It has sometimes been unclear to me whether Obama is an amazing poker player or a really bad one--there's evidence both ways--but the more I think about his play on Cuba, the more of an absolute masterpiece it seems, at every level. In a single (and almost unforeseen) blow, he:
- Brought Cuba out from under the old wing of Russia and the new wing of Venezuela, thus hugely strengthening our position and weakening theirs throughout the Caribbean.
- Saw to it that Cuba could save face (and answer to their own) through the spy exchange.
- Cleaned up one of the few remaining big-ticket Cold War messes.
- Bought goodwill and gained in influence throughout Latin America (including in Venezuela itself, to judge from the noises Maduro is now making) at a crucial time, right before the Summit of the Americas to which Cuba had already (for the first time in history, and over US protests) been invited.
- Wrong-footed the opposition at home, showing their resistance to such a move to be exactly as ridiculous (and vindictive) as it has been been for decades now, and weakening the hand of two of their leading candidates for 2016.
- Drained nearly all of the (absurdly outsized) power the embargo issue (and thus a tiny Floridian minority) had to warp Presidential campaign politics.
This isn't to say everything's rainbows and puppies now--the Castro regime has plenty of nasty to answer for, and I hope they'll be held to account. And obviously, Obama didn't do it alone--bringing in the Pope was its own little stroke of genius for all kinds of reasons--and it was only possible because the Venezuelan and Russian economies imploded at exactly the same time. But Obama saw the opportunity and ran with it in spite of the risks. You want legacy? I got your legacy right here.
Hats off, Sir. That was one hell of a hand.
December 21, 2014, 5:14 a.m.Category: Politics