Tag Archives: Bay of Pigs

U.S. ‘President Castro’ might be in the making

I cannot stop wondering: Is the United States ready to elect a president with the name “Castro”?

Julian Castro has just announced his 2020 presidential campaign effort. He wants to succeed Donald J. Trump.

He is a former San Antonio mayor and one-time housing secretary during the Obama administration. Castro is a dedicated Democrat and a fine young man. He even has an identical twin brother, Joaquin, serving in the U.S. House from Texas.

That’s out of the way.

What about the “Castro” thing?

The United States long ago declared the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to be one of this nation’s top foreign enemies. It imposed an economic embargo on the island nation just off the Florida coast. We had no diplomatic relations since shortly after the communists took power in Havana in 1959, but we did restore relations with Cuba near the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

But the memories are still long. We had that Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which followed the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year. The Soviets sought to install offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. The CIA sought to remove Fidel Castro from power, so it landed those fighters at the Bay of Pigs.

Now an American politician with the name of “Castro” wants to become the next commander in chief.

It almost defies the imagination to think that we could elect someone who carries such a name. Then again, we did elect and re-elect a president who has the middle name of “Hussein.”

I suppose anything is possible.

Reaction to Trump tweet brings back other memories

Donald Trump’s tweet about who he believes deserves blame for the deaths of two children on the southern border who happened to be in U.S. custody has brought its share of scorn from critics.

He wrote: Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!” 

The critics suggest that Trump’s cowardly tendencies compel him to blame others for his own failures.

I am reminded of another president, the late George H.W. Bush.

The 41st president didn’t like taking credit for his successes. He was unafraid to accept responsibility for the times he fell short, such as when he lost his bid for re-election in 1992. He said the blame for his loss fell solely and wholly on his shoulders.

I recall a statement he made during a TV interview with his granddaughter, Jenna Hager. She asked him about his “legacy.” He demurred. The former president said he didn’t want to comment on any legacy. He preferred to let others talk about “our success” and when “I fell short.”

Please take note of how he used the “we” when discussing the good things, and the “I” when referencing the other stuff.

That is the mark of a leader. Or, as President Kennedy reminded us after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, when the CIA-led incursion into Cuba failed in its effort to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime: “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

Yep, Trump isn’t your ‘normal’ president

Donald J. Trump more or less vowed to be an unconventional president while he campaigned for the office. Man, he’s made good on that one, eh?

Consider what he said after the failure of the Republican caucus in the Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I won’t own” the failure, he said. He wants to let the ACA fail and then he’ll swoop in to clean up the mess — assuming, of course, that it even happens.

How disgraceful.

President Truman famously had that sign on his Oval Office desk: “The Buck Stops Here.” President Kennedy told us after the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 that “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”; he took the hickey for the invasion’s failure. President Reagan admitted to making a mistake during the Iran-Contra controversy, that he didn’t believe “in my heart” that he was trading arms to a hostile nation; he “owned” it eventually.

The current president? He’s not standing by the stumble-bum effort in Congress to enact this legislation. Republicans had seven years to come up with an alternative to the ACA, which they despise largely — or so it seems — because it has Barack H. Obama’s name on it. They call it “Obamacare” as a term of derision.

They blew it. As head of the Republican Party, so did the president. He owns this mistake, whether he cares to admit it or not.

Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Reagan all knew how to stand behind their failures. They all understood that the terms of the office they required them to do so.

Aw, but what the hell. They were just your normal run-of-the-mill politicians who played by the rules. The current president doesn’t operate under the same precept of full accountability.

The buck still stops in the Oval Office … doesn’t it?

There once was a time when presidents of the United States took the heat when things went badly.

President Harry Truman had that sign on his Oval Office desk that declared “The Buck Stops Here.” He knew, for example, that his firing of Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur from his command post in Korea would be political dynamite at home. But he did so anyway as a statement of support of civilian authority over the military.

President John F. Kennedy fell on his grenade in 1961 when the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba — which sought to overthrow Fidel Castro  — went badly. He told us that “Victory has a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan.” He took responsibility for the failure of the mission.

Other presidents have assumed responsibility for missteps, mishaps and outright tragedy.

The current president is not wired that way. Donald John Trump’s first and last instinct is to blame others.

The commando raid in Yemen in which a brave Navy SEAL died was the fault of the “generals” who put the mission together, Trump said.

Then came the failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump is not taking a lick of responsibility for the failure to cobble together a political alliance that would institute something called the American Health Care Act.

Oh, no! He said first it was the fault of Democrats who didn’t sign on at all with the AHCA. Then it became the fault of the conservative Freedom Caucus of the House GOP. After that, the president tossed a barb at Republican moderates who hated the AHCA as well.

Where, oh where is the president’s responsibility?

Leaders step up when matters go awry, just as they bask in the reflected glory when matters go well. They take the bad along with the good.

If only the current president could actually lead. He simply cannot fulfill a basic tenet of the office he occupies.

Presidents Truman and Kennedy are spinning in their graves.

In Trump World: Buck stops … somewhere else

Commanders in chief are supposed to know a fundamental truth about sitting atop a large and complex military chain of command.

They are allowed to take some of the credit for success, but they also must take responsibility when missions don’t go according to plan.

Donald J. Trump signed off on a mission to kill or capture some top al-Qaeda leaders, to collect some intelligence on the terror network and, presumably, to return all the men assigned to carry out the mission back home.

The mission that occurred in Yemen in late January. A Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens died in the fire fight. A state-of-the-art Osprey V-22 tiltrotor aircraft was lost. Some al-Qaeda leaders died in the battle. So did some civilians, including at least one child.

