If I want to smoke Cubans at a descent clip than there has to be a complete lifting of the embargo, and as long as dipshits like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and the kid from Florida who made a name for himself gulping water after every sentence during a very entertaining rebuttal to a state of the union address, then it ain’t happening. And that is sad.
My favorite is when Cruz within a 72 hour period defended the United States right to torture and the importance of keeping the Gitmo detention center open (located in Cuba) then went on a ten-minute rant on CNN decrying regimes like Cuba who torture. Jesus, God in heaven I pray that this guy runs for president – more fun than watching Dennis Rodman on Hollywood Access explain foreign relations while high on Nepalese temple balls and threatening to kick Billy Bush’s ass.
Okay, so what does this mean for the greater scheme of things since this is occasionally a column that deals with politics – not necessarily issues, but the political ramifications of said issues?
Well, for one, Florida is back in play for Republicans. Those who dismiss this do it at their own peril.
Believe me, this move by Barack Obama is a classic lame-duck, final two years, fuck it move.
It is also a move, as stated before, which had to be made by this president now. Reason? Firstly, Joe Biden is not going to be running for president in 2016, thus no one from the current administration needs to be sheltered politically. Obama clearly doesn’t give a flying flatulation about his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Why should he? She is a private citizen and hasn’t even declared herself a candidate yet. Free reign.
Secondly, this is a progressive president, supposedly. (But only when it makes pragmatic sense, as many of my liberal friends continually point out to me as my conservative friends did when W. was posing as one for eight years) Just like Nixon (the staunch red baiter) opened up relations with China in ’72 and/or Clinton (the first black president) diving headlong into welfare reform in ’96 or hard-line rhetoric machine, Reagan’s arms-control negotiation with Gorbachev in the 1980s. In all cases it had to be the opposite of what the base clamors for, allowing for a smoother transition into the inevitable march of time.
While a fair number of liberals support lifting the embargo with Cuba, many are human rights activists and still many more are supporters of the Democrats maintaining power in the White House past this president, especially with Republicans having taken over two-thirds of the federal government. This is tricky. Obama, not the shrewdest of political junkies, but astute enough, knows this. And, believe, me, only days after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush made it known that he is likely to run in 2016, a moderate with strong demographic ties to Hispanic voters, the president has to understand that Florida and its 29 electoral votes, pretty much a done-deal for Hillary before, is now up for grabs or more likely gone.
But all of this pales when sitting alongside getting a flow of more affordable Cuban cigars to the Clemens Estate.
Merry Christmas, indeed.