Monday, January 14, 2008

Fred Thompson Eats His Bistec Empanizado

I'm beginning to think that Fred Thompson really is a Reagan clone insofar as Cuba is concerned. No man — and certainly no president — ever did more for Cuba than the Gipper. No, he did not secure our freedom, as he secured that of all other Western communist countries. Cuba is still as much a captive nation today as it was in the Reagan era and the U.S. is still committed to keeping it so. But we Cubans are perhaps too concentrated on the political: there is much more to our nationality than freedom, democracy or human rights. Reagan recognized this as no other president had before, and by concentrating on one aspect of our national heritage and giving it his all, he positively impacted the course of Cuban gastronomy. Preserving the national cuisine is, according to Alex (formerly of SotP), the most important contribution that Cuban exiles have made to Cuban culture, and Reagan himself was at the center of it. He was introduced to it late in life but acquired an immediate taste for it, so much so that he had his favorite dish, frijoles negros (black bean soup), put on the While House menu and requested it up to three times a week. Very soon Campbell's had its own version and all 3+ star restaurants had added it to their menus, sometimes with rather odd improvisations. I especially remember "The Frugal Gourmet" making moros y cristianos on PBS, which constituted the only positive programming about Cuban-American shown on public television in the 1980s. Granted, he made white rice and frijoles negros separately and then tossed them in a bowl like a salad, but it was better than nothing.

I think when all is said and done, Ronald Wilson Reagan will be remembered as the best American president for the advancement of Cuban cuisine. I have no doubt, however, that if we cultivated Fred Thompson with suitcases of money (with nary a bomb in them), lit enough candles for him and plastered every surface in Miami with "Thompson for President 2008" stickers (including the flatland backsides of the CodePinkers), we could, no doubt, get him to say a good word about bistec empanizado.

Further proof of Thompson's affinity to Reagan is that his statements about Cuba sound exactly like Reagan's on an off day. That is, he is not able to ape Reagan's sincerity, which came naturally to him because he actually believed what he said however implausible; but Thompson has pinned down the empty grandiloquence and fervent noncommitalnesss that characterized Reagan's dialogue with our community.

We are indebted, again, to Babalú, and, especially, to the evolving Henry Gómez, for having solicited from Thompson a statement about his views on Cuba. He has likewise requested but not yet received statements from the other candidates for inclusion in his new blog dedicated to that purpose. Thompson is the first to provide such a statement, and he should have been ungrateful indeed if he had not been the first given Henry's marked preference for him. The statement, which I encourage you to read at doesn't meet my expectations, but that's hardly news. What is of interest is that it falls much below Henry's. He neither praised nor criticized Thompson's words; others took care of that. Henry's response to abajofidel (fantomas) and other critics clearly shows that even Henry finds it difficult to commend Thompson's lack of candor. Despite its spirited rhetoric (the Cuban people are "oppressed, terrorized and murdered" by an "illegitimate [2X]" and "unaccountable dictator" and "tyrant"), Thompson manages to say nothing concrete about what he would do about so much illegitimacy. He doesn't even promise to enforce past punitive measures. Doesn't mention the embargo. Says nothing at all except to express yet again en passant his irrational fear of Cuban "suitcase bombers" (i.e. balsero double-agents). We have pointed out before that there has never been one of those. Ana Belén Montes and Juan Pablo Roque did not come here on rafts. They wouldn't have risked their lives for a watertight alibi that might have ended with them waterlogged.

Henry intends Candidates on Cuba to "serve as a clearing house for the official positions of the various presidential campaigns on the subject of Cuba. We are only going to post materials submitted by the campaigns specifically for this purpose." He wants to know everything that Fred did not tell him, to wit, "where each candidate stands on things like the embargo, Helms-Burton, indictments for the castro brothers, travel restrictions, the political prisoners, human rights, the succession, etc. etc." Perhaps other candidates will be more forthcoming than Thompson; I doubt it. None, I am sure, could be more oleaginous.

Now there is good and there is bad in this approach. It is good to have each candidate define himself on Cuba. What is not good, however, is to take such a declaration as the definitive word on the subject especially when it is tailor-made for us and would naturally avoid saying anything that might displease us. It is certainly conceivable that one or more candidates might have something to say on the subject that might cost him (her) the Cuban-American vote. But they are not likely to tell us. That's why I wish that the pro-Castro lobby had also solicited from each candidate a position statement on Cuba. Comparing both might be the closest that we ever get to the truth. If I had to choose between one or the other, I should prefer to read their statements to the embargo-busters than those directed at us.