Military and national security officials are still trying to assess the value of the intelligence collected. We keep hearing conflicting assessments. The president, of course, says it is of high value.

But the current commander in chief has done something that is quite extraordinary — and inexcusable. He is laying the blame for Petty Officer Owens’ death on the military planners. “They” lost the SEAL, Trump has said.

Wait a flippin’ minute, Mr. President! The buck is supposed to stop at your desk. One of your predecessors, President Truman, famously posted the sign on his Oval Office desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” President Kennedy once declared that “victory has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan” after the failed Bay of Pigs operation shortly after he became president.

Trump’s response? He has declared that the planning for the Yemen raid was done by President Obama’s national security team. They crafted the plan that failed, Trump has implied. It’s their fault, too!

This is not what commanders in chief do. Under any other circumstance, presidents stand up and take the heat when things go badly. They do not blame others — namely the military brass or their predecessors. JFK’s failed mission in Cuba was actually conceived by his predecessor, President Eisenhower, but the new guy took the hickey, accepted full responsibility for the mission’s failure.

A military man who just a few years later would become commander in chief himself, devised a strategy to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower — supreme commander of Allied Forces — launched the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France in June 1944. The mission succeeded, Europe would be liberated.

But Ike had written an alternative announcement he would have read over the radio had the mission failed. In the message that was never broadcast, he took full responsibility for its failure.

That is what leaders do.

I am not going to wander into the muck over whether the Yemen raid was a success or failure. The president’s assertion that the generals were to blame for the death of a brave young SEAL suggests to me that he has doubts about the mission’s overall success.

Whatever the case, the event occurred on the commander in chief’s watch and it is that person — no one else — who should be held fully accountable.

Let’s avoid righteous rebuke of Russians


I feel the need to stipulate a couple of things that might seem to contradict each other.

First, I shudder at the notion that Russian computer geeks hacked into our vast cyber network to seek to influence the outcome of the 2016 president election. It galls me in the extreme to believe that Russians might have engineered the election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States.

Second, it’s time we put all of this into some historical context, which is that the United States of America isn’t squeaky clean in this regard. Far from it. Indeed, we’ve interfered as well with other countries’ political processes.

Some examples come to mind:

* 1963: South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated in a coup with backing by U.S. diplomats.

* 1961: U.S.-trained troops stormed ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro. The invasion failed, the invaders either were killed or captured. President Kennedy took full responsibility for the failure.

* 1973: CIA-led insurgents managed to overthrow the government of Marxist Chilean President Salvadore Allende.

* 2003: U.S. troops invaded Iraq with the expressed purpose of “regime change” in Baghdad. They drove Saddam Hussein from power, then found him hiding in that “spider hole.” Saddam was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and was hanged.

The anger at the Russians’ interference with U.S. political processes is taking on the air of righteous indignation that we would do well to rein in. The United States of America has gotten involved, too, in other nations’ internal affairs.

Anti-Cuba lobby still flexes its muscle


The anti-Castro/Cuba lobby in the United States has been outsized for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps we are witnessing this week the latest manifestation of that muscle-flexing as President Obama tours the tiny island nation and gets skewered by those on the right for doing what many others of us think is the right thing.

Which is to normalize relations  with the communist regime.

It’s a curious thing to watch the head of state of the world’s most powerful nation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of a dirt-poor Third World state. Then to have that tinhorn lecture the leader of the Free World about whether the United States should keep possession of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay gives the Cubans a dubious and overstated standing — and then to have critics pounce on Obama for taking it!

To what do we owe this strange juxtaposition?

I believe it’s the power of that Cuban-American community that resides mostly in Florida.

The community had its birth in the late 1950s when Cubans fled their nation that had been taken over by Fidel Castro and his gang of communists. They took up residence in Florida and began immediately pressuring the U.S. government to do more to destroy Castro.

President Eisenhower heard them. He formulated plans to invade Cuba and then handed the keys to the Oval Office over to President Kennedy in January 1961, who then launched the Bay of Pigs invasion.

It didn’t turn out well for our side. The Cubans squashed the small force, took prisoners and then crowed about how the big, bad U.S. government was intent on destroying them.

Then we had that missile crisis in 1962. JFK took care of it by blockading the island, forcing the Soviet Union to “blink” and remove the offensive missiles.

By 1991, the Evil Empire had vaporized. Cuba was left without its major benefactor.

Still, five decades after the revolution, Cuba has remained a communist dictatorship. Fidel Castro handed the power over to his brother, Raul, who welcomed President Barack Obama to his nation.

Is Cuba a nation to be feared? Do we tremble at the thought of normalizing relations with this tiny nation? No. Why should we? We’re the big kids on the block. Heck, we’re the biggest kids on the planet!

Our politicians, though, have been told to fear Cubans by that overblown Cuban-American community.

So here we are. The president of the United States is making history simply by visiting an island nation that sits within spittin’ distance of our southeastern-most state.

Sure, the Cubans must do more to improve human rights on their island. The president should tell them so.

I don’t know why we should sweat so much over whether Raul Castro listens to us. He and that backwater government he runs can’t do us any harm.

My own sense is that normalization of relations with Cuba by itself is going to do more to bring reform to a nation that needs it in the worst way. Soon enough, the Cubans will see what the rest of the world really looks like.

They also are likely to see how their giant neighbor just over the horizon relishes the fruits of liberty.

Then they might start demanding it from their leaders.