MEXICO CITY, Feb. 20 -- They've traveled the world. Surfed the Web. Zinged text messages. And watched news direct from the BBC and CNN, rather than filtered through a government censor.
Bombarded by ideas from abroad, a generation of Cuban political leaders who came of age after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution is preparing to inherit it. Many of them, now in their 40s and 50s, have developed a more open political outlook than their fathers, partly because of the thriving black market in outlawed Internet connections that in Cuba have cracked open a window on the world.
The same day CNN’s Allison Flexner, an one-time producer of Cuban stories, apparently issued a memo instructing how the "resignation" of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was to be covered, CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour neatly matched one of the points made in the memo during two segments on Tuesday’s "American Morning."
During the first segment, which was six minutes into 7 am Eastern hour, Amanpour heralded Cuba being "a leader in many things such as education, health care -- all of those things that it has been able to bring to its people, but not the fundamentals" such as "openness, freedom, the ability to have enough wherewithal, and, you know, the same kind of bread and butter issues that everybody all around the world wants."
With the symbolic passing of the torch - from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro - comes hope of changes in Cuba, well at least among some in the media.
Even though no one is predicting Cuba to usher in a new wave of Adam Smith-style capitalism, there might be some changes according to ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."
"[H]e's talking about significant reforms - liberalizing trade, economic reforms designed to ease poverty in a country where the average person earned $19 a month in the hope of consolidating his own power," ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said on the Feb.19, 2008, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson."
The email recommended against using wording that implies Castro didn't write his letter of resignation and to rely on reporting by Communist Party daily Granma. It then reminded “Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba” and “'[w]hile despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero...for standing up to the United States.”
Here is the email posted by Babalu (bold mine after email's heading):
Chris Matthews on this afternoon's Hardball, speaking with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.).
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, why do you think Cubans on the island still support the Castro brothers? What is it that allows that lock on those people to continue?
DAN BURTON: I don't think they do support Castro, I don't think they supported Fidel or Raul. That is a Communist regime where they have block captains who watch everybody in each invidual block, and anybody that even speaks out against the government ends up in a gulag.
Update 14:16 | Matthew Sheffield. The level of excusing and tip-toeing around the truth about Castro is staggering. As of 2:13 ET when you do a Google News search for "Fidel Castro" you come up with 7,520 results. Add the word dictator after it and you come back with 1,417. That's 81 percent less.
Just a few headlines from major newspapers as Fidel Castro has called it quits as dictator:
Castro resigns, ending era in Cuba (LATimes.com front page)
None of those articles directly referred to Castro as a dictator. Here's how AP's Anita Snow danced around the matter of Fidel's autocracy, conceding that "detractors called him a dictator" while throwing in the favored defense leftists often throw up for Castro (emphasis mine):
The "charismatic" Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's shock retirement for health reasons is covered on the New York Times web site this morning by James McKinley Jr., writing from Mexico City -- "Fidel Castro Resigns as Cuba's President."
President Castro? Was there nothing stronger in the NYT thesaurus this morning?
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez reported from "Little Havana" in Miami, Florida at the top of the 7am hour, mentioning the tight Republican race only briefly before moving on to Hillary Clinton’s recent photo ops and fundraising efforts in the state:
This is the biggest state to vote to date with the most delegates up for grabs for the Republican winner, 57. This morning it is a dead heat between Mitt Romney and John McCain, with a fizzling Rudy Giuliani now saying that he'll make a decision tomorrow about whether to stay in the race. It is the Republicans who have been going after voters here most aggressively. But in recent days, a Democrat has been trying to steal the spotlight. Four Republicans and one Democrat in Florida ahead of the primary election. The Republican winner here will get 57 delegates. The Democratic winner will get none. Why is she here in Florida?
After these first few sentences, mention of the Republicans vanishes and the analysis focuses entirely on Clinton:
The results aren't in yet, but most Cubans agree; the most famous candidate in Sunday's parliamentary election - Fidel Castro - has won overwhelmingly.
If that is true, and there is little reason to doubt it, the Cuban leader sidelined by emergency intestinal surgery nearly 18 months ago is now eligible for election to the Council of State, which in turn elects the nation's president from among its members.
It's the biggest question in Cuba: Will Fidel Castro return - if not as before, at least in title? Or, will his younger brother, First Vice President Raul Castro, who "temporarily" assumed the presidency as provided for by the Cuban Constitution, officially fill the post?
I don't know about you, but the suspense is killing me.
Writing in the January 16 Financial Times, reporter Marc Frank takes a look at Cuban politics as though it were an actual liberal democracy, not a Marxist dictatorship. Frank finds no irony or contradiction-in-terms in the way he qualifies the election as a public ratification of a pre-determined outcome. And in what amounts to a laughable print edition subheading, Frank's editor wrote this in the subhead to "Castro keeps world guessing on retirement":
Even if the head of state stands down, he may still be able to exert power from the sidelines, writes Marc Frank.
