Nordlinger on the CBC

‘How does it look to the boys in the camps?’ by Jay Nordlinger at National Review Online. He nails it again.

Some readers have asked me to comment on the recent visit of several black congressmen to the Castros — but I’m a little reluctant. For one reason, I have written a lot about this subject, or I once did. In 2000, I had a piece called “In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.” You may find it here. For another reason — and a closely related reason — I can’t think of what else to say. I mean, this is an old, old story: It just repeats itself — as do opinion journalists, so I think I’ll just go ahead, again.

Black American political figures have had a long, long romance with Castro. It started right in 1959, when Castro seized power. The dictator he overthrew, Batista, was in fact partly black. Commentators in Spain referred to Castro as “the Great White Hope.” But Castro saw that the United States was very vulnerable where race was concerned. And, once he himself became dictator, he exploited this vulnerability to the hilt.

In 1960, when visiting the U.N. in New York, Castro dramatically decamped from a fancy midtown hotel. He went to the Hotel Theresa, up in Harlem. And he has always talked a slick game about race. While in the U.S., he encourages affirmative action (while practicing none of it at home). And when black Americans travel to Havana, he takes care to show them his Martin Luther King Center.

In the old days, self-styled black revolutionaries would flee to him — they would commit murder, then run down to Castro. Most famously, Huey Newton did this. There was also Joanne Chesimard, who later wanted to be known as Assata Shakur.

Congressmen have always trooped down to Castro, to sit at his knee and glorify him. These include Ron Dellums, Maxine Waters, and, of course — most notoriously — Charles Rangel. Rangel is probably Castro’s best friend in the American political class (tied with another New York City congressman, José Serrano). When Castro came to New York in 1995, Rangel greeted him with a bear hug. And Castro, at a Harlem church, said, “As a revolutionary, I knew I would be welcome in this neighborhood.”

Oh, yeah.

Not just politicians have made the pilgrimage to Castro: You have Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and many others. They all sing the dictator’s praises. And some do so literally — for example, Carole King, who crooned to Castro, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Yes, he does: many, many of them. Rarely in history has an absolute dictator been so beloved by people in free societies.

Do you remember what Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the Cuban-American congressman, said? I have quoted it in this column several times: “For the life of me, I just don’t know how Castro can seem cute after 40 years of torturing people.” That was ten years ago. He still seems cute to people.

The other week, three congressmen had one of those visits with Castro. Afterward, Rep. Laura Richardson (D., Calif.) said, “He looked right into my eyes, and he said, ‘How can we help you? How can we help President Obama?’” Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) reported, “In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor.”

The ultimate survivor. Isn’t that sweet? How many of Castro’s prisoners survive? How many of them survive the hell that is inflicted on them day in, day out?

Speaking of “survival,” Castro has never had to face reelection — or any election at all. Would Bobby Rush and his friends call Stalin a survivor, ultimate or not? He died in bed. How about Mao? He died in bed, too. How about the Kims in North Korea? Castro has even lived long enough to pass power on to this brother!

The American Left in general has had a long romance with Castro. And the black Left is a subset of this general Left. One of the most upsetting things about the black romance, specifically, is that so many of Cuba’s leading dissidents and political prisoners are, in fact, black: “Afro-Cuban.” People such as “Antúnez,” as he is known. And people such as Oscar Biscet, who has long been a prisoner.

Biscet is a physician and a democracy activist. He takes as his models Gandhi and MLK. In 2007, George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in absentia, of course). The likes of Bobby Rush could not care less about Biscet. They would never, ever visit him, in his cell. But then, they would not be permitted. But then, they would never seek permission.

There is a lot about America not to be proud of, ladies and gentlemen. I think particularly of our political, academic, journalistic, and entertainment classes. That’s a lot of classes, isn’t it?

One more thing: Jesse Jackson once went down to Cuba to chant, “Viva la Revolución! Viva Castro! Viva Che Guevara!” Bill Buckley, debating Jackson on television, said, “By wishing Castro and Guevara long lives, were you wishing short lives to their prisoners?”