Bob Franken: Cuba si, Congress no

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, December 20, 2014 4:24pm
  • Opinion

What a shame that President Barack Obama finds it so much easier to negotiate with the Castros than with the Congress. Of course, he did have help with the Cuban breakthrough, what with Pope Francis leading the way. But it’s doubtful the pope would want to get in the middle of White House-Capitol Hill talks, mainly because he’d consider it a waste of time.

To make the point, some members of Congress were having their heads explode at the very first word of this preliminary Cuba deal, particularly those who had built their careers with the help of the old-guard hard-line exile community. Never mind that polls of Cuban-Americans now show that most favor normalization between the two countries and a rollback of the 50-plus years of confrontation. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has obvious presidential ambitions, was apoplectic as the first announcements resounded. “Concession to a tyranny,” he thundered. “A very bad deal,” added Ted Cruz, another senator, another Cuban-American and another all-but-declared GOP candidate for the big megillah. Yet another Cuban-American senator, Robert Menendez, called the agreement “misguided,” the milder response perhaps a result of his being a Democrat. But he’s still old-school and not inclined to be persuaded by the president’s argument that “isolation has not worked.”

While the White House has the power to begin the process of normalization, it will be up to Congress to end the full trade embargo, which has left the economy of our enemy to the south a relic of the 1950s. But don’t hold your breath. The Republicans are taking over the whole Congress, and they’re not about to be accommodating. The Obama foreign-policy approach of engaging hostile countries like Cuba and Iran is constantly put down hard by his conservative enemies as “naive” or worse. Whether it is or not, making deals with devils has limitations. It’s hard to conceive of the United States soon making plans to construct an embassy in Pyongyang.

While opponents charge the Cuban government with human-rights violations, the conduct of the North Korean leaders is inhuman. Their dealings with the rest of the world range between defiantly belligerent and outright crazy.

Others can decide where on that spectrum North Korea’s current cyber-sabotage of Sony Studios rests. Its reaction to Sony’s plans to release “The Interview,” which is about an assassination attempt against North Korea’s leader, was a devastating hack job, laying waste to the studio’s entire computer infrastructure, and exposing for the world to see extremely embarrassing confidential communications. But even that was not enough.

Sony has been forced to withdraw “The Interview,” to cancel the showing that was scheduled to begin on Christmas Day, because the organization that was doing North Korea’s dirty work escalated with threats of violence at the movie houses showing the film. Naturally, the theater chains and the malls that provide the venues were a tiny bit nervous about that, so they dropped the show. That leaves Sony holding the multimillion-dollar bag and wondering why executives approved such a ridiculous project in the first place.

This is a brutal reminder of just how susceptible we are to the havoc that can be wreaked by just a few geeks sitting in some basement with their keyboards and malicious intent.

It also demonstrates how intertwined we are with countries around the world, to say nothing of the one that sits 90 miles from our shores. Slowly but surely, the commerce between Cuba and the United States has been expanding. Why not make it fastly but surely? Think of all the possibilities: New beaches to despoil with hotels, new smelly but legal cigars available for everyone in the U.S.

Besides, all this gives us more to talk about, and in Washington, still another point of disagreement in Congress and the campaign. As if we need any more.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Several past large fire seasons followed snowy winters or unusually rainy springs

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

The logo of the Homer Trails Alliance.
Point of View: Connecting our community through trails

Homer is booming with housing development and the viability of long-standing trails is threatened