1960 and the election that impacted Cuba

63 years ago today, Senator John F. Kennedy defeated Vice-President Richard Nixon to win the 1960 election. Nixon conceded the next day, despite this election being very close. I wonder how many people know how close that JFK-Nixon election was? The two men were separated by about 113,000 votes, or 49.72% to 49.55%!  

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July 24, 1959: The Nixon Khrushchev kitchen debates

By the end of July, VP Nixon was looking ahead to the 1960 election and Fidel Castro was telling everyone that he was not a communist. Khrushchev was looking to promote the USSR and Nixon knew it. They both made their case on this day in 1959, the famous kitchen debates.

Who won?  They probably both did.  This is a portion of the conversation, because it was not really a debate:

Nixon: “I want to show you this kitchen. It is like those of our houses in California.”

Khrushchev: “We have such things.”

Nixon: “This is our newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installations in the houses. In America, we like to make life easier for women…”

Khrushchev: “Your capitalistic attitude toward women does not occur under communism.”

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China into Cuba, US army into woke

Not long ago, we had armed forces to win wars or deliver a quick blow to our enemies.  It kept the peace when the bad guys knew that they really couldn’t hide. Just ask Qasem Soleimani, who had his New Year’s plans terminated by a drone. Or the Christmas bombing in December 1972 that made the North Vietnamese cry “uncle” and negotiate an end to the Vietnam War. It’s amazing what B-52s and fighter-bombers dropping 20,000 tons of bombs will do the enemy. 

Could we do that today? Probably yes but there is concern about the growing “Woke” in the U.S. armed forces. This is from the Washington Examiner:     

The Department of Defense proudly declares that “our mission is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.”

If only that remained true. Today, the U.S. military’s mission is increasingly distracted and its capability diluted by a focus on aping political correctness and identity politics. This theme will be the focus of a series of articles published this week for the Washington Examiner‘s Restoring America page, which will feature expert voices from leading organizations, including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Independent Women’s Forum, and Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services. The need for public attention to what is happening in the U.S. military is significant.

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At least Nixon suspected something was off about Fidel

Back in April 1959, Fidel Castro visited the U.S. a few months after taking power. Castro’s visit was rather controversial because he faced skepticism from many in the U.S.  He was asked about the promised elections that were delayed and delayed. Castro was also beginning to hear a lot of criticism from fellow Cubans, who kept asking about the surplus of communists and shortage of reforms.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not meet with him, but V.P. Richard Nixon did. After the meeting, Nixon said his bearded visitor was “either incredibly naive about communism or under communist discipline — my guess is the former.” 

Castro also appeared on Meet the Press and denied that he was a communist.  He even joked about it, saying some people thought Adam and Eve were communists.

Furthermore, Castro benefited from a lot of people in the U.S. who were caught up in the cult of personality and did not know the truth of pre-Castro Cuba.  It’s easy to fall for the narrative when you don’t know about the large middle class in Cuba and the number of immigrants who had flooded Cuba in the first half of the 20th century.  They came to Cuba because the island offered opportunities, or the exact opposite of “Cuba is all about casinos” that was peddled to justify what they called revolution.

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Cheering for freedom over tyranny

Team USA beat Cuba rather easily to move to the WBC Title game. It was over when the Cuban team could not score with the bases loaded. They got a run on a walk, but nothing more. 

Once upon a time, communist Cuba dominated amateur baseball in much the same way the old USSR beat up college kids in hockey. “No mas!”

This weekend’s game may have been the clearest example that this is not much a rivalry at all, as Tom Verducci explained:  

By a 14–2 score that understates the talent gap, Team USA waxed a Cuban team loaded with cast-offs, 30-something Mexican League hangers-on and post-glory-days veterans who filled their all-red uniforms the way burly Boog Powell did those similarly monochromatic 1975 Cleveland unis, which were so bad the players back then offered to buy blue jerseys themselves.

It’s funny, but I had the same thought about Boog Powell and those horrible uniforms. The only good thing about those uniforms is that they were still called Indians rather than this silly “woke” Guardians.

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‘Obama got nothing from Cuba,’ and a few other memories from the late Charles Krauthammer

Back in 2015, Charles Krauthammer wrote this:

There’s an old Cold War joke – pre-pantyhose – that to defeat communism we should empty our B-52 bombers of nuclear weapons and, instead, drop nylons over the Soviet Union. Flood the Russians with the soft consumer culture of capitalism, seduce them with Western contact and commerce, love bomb them into freedom.

We did win the Cold War, but differently. We contained, constrained, squeezed and, eventually, exhausted the Soviets into giving up. The dissidents inside subsequently told us how much they were sustained by our support for them and our implacable pressure on their oppressors.

The logic behind President Obama’s Cuba normalization, assuming there is one, is the nylon strategy. We tried 50 years of containment and that didn’t bring democracy. So let’s try inundating them with American goods, visitors, culture, contact, commerce

We know how “inundating them with American goods, visitors, culture, contact, commerce” turned out: The regime is still there.

We remember the great Charles Krauthammer, one of the best political commentators. He was born on this day in New York City in 1950. It was Dr. Krauthammer who coined the phrase “Bush derangement syndrome” in 2003. He was reacting to the irrational behavior of so many Democrats. We also enjoyed his commentaries on the “Fox Report”. Last, but not least, Dr. Krauthammer published a best seller a couple of years before his death in 2018.

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1959: Fidel Castro became Prime Minister of Cuba

Time flies and we recall another day in Cuban history:

“On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government.”

Castro followed this move with a trip to the US. He met with VP Nixon, was a guest on “Meet the Press,” and spoke before The National Press Club. He received very favorable press and I think that most of the media in the US was caught up in the tale of the charming bearded man destined to turn into some kind of Cuban George Washington.

Back in Cuba, Castro still enjoyed vast support. However, it started to erode in 1960 when radical steps were implemented. Castro went after the private schools, the newspapers and the media. Elections were never held. Repression was everywhere.

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1898: And so started the Spanish-American War

On this day in 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor. Soon after, President McKinley called on the US Congress to declare war on Spain.

McKinley tried to keep a distance from the terrible situation in Cuba, i.e. a long and bloody war of independence. However, everything changed after that explosion. It certainly caught the interest of newspapers and their readers. Just look at the headline that calls it the work of “the enemy”.

And so started the 4-month Spanish American War that changed Cuba forever. It also made a national hero out of Theodore Roosevelt. After the quick victory, President McKinley selected Mr. Roosevelt as his running mate in 1900. A year into his second term, he assumed the presidency when McKinley was assassinated.

And Cuba? The island became an independent country in 1902.

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