For a network that calmly bowed to the "advantages" of totalitarianism in Cuba's natural-disaster preparations, it was a bit shocking to hear National Public Radio anchor Melissa Block pressing a leftist congressman on Tuesday's All Things Considered about Cuban repression.
Employing what should be the standard practice of presenting the opponent's position, in this case on normalizing relations with Cuba and the Castro brothers. She found that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, touring Cuba with the Congressional Black Caucus, may be a "Democrat" but he celebrates a "diversity" of government styles, including lock-step communism:
BLOCK: Well, congressman, you well know that supporters of current Cuba policy -- supporters of the embargo -- say that if you lift sanctions you are going to just aid and justify a repressive regime. You're going to kill any hope of democracy. Now that regime will just use more resources to become more oppressive than it already is.
CLEAVER: Well, the world operates at its best when there is diversity. Every nation does not need to be like the United States. And frankly we already have diplomatic ties to repressive nations. And frankly if there is repression in Cuba, we didn't see it. We mingled with Cuban people. I preached at an Episcopal Church, Sunday, where we were told that there was no freedom of religion, which is not true.
BLOCK: You did not though, as I understand it, during your five days in Cuba, you did not meet with any Cuban dissidents. Do you think there's a case to be made that you were presented with a sanitized, distorted view? If you had met with dissidents, you would've heard a very different story.
CLEAVER: Well, this trip was aimed at first of all, creating communication and hopefully opening the door for some dialogue between our government and the government of Cuba. It's not going to be helpful for us to throw our fingers in the face of the Cuban leadership while we're saying to them we believe that dialogue is possible. We talked to our enemies all around the globe. I mean, the president has already said he wants to have some open and candid dialogue with Ahmadinejad in Iran, and so we are saying the same thing should be true with our neighbor 90 miles away from the Florida coast. So we did not meet with dissidents. And, be certain of this, that issue most definitely will come up when official discussions take place between the U.S. and Cuba.
Kudos should also go to CNN’s Kiran Chetry as she interviewed leftist Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Wednesday’s American Morning. Chetry also pressed questions about human rights and meeting with dissidents:
CHETRY: Congresswoman, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, they've documented a litany of human rights violations by the Cuban government. They talked about torture. They talked about arbitrary arrest, imprisonment with charges or trials, intimidation of dissidents and even executions. By meeting with the Cuban leadership and pushing for normalization, do you risk appearing to condone some of these human rights abuses?
LEE: Absolutely not. Well, we went down to Cuba to discuss with how we can help push the ball forward, what it would take to begin dialogue. Once, and we heard over and over again that every issue that the United States feels important, wants to discuss every issue that has been raised for the last 50 years would be on the table for discussion. And so our purpose was to see if there were preconditions on the Cuban side. We heard that there were no preconditions. And, in fact, we wanted to find out if they were interested.
We have to remember that every country in Latin America, 15 countries, have normal relations with Cuba. Most of the EU. We're the country which is isolated. The American people should have a right to travel to Cuba to determine their own perspective and so all we're saying is do we need to move forward to have a constructive dialogue based on national sovereignty and mutual respect? And members of our delegation believe that's the case. We will communicate this to our president prior to the Summit of the Americas which will be held in Trinidad, April 17.
CHETRY: Senator Mel Martinez, as you know, staunchly opposes normalizing relations under the Castro regime. He's born in Cuba. He came to the U.S. when he was 15. And this is the statement he issued to us last night.’
"Regardless of one's position on Cuba policy, one should expect that any U.S. official or member of Congress visiting Cuba would have the courage to meet with members of Cuba's struggling independent civil society and to raise concerns about the regime's systematic violation of human rights with Cuban officials."
Why didn't the delegation meet with any dissidents?
LEE: Well, let me say first of all, members of the delegation have met with the dissident community on many occasions. I am one who has done that. The purpose of this trip was to talk primarily to Cuban officials to determine whether or not we needed to recommend to our president to maintain this 50-year policy or if, in fact, it made sense to recommend that the policy be changed. And we believe that American citizens deserve the right to travel to Cuba and also, we will be recommending that it's about time that we find some kind of avenue to begin to have this discussion and dialogue with the Cuban government so that we can begin to normalize our relations and to end the embargo.