Obama's strategy makes her spurn Bill's Cuban advances and embrace Bush and the GOP's anti-Castro right.
by Kirk Nielsen
October 9th, 2007 6:04 PM
(excerpt, for full story go to http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0741,nielsen,78030,2.html )
There's a missing piece in the apple pie that Hillary Clinton has been serving up to Americans on the campaign trail. "Americans from all walks of life across our country may be invisible to this president," she says. "But they won't be invisible to me."
They won't be, that is, unless they are Americans who just want to visit their moms in Cuba once a year.
That missing piece is why Barack Obama's recent Cuba-policy offering looked so nice: He called for an end to the Bush administration's restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to visit or send money to relatives in Cuba. Obama's proposal was as layered and complex—and as sweet—as the cake called tres leches (three milks: whole, condensed, and powdered). It smacked of family values, and it was in keeping with the thrust toward dialogue, trade, and other human contact with Cuba that Bill Clinton had pursued as president.
In effect, Obama has pushed Hillary into the Bush camp on Cuba policy. She has even parroted the neocon hard line against the lefties who have taken over several Latin American governments. Obama thus distinguished himself from her on an important geopolitical issue besides the Iraq War (and her initial support for it). He may also have opened a serious fissure in the GOP's last Hispanic stronghold—Cuban-Americans—from which at least a trickle of new Democratic votes could flow.
This Clinton-Obama split has exposed a rift among national Democratic leaders over how to capitalize on weakening Cuban support for Republicans in the battleground state of Florida as part of an effort to solidify Democratic support among the growing number of Hispanic voters nationwide.
Moreover, Obama dished out a sweet antidote to the bitter brew that George W. Bush had served up in the 2004 campaign. To the pleasure of hardcore Republican exiles, Bush reduced Cuban-Americans' freedom to travel to Cuba from once per year to once every three years; they could stay only 14 days and spend only $50 per day; and they needed the Treasury Department's permission. Bush also limited their remittances to relatives to $300 every three months. His Commerce Department created a new list of items—including such subversive things as hand soap, toothpaste, and clothes—that all Americans are forbidden from sending to Cuba. (In general, U.S. law prohibits all other U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba at all.)