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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Now in favor, Little Marco jokes, "You know what they say about men with really big signatures, don't you?"

The President and his entourage- a random selection of family; the Vice President; three or four cabinet members; and the Republican establishment of south Florida- gathered in a Miami auditorium yesterday to pay fealty to a noisy, extremely old, and schizoid electoral minority who want to see their homeland freed, and yet have absolutely no intention of returning it when liberation comes.

There were many speeches.

Congressman Mario Diaz-Ballart bellowed through a shorter- much shorter- version of a Fidel Castro diatribe in to denounce sixty years of a blockade that has beggared family members without enough pull to get to Florida. Fortunes and political careers have been built on the careful maintenance and repair of an imaginary wall that, like the Mexican one, Americans pay for.

Diaz-Ballart and his brother- first cousins of Fidel- have spent decades in the luxe halls of the lower house of the most powerful legislature on earth; if deliverance comes- next year in Havana is their fervent prayer- who the hell wants to go home to a seat in the Cuban parliament?

So they nurse the old boogeyman stories, and the grandparents and great-grandparents bid the bambinos check under their beds for Communists every night.

The President's Cuban volte-face is a triumph for Diaz-Ballart and Senator Marco Rubio, who wore his tallest-heeled boots for the day. They crafted a deal that, above all, mollifies and grants special rights to an important, if dwindling, constituency. Their rights to make visits and repatriate money home- things which, done over the Mexican border, are wicked- are unaltered.

The rights of American corporate interests- hoteliers, airlines, purveyors of all things plastic and short-lived, internet companies- to bore into the Cuban market remain as the feckless Obama caved on.

Fears that Europeans and the Chinese will ace out American corporate market-builders are bootless.

Only everyone else in America cannot go to Cuba. For centuries, Americans have been able to visit every nation that will admit them. Thus the comics stylings of America's favorite cross-dressing NBA player, Dennis Rodman, in North Korea, where he opened a door and gave the boy despot a copy of The Art of the Deal.

Only with respect to Cuba can Americans not go and see for themselves. The President's new blows for freedom import and install as American policy the Soviet-era model of government-approved tours with minders who keep the participants to a strictly timed schedule of "meaningful interactions" and government-approved experiences, compliance with which the government can audit records and quiz tourists about for up to five years after they have returned home with their Bible study groups.

Starwood- a luxury hotel chain that competes with the President's- is checked. They were the first in with a big historic hotel conversion, under license by the Cuban military's holding company, and will see their occupancy rate plummet.

When he finally waddled up on stage, the President assumed the spirit of dear President McKinley, murdered while making America great in 1901.

Lionized by Karl Rove, the GOP operative, in a 2016 book (remember the outrage when the name of America's highest mountain had its native name restored after a century as memorial to an Ohio pol so dim he signed guarantees of a friend's IOU's into hundreds of thousands of dollars of liability, thinking it was just a new copy of the first one for a pal who was prone to misplace things?), McKinley is in vogue again.

McKinley was a protectionist and a nationalist, and with the backing of huuuge industrialist donations, ran two massively successful campaigns for president based on huge media buys, mobilization of nearly a million volunteers, and propping up its rotten borough patronage machines in the South.

For Rove, the 2016 parallels were obvious. Only his casting was wrong. He thought his patron, Jeb Bush, would, from his Florida base, bring the Presidency home to the Sunshine State, just ninety miles from Cuba: the site of McKinley's splendid little war.

President Trump's Miami pep rally was vintage William Randolph Hearst jingoism. He sang the destiny of America as guarantor of freedom and cheap goods to the little brown people of the Caribees.

His speech evoked memories of the 1898-1958 Golden Age when self-determination for Cuba meant free-market dictatorships America liked, not tediously doctrinaire despotisms featuring camo and scraggy beards even Matthew McConnaghey would reject.

There were plenty of lustfully extended "Cuuuuba"s and "Ha-VAH-nuh"s- and even a "Santi-aygo" as the old sensualist exhibited his linguistic skills ("Who knew? There's one in California, too").

Jabba the Hutt grins were displayed, and Mussolini chins pulled, in the President's oration.

He spent half the speech invoking the tales of Cuban resistance fighters, interspersed with new demands of loyalty:

Many of you witnessed terrible crimes committed in service of a depraved ideology.  You saw the dreams of generations held by captive, and just, literally, you look at what happened and what communism has done.  You knew faces that disappeared, innocents locked in prisons, and believers persecuted for preaching the word of God.  You watched the Women in White bruised, bloodied, and captured on their way from Mass.  You have heard the chilling cries of loved ones, or the cracks of firing squads piercing through the ocean breeze.  Not a good sound.

Among the courageous Cuban dissidents with us onstage here today are Cary Roque, who was imprisoned by the Castro regime 15 years ago.  (Applause.)  She looks awfully good.   

