Republican John McCain, speaking to a raucous crowd on Cuba's independence day, hammered Democrat Barack Obama for saying he would meet with President Raul Castro and called Obama a "tool of organized labor" for opposing a Latin American trade deal.
For a second day, McCain attacked Obama for saying, in a debate last year, that as president he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Iran and Venezuela without preconditions.McCain insisted such a meeting could endanger national security, sounding a theme that is likely to persist until the November general election.
It's worth taking a step back here and examining just how worthless the US policy on Cuba has been. For some 50 years now, the US government has had no diplomatic or economic ties with one of its closest neighbors. Just 90 miles off the Florida coast, there Cuba sits, a world apart. Why? Because of Castro, and because of the undying hatred that Cuban-Americans have for him. Never mind that the policy makes absolutely no sense at this point, 17 years after the end of the Cold War, or that the US has extensive relations with China, a much more repressive and threatening regime that is still "Communist" (and has even restored diplomatic relations with Vietnam), and that the Castros are still there, and that Fidel was beaten only by old age, not the US. Those Cuban-Americans must be pandered to.
So Obama is the first major presidential candidate in a long time to seriously re-examine this policy toward Cuba. And predictably, the usual suspects are going nuts over it. But Obama probably isn't going to win Florida anyway. And it's better that he sticks to what is right than what is right politically.
McCain went on:
The Arizona senator recalled the ridicule President Carter faced in 1979 when he kissed Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev during the signing of an arms treaty.
"Carter went over and kissed Brezhnev, remember?" McCain said Tuesday in Miami.
"So it's dangerous; it's dangerous to American national security if you sit down and give respect and prestige to leaders of countries that are bent on your destruction or the destruction of other countries. I won't do it, my friends."
Um, is McCain implying that Carter shouldn't even have talked with Brezhnev, or only that he shouldn't have kissed him? There's obviously an element of risk involved in any negotiations with hostile powers; there's always the potential of embarrassment. But that hardly means you shouldn't negotiate at all. To think that Carter's embarrassment was more important than the signing of the arms treaty or the maintenance of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union is absurd.
And again, this obsession with "respect" and "prestige", as if Bush's cowboy diplomacy and "with us or against us" attitude hasn't cost America more "respect" and "prestige" than meetings with foreign leaders ever could.
He's also been going around saying how irresponsible and inexperienced it was for Obama to refer to the threat of Iran as "tiny". Of course, he never said that. He said it was tiny compared to the threat posed by the Soviet Union and its thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at the West, but McCain conveniently leaves that part out, since it happens to be inarguable. Unless you're a neo-con.
UPDATE: And here's Joe Klein doing some actual journalism, exposing McCain's ignorance (or dishonesty) on the question of Iran's leadership.