It is heartening to know that Ileana Ros Lehtinen does have some influence with the president after all. One would suppose that she would have a great deal of influence, since her constituency is responsible for making George Bush president, as he has acknowledged. Her influence and that of the other Cuban congressmen is not enough to get the president to rescind Clinton's "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy. It is not enough for him to offer the Cuban people more than empty platitudes which most of his predecessor could have uttered and many did. It did suffice, however, to get Dr. Oscar Biscet the Presidential Medal of Freedom at Ros Lehtinen's recommendation. We have discussed that recommendation already; in it she calls Biscet the new "Titan de Bronce" [Maceo], which is pretty much giving with one hand and taking with the other. Still, even if the Presidential Medal has been degraded by past recipients, which include Mandela [terrorist], Robert McNamara [traitor], Robert Baldwin [Communist] , Jesse Jackson [con-man], Jimmy Carter [shill for tyrants], it still retains enough symbolism and cachet to be worth receiving; certainly the award to Biscet will restore some of its lost luster. I can't help observing, however, that if past recipients had the right to blackball new recipients, poor Biscet wouldn't have a chance of joining the confraternity.
Still, it's irksome that even in the last days of his administration, when he literally has nothing to lose — having already lost everything including honor — Bush will not go beyond a symbolic gesture when it comes to Cuba. In the end as in the beginning, we get words, honeyed words, spirited words, even martial words, but, ultimately, just words, words, words; and our beleagured countrymen, or at least one of them, gets a medal. Not much to show for nearly 8 years of unconditional fealty to Bush, but still as much as we have ever gotten from any American president.
The Medal may also provide additional protection to Biscet (though not as much as Gore's Nobel would have). The Castro regime may think twice before imprisoning him again because of the additional publicity. Or not. It depends on their whims, as do the lives of all our countrymen. In the last seven years those lives have not been improved in any way because George Bush was president.