MS. ROQUE:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  Thank you, Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart.  Thank you to all the men and the Cubans who fight no matter what -- for the Cuban liberty.  Mr. President, on behalf of the Cuban people, the people inside my eyes, my homeland, thank you.  Thank you, and we appreciate your love.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Wow.  That's pretty good.  She didn't know she was going to do that either, I will tell you.  Thank you very much.


Over the years, a special sympathy has grown between this land of the free, and the beautiful people of that island, so close to our shores and so deeply woven into the history of our region.  America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors.  They are rejected.  Officially today, they are rejected.  (Applause.)  And to those people, America has become a source of strength, and our flag a symbol of hope. 

I know that is exactly what America is to you and what it represents to you.  It represents the same to me.  It represents the same to all of us.  And that is what it was to a little boy, Luis Haza.  You ever hear of Luis?  He became very famous, great talent -- just eight years old when Fidel Castro seized power. At the time, Luis’s father was the police chief in Santiago de Cuba.  You know Santiago?  Yeah?  Oh, they know Santiago.  Just days after Fidel took control, his father was one of 71 Cubans executed by firing squad near San Juan Hill at the hands of the Castro regime. 

Luis buried his grief in his great love of music.  He began playing the violin so brilliantly and so beautifully.  Soon the regime saw his incredible gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes.  When he was 12, they organized a national television special and demanded he play a solo for Raul Castro  -- who by the way is leaving now.  I wonder why.

They sent an official to fetch Luis from his home.  But Luis refused to go.  And a few days later, Castro’s soldiers barged into his orchestra practice area, guns blazing.  They told him to play for them.  Terrified, Luis began to play.  And the entire room was stunned by what they heard.  Ringing out from the trembling boy’s violin was a tune they all recognized.  This young Cuban boy was playing “The Star Spangled Banner.”  (Applause.)  Luis played the American National Anthem all the way through, and when he finished, the room was dead silent. 

When we say that America stands as a symbol to the world -- a symbol of freedom, and a symbol of hope -- that is what Luis meant, and that is what Luis displayed that day.  It was a big day.  It was a great day.  And that is what we will all remain. That was a very important moment, just like this is now, for Cuba.  A very important moment.  (Applause.)  America will always stand for liberty, and America will always pray and cheer for the freedom of the Cuban people.

Now, that little boy, whose story I just told you, the one who played that violin so beautifully so many years ago, is here with us today in our very, very packed and extremely warm auditorium.  (Laughter.)  Of course, he is no longer a little boy, but a world-renowned violinist and conductor -- one of the greats.  And today he will once again play his violin and fill the hearts of all who love and cherish Cuba, the United States, and freedom.  (Applause.)

I would like to now invite Luis to the stage.  

Luis.  (Applause.)

(Luis Haza plays The Star-Spangled Banner on the violin.)

AUDIENCE:  USA! USA! USA!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Luis.  I just said, so where were you more nervous?  Today or then?  He said, honestly, I think today.  That's pretty -- (laughter.)  Thank you, Luis, that was beautiful.

So I want to thank Miami.  I want to thank Little Havana.  Havana, we love.  Do we love it?  Would you move anywhere else?  You wouldn't move to Palm Beach, would you?  No.  No way.  Little Havana.

And I want to thank all of our great friends here today.  You've been amazing, loyal, beautiful people.  

No one on the TV networks noted the irony of a President committed to defunding all the arts in America praising a violinist who owes his fame and career to a state-funded arts education scheme.


The event over, recordings of Sousa marches were played. It was the perfect Rough Rider touch to close the restoration of a loving, tough but fair, protectorate for the future.

The Vice President- whose fawning introduction of his boss merited a separate speech listing on The White House's website- jetted off to Indianapolis. He is the first sitting vice president to establish a political action committee three and a half years ahead of running for president.

But one of the nice things about a PAC is, you can also use the limitless funds it can generate for stuff like legal bills. And Mr Pence has a new dependent: a $1500/hr criminal defense lawyer.

It was, in every respect, a day for the history books.

As the President noted,
Actually, I was telling Mike, so it was two days -- on my birthday -- until a big day, which turned out to be tomorrow -- the 16th.  That was the day I came down with Melania on the escalator at Trump Tower.  That's tomorrow.  (Applause.)  So it's exactly tomorrow -- two years since we announced.  And it worked out okay.  Worked out okay. 
 (Applause.)  It's a great honor.  Believe me, it's a great honor.  Right? 
AUDIENCE:  (Sings Happy Birthday.) 
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.
It was also the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.

No one said a word about Elian Gonzalez's re-liberation, nor why the blood-drenched rulers of Saudi Arabia as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross warbled about not seeing a single protestor in that peaceful and well-ruled state. Obey the Orb.

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