Gee, ya think?!
Here are the first few paragraphs of Frank's page 3 report, with my emphasis added:
Yesterday fellow NewsBuster Matthew Balan and I wrote about media bias in Reuters and Associated Press reporting on the death of CIA turncoat Philip Agee. Today the Washington Post devoted a 23-paragraph obituary to Agee that was also somewhat lacking.
The Post's Joe Holley did relay to readers that former President George H.W. Bush believes Agee's role in divulging the names of covert operatives resulted in at least one death, that of CIA agent Richard Welch at the hands of Greek terrorists in Athens in December 1975.
Yet while Holley mentioned that in 1987 then-Secretary of State George Schultz denied Agee a passport due to "CIA reports that Mr. Agee was a paid adviser to Cuban intelligence, had trained Nicaraguan security officials and had tried to thwart the U.S. invasion of Grenada," Holley failed to follow the thread any further on Agee's sympathy with the Marxist regimes, particularly Fidel Castro's.
As a January 9 AP obit noted, Agee was a Castro apologist, writing as late as 2003 in the propaganda newspaper Granma defending Castro's crackdowns on pro-democracy activists:
Reuters, in its headline for a story reporting the death of Philip Agee, a former CIA agent turned traitor, labeled Agee a "CIA whistle-blower" ("CIA whistle-blower Philip Agee dies in Cuba"). As the blog Little Green Footballs put it, Agee was "the traitor who exposed fellow CIA agents to violence and murder by revealing their names" in his 1975 book "Inside the Company: A CIA Diary."
Agee, who had worked for the CIA for 12 years both in the United States and in Latin America, resigned from the Agency in 1968 after expressing "disagreement with U.S. support for military dictatorships in Latin America." Reuters then went on to say that Agee "became one of the first to blow the whistle on the CIA's activities around the world." He died on Monday in Havana, Cuba, where he had settled in the 1980s.
Update (17:35): Paul Colford with AP e-mailed me with an updated obit posted at 14:40 EST that had more information. See more at bottom of the post.
Philip Agee, a leftist who exposed fellow CIA operatives by name in a book he published in the 1970s has died in Cuba. Agee's perfidy was one reason Congress in 1982 passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. If that doesn't ring a bell, that's precisely the law that Bush administration critics charged Karl Rove and/or Scooter Libby violated in the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Yet while the Plame case was a media obsession for roughtly four years, the AP's Will Weissert buried that detail deep in its January 9 obituary. What's more, the wire service practically painted Agee's defection to Cuba as retirement from CIA work to the private sector:
The wire service began by deliberately mischaracterizing the Cubans as “migrants” instead of calling them “refugees” or even “passengers.” Labeling them “migrants” ignores Cuba's political and economic straitjacket, and more importantly links Cuban refugees to the issue of illegal immigration.
The media are beginning to call everyone who comes to America with the intent to stay, “migrants,” whether here legally or not, which erases any distinctions. People who are anti-illegal immigration often support Cuban refugees remaining in the US, and linking the two issues can reduce opposition to illegal immigration.
While explaining why the Cubans risked their lives coming to the US, Reuters ignored Castro's totalitarian regime (bold mine throughout):
Is the New York Times changing? In an article about Old Havana's rebuilding, NYT reporter John C. McKinley, Jr. bucked the media habit of inserting leftist messages into articles about Cuba. Instead, he exposed the average Cuban's poverty, giving the state-run socialist economy as the cause--all without mentioning “free” health care or the US embargo.
The article described how Havana historian Eusebio Leal Spengler “rebuilt and refurbished more than 300 landmark buildings in Old Havana, from fortresses built in the colonial days to famous nightspots and hotels of the city’s swinging era just before the Cuban revolution.“
McKinley countered that by explaining most Cubans don't have money for drinks at the bars made famous by Hemingway or the upscale inns favored by celebs like Jimmy Carter and Jack Nicholson (bold mine throughout):
Just a half block from the Bodeguita del Medio, another famous eatery favored by Hemingway that is constantly mobbed with tourists, Cubans troop into a sparsely stocked government store to get their monthly rations of beans, powdered milk, cigarettes and soap.
For all their self-important huffing and blustering about "dictatorial" policies of the Bush administration, when it comes to standing up to actual dictators and reporting the truth, the American press usually takes the easy way out.
