Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not Che Obama

Got an email Tuesday urging me to check out the talk on the Internet about a Che Guevara image hanging on the wall in a Barack Obama campaign office.

So I plunged into the blogosphere to find out what it was all about

I am now back from the trip, dripping with mud left and right.

It started with a television station in Houston that ran a story showing a local Obama volunteer office with a Cuban flag adorned with the famous image of Che, long hair flowing beneath the beret with the star, looking off dreamily into some distant epic

He was probably contemplating his next murder. After all, he once said it was imperative for his followers to become “an effective, violent, selective, cold killing machine.” Those followers needed only to follow his example. In Cuba, Guevara was in charge of sham trials that sentenced hundreds to execution by firing squad. After that he rabble-roused in Congo and Bolivia, splashing the blood around in a doomed effort to turn those countries into poorer versions of North Korea — the society Guevara considered such an ideal model he wanted even Castro’s Cuba to emulate it

Worse, it apparently wasn’t a case of naïve Che chic from some kid Obama fan who knows nothing about the man but thinks he looks cool on a t-shirt and was some sort of rebel, or something. The middle aged Obama supporter who hung the flag was interviewed later by the same television station and said she was Cuban-American. It is pretty much guaranteed that when a politically active adult of Cuban origin hangs a Guevara picture, it’s not a know-nothing fashion statement but a consciously pro-Castro political testimonial

She wouldn’t own up to it, telling the television reporter several times that she did not have time to talk about it.

Plenty of people, though, found time to blog about it. On the right, there’s an effort to make Che Obama go viral, into a new Swift Boat.
“Obama won't wear flag pin but displays Cuban Flag in his Houston Office,” screams AmericanThinker.com, which describes itself as “devoted to the thoughtful exploration of issues.”
On Michelle Malkin’s right wing blog, someone wrote, “I bet BO places his hand over his heart when the Cuban national anthem is played.

Over at Babalublog.com, an anti-Castro blog with which I am often in agreement, there are no less than two photoshopped morphs of Che and Obama.

Journalistically, it’s all reprehensible. And as to promoting democracy in Cuba, it’s counterproductive.

Obama had nothing, zero, to do with the Guevara flag. The campaign ordered it taken down and issued a statement on its website that said, “The office featured in this video is funded by volunteers of the Obama Campaign and is not an official headquarters for his campaign.”

I called Obama’s press people. Was there concern that anti-Castro Cuban-American voters considering support for Obama in the fall will be turned off? (they exist: Miami Democratic Congressional candidates Raul Martínez and Joe García are mounting serious challenges for the first time to the incumbent Republicans, the Díaz-Balart brothers).

The response of Obama’s campaign was to add one sentence to the previous official statement about the volunteer office: “Senator Obama has made clear that we will maintain the embargo as a way to leverage meaningful democratic change in Cuba.”

He first wrote about that in an op-ed some months ago for the Miami Herald. Obama said he would use the trade embargo to “bargain on behalf of democracy with a post-Fidel government” but also said he would lift restrictions now in place and “grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.”

Would that make Cubans “less dependent on the Castro regime” and more able to “advance peaceful political and economic reform” as Obama claims, or simply enrichen the dictatorship, like critics insist?

It’s a legitimately debatable issue. What’s not justifiable is to paint Obama as an admirer of Che and Fidel. That makes anti-Castro activists look like right-wing slime merchants — thereby giving ammunition to the left-wing slime merchants who want the embargo lifted because they truly are admirers of Che and Fidel

Already, the Castro-friendly blogosphere is reviving the usual canards. “It’s just the embittered elites that want to keep the embargo going in the hope that a broke Cuba would give them back their estates,” one lefty wrote

So ludicrous, it’s beneath a response.
Other than saying that a complete unilateral lifting of the embargo — treating Cuba like Belgium — would give a dying dictatorship the strength it needs to keep choking the Cuban people

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