We have already dedicated several posts to Fred Thompson's spontaneous statements on Cuba and nothing he says in his canned statement shall cause us to change our opinion of him.

Also see:

Fred Thompson Shoots Himself in the Foot (And Cuban "Suitcase Terrorists" Have Nothing to Do With It This Time)

Henry Explains Fred Thompson to Us

Fred Thompson: Cuban "Immigrants" Are Suitcase Bombers


Charlie Bravo said...

There's a routine followed by all candidates that consist in eating a pastelito -it's amusing to see their facial contortions while they eat it- and down a cafecito with a single gulp on the Versailles' sidewalk. They do that sacrifice for electoral votes sake, not because they like the flavors, that is, from both electors and their food.
The routine can be expanded to include a phrase or two in Hollywood Spanish -the only day the candidates try their Spanish outside the circle of their pool boys, gardeners, nannies, and car detailers. Some, like Mitt Romney get it totally wrong and say something like patria o muerte venceremos. Others, well, they repeat a much rehearsed phrase, and they are thankful the gig is over when they are in their campaign bus speeding to a less exotic locale.
The candidates would deliver their usual empty promises in that occasion, even saying "el año que viene en Cuba" or "ya viene llegando" or whatevre else, and the buck usually stop there.
Look at the gratitude of George Bush, which sums up as leaving the Dry Foot Wet Foot in place, which was Clinton revenge against Cubans.
This time aorund, Cubanophobia and Xenophobia are rampant among the majority of the candidates. Just visit the forums of their supporters and you will get a taste, from people cheering when the "suitcase bomber" remark was uttered to the hysteria about ending the birthrights. Even when Thompson has not said it in public, his supporters are pretty much convinced that he will also work in eliminating them.
Other than that, Mr. Thompson sounds empty and not very convincing, that is, unless one is hoping to be convinced by him. Elect Fred Thompson and you would have give access to the atomic red button to yet another empty suit.

Fantomas said...

Profesor how about us Cuban exiles telling the candidates what we want... le damos como 10 puntos..y le preguntamos a cada uno de ellos quien puede hacerlo de verdad..

A ese candidato se le podria dar el voto...

Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

Charlie Bravo,
Do you remember Reagan sipping his cafecito WITH the meal? I remember my father was so upset, screaming at the TV, that someone, anyone, should have explained to him that the cafecito is drunk AFTER the meal.

Charlie Bravo said...

Imagine, Daniel, that I watched that in Cuba, at the offices where a friend used to work, they were equipped with access to American TV and my friend would tape everything that he found interesting, which was a lot of the news, etc.... even TV ads!
I watched in horror how Ronald Reagan started his cafecito with a meal of arroz con frijoles and some picadillo en la Esquina de Tejas of Miami -La esquina de Texas esta en la Habana, that was the Americanized name given to it by Guillermo Cabrera Infante en los Tres Tristes Tigres- and the first thing I thought was how is that no Cuban has told this guy that cafe is drank alone or at the end of the meal???? I wondered what was the big deal about a guy eating arroz con frijoles CON cafe. Little I knew about the mechanics of the electoral politics of this country at the time....
But I got the picture, and I was kind of skeptic. Unfortunately, all these years have passed and there's nothing that moves me to think that anything would ever be different. You will see the Cuban American politicos taking credit for the death of Castro and mistaking the dead dictator for a free Cuba, and we all know that there's not an o milligram of truth to it.
Well, politicians will never cease to amaze us.

Mamey said...

That's funny Daniel, I remember my father also getting upset over the cafecito issue, and he liked Reagan. It's a significant metaphor for the way the Thompsons, Reagans, and many others in the two parties actually think about Cubans or Cuba--they don't have a clue or perhaps could care less.

Rene M. Grave de Peralta said...

The United States is the greatest country in the world. It is the greatest democracy the world has ever seen and the world's "last best hope". I say this as someone who could spend hours, days and weeks criticizing both domestic and foreign policy past and current.

But the United States acts -as it should- in its own interests, or at least in what whichever group is in power perceives as the right course for the country. Those interests have seldom coincided with Cuba's and I for one would much rather we took care of our problems by ourselves than with any help from the U.S. or anyone else.

I have a recurring fantasy that someone organizes a return. Someone gets a sizable portion of the global exile community to go back to the island and join the dissident movement. Perhaps the 20th of May following Fifo's death could be the start of the reverse exodus. I know, it's a silly idea, but it sure would be something.