This ignominious tradition of pandering to the world's dictators began with Cuban ruler Fidel Castro and continues to this day. The Associated Press provides the most recent example (h/t Ace), wondering if Castro will be able to swing getting "elected" president:
City council officials in eastern Cuba nominated Fidel Castro for a parliament seat Sunday, a position the ailing 81-year-old must hold if he wants to remain the communist-run island's president after national elections in January.
Dictator-groupies Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover are at it again. They are among the “artists, scholars and performers” calling themselves “representatives of the cultural sphere in the US,” who sent a letter to President Bush asking him to “end the travel ban,” allowing a cultural exchange between nations.
Most troubling is the group did not address Cuba's lack of freedom and limited their travel demands to Cuba's “artists and scholars.” That wasn't a mistake. As faithful fans of the Cubano Dear Leader, they don't care about all Cubans' ability to travel, just those carefully-selected Party-approved “artists and scholars." Under heavy guard, of course, to avoid more embarrassing defections.
Dictator-groupie Sean Penn told Australia's The Age that Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez is “much more positive for Venezuela than he is negative” and the Chavez-crafted constitution is “a very beautiful document.”
But hey, Venezuelans, relax! Actor/director/humanitarian Sean Penn isn't concerned that Chavez is on his way to becoming a dictator. So, stop worrying that Chavez will confiscate your home or business and force you to sew “I Heart Holocaust-Deniers” onto his custom-made Commie-red button downs.
The United States is not the only country turning out spoiled children, ungrateful for the blessings of life in their land. Cuba is suffering from the same affliction, to judge by "My father's 'crime'" by Yan Valdes Morejon, which appears in today's Boston Globe.
Morejon's column turns out to be just one long complaint. Rather than giving proper thanks for all the wonders of the workers' paradise, like members of our MSM regularly do, it's filled with this kind of kvetching:
Imagine the ire the media would have, rightfully so, if George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney (and Sean Hannity and whatever other liberal bogeymen the ultra-left fear) could even dream of, much less institute, a block-by-block patriotism patrol answerable to the U.S. government.
Of course that would not and could not ever happen under our Constitution. But the same essential thing was a building block of Fidel Castro's Marxist regime in Cuba, and, surprise, surprise, a Washington Post staff writer devoted an A-section article to its waning influence and substitute dictator Raul Castro's hope of reviving it.
CAMAGUEY, Cuba -- Children swarmed the table outside Blanca Peleaz's concrete home in this central Cuban city. There were cakes and cookies, gooey frosting and candy speckles, rare abundance in a place where food shortages are the norm.
The sweets came with a history lesson on a recent muggy evening during a celebration of the Cuban Revolution. Peleaz and other neighborhood adults told the youngsters about the Moncada Barracks raid that started it all. They told the little ones that the Communist Party would lead the nation to glory.
Then they sang.
"Marching, we move toward an ideal," the grown-ups blared, urging the youngsters to join in. "Onward, Cubans. Cuba will reward our heroism."
For decades, Peleaz and her mother before her have been keepers of Fidel Castro's communist message, using their position as the head of the neighborhood's Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, or CDR, as an ideological wedge into the minds of their neighbors. Now, in the twilight of Castro's reign, the fate of the CDRs could provide a clue about Cuba's future.
To commemorate the Media Research Center’s 20th anniversary this month, we’ve just published a special expanded edition of our ‘Notable Quotables’ newsletter. This issue contains more than100 of the most outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes we’ve uncovered over the past 20 years.
Over the next few days, I’ll be writing about some of the more obnoxious quotes we’ve uncovered over the years. To read the full issue, and watch any of the 50 video clips that accompany the issue, please visit www.MRC.org.
Today’s installment: The liberal media and communism. Probably the most sickening display of pro-communist propaganda to air on an American network was the seven-hour series ‘Portrait of the Soviet Union,’ produced by (you guessed it) Ted Turner. It aired back in March 1988 on Turner’s TBS, and was narrated by ‘Jaws’ actor Roy Scheider. Here are a few excerpts from the first night’s installment:
What's rarer than Al Gore flying commercial? An honest media discussion about Cuba's devastating problems, especially the barely functional medical system.
In the week since the October 10 “Hannity & Colmes” (video Pt. 1 & Pt. 2), other than some conservative blogs, the media ignored the disturbing images that revealed the truth about Cuba's much-vaunted health care system.
The hosts interviewed Cuban expat George Utset and showed pictures from his website The Real Cuba as well as the exclusive footage that he obtained from Cuban physician Darsi Ferrer Ramirez.
The images showed dilapidated and crumbling hospitals with patients covered in flies, broken windows, laundry hanging from open windows, filthy bathrooms with holes in the floor and insect-infested rooms (view footage here). Since this disgrace is hidden behind the Castro Curtain, the media don't seem to care.
On the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara's death, October 8 New York Times penned a peppy little story about how his well-to-do children feel about their father's legacy as a Communist “revolutionary icon” and the commercialization of his image.
Glaringly absent was any mention of his unpleasant history, especially the nickname he was given when he was Cuba's high executioner, The Butcher of la Cabana.
The NYT lamented that Che's image has fallen prey to the claws of capitalism and his “message” diluted. Too bad there was no description of the brutal way that “message” was delivered (emphasis mine throughout):
Earlier this month, ABC News's Rick Klein reported on the network's "Political Radar" Web site:
When an Iowa resident asked former senator John Edwards Thursday whether the United States should follow the Cuban healthcare model, the 2004 vice presidential contender deflected the question by saying he didn't know enough to answer the question.
TVNewser is reporting that CBS News executives are in Cuba. While the Tiffany network won't say what for, speculation is there may be negotiations with the Castro government for a full-time Havana bureau for the network.:
A TVNewser tipster tells us, and a CBS News spokesperson confirms, that CBS News & Sports President Sean McManus and Evening News EP Rick Kaplan are in Cuba. The spokesperson could not tell TVNewser the mission of the trip. However, Kaplan has met with Cuban president Fidel Castro on past occasions, dating back to 1978.
>More: An emailer adds, "...being a past insider at CBS News I can tell you that this trip to Cuba is most likely an effort to open the first fully functional U.S. News bureau in Cuba."
On Sunday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Kelly Cobiella filed a report about American medical students who are receiving the "gift" of a free education from the Latin American School of Medicine, established by former Cuban president Fidel Castro to train doctors for poor communities. But, while entertaining suggestions from one student who thought that Michael Moore's trip to Cuba for health care "proposed a really good question about looking at our medical system and seeing what things we need to change," the CBS correspondent also found that "Cuba is no health care paradise," as she reported on "crumbling" hospitals, doctors making $20 a month, and "shortages of just about everything from drugs to high-tech equipment." (Transcript follows)
Covering Raul Castro's July 26 hour-long Revolution Day speech, the Washington Post characterized the fill-in dictator's latest speech as one that "hits capitalist notes while placating hard-line party loyalists." But in truth Castro's speech was the typical Communist agitprop fare: empty promises for more pay, a call for harder work from the people, and above all else, blaming the United States for the collectivist economy's failure.
"Wearing his trademark tinted eyeglasses and military uniform, Castro, 76, struck distinctly capitalist notes before tens of thousands of flag-waving Communist Party loyalists," reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia noted in his July 27 story, filed the day before from Camaguey, a city 350 miles east of Havana.
Yet from Roig-Franzia's article itself, it becomes clear Castro is not a Latin incarnation of Milton Friedman. A little more foreign investment is the only capitalist bone to be thrown Cuba's way.
Scanning the columns at Townhall.com is part of my early-morning routine, and it was at about 6 A.M. today that I read Charles Krauthammer's "Obama Bombing." I marveled at how perfectly the Pulitzer Prize-winning author had captured the essence of Hugo Chavez, calling the Venezuelan thug "a malevolent clown."
Krauthammer's words obviously impressed Matt Lauer, too. For barely an hour later, I was pleasantly surprised to find the psychiatrist-turned-pundit's phrase turning up on the screen at "Today," with Lauer clearly seeming to advance the conservative commentator's theory.
Lauer was interviewing MSNBC's Chris Matthews on this week's Hillary-Obama dust-up.
"TODAY" CO-ANCHOR MATT LAUER: Let me ask you about this debate, the issue that came out of the debate, this whole inexperience-versus-change thing, when Barack Obama answered that in the first year of his presidency he would meet with people like Castro and Chavez. Let me read you what Charles Krauthammer wrote in the Washington Post this morning:
Do the Democrats want to risk strike three, another national security question blown, but this time perhaps in a final presidential debate before the '08 election, rather than a midseason intraparty cattle call? The country might decide that it prefers, yes, a Republican -- say, 9/11 veteran Rudy Giuliani -- to a freshman senator who does not instinctively understand why an American president does not share the honor of his office with a malevolent clown like Hugo Chavez.
Nothing says "idealistic" like brutally suppressing freedom and imprisoning courageous advocates of democracy. At least in the view of CBS News, apparently.
At 7:21 a.m. EDT on this morning's "Early Show," CBS's Kelly Cobiella reported from Havana on the occasion of Cuba's national day. Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked Cobiella about the prospects for change.
CBS "EARLY SHOW" CO-ANCHOR MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: There's no question that Fidel and [his brother] Raul are different types of leaders. I'm sure we'll see it when he speaks later. He doesn't have Fidel's charisma and he seems a little bit more open to change. As he solidifies his power, what kind of changes do you think Cubans can expect to see?
That's when Cobiella went into Fidel-fan mode . . .