The Castro brothers haven’t survived in power without being canny politicians as well as ruthless tyrants. And they have President Barack Obama pegged: they know that his ego trumps all other priorities, and are willing to flatter him to win concessions. Raúl Castro used his country’s debut at the Summit of the Americas to deliver an hour-long rant against the U.S. role in the region–then excused Obama: “I apologize to him because President Obama had no responsibility for this.”
Castro’s excuse for Obama neatly paralleled Obama’s own repeated rhetoric. In 2009, he bristled after an anti-American diatribe by Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, saying he was not interested a Cuba policy created “before I was born.” He said the same in 2012, complaining that “sometimes those controversies date back to before I was born.”
On Saturday, he repeated the same statement about policy towards Cuba: “I’m not interested in having battles that frankly started before I was born.”
Obama seems not to realize just how offensive, how egomaniacal, those statements sound. He was not elected to represent himself, but to represent the entire U.S. He does not have the option of spurning his predecessors, sloughing off decades of history–or inventing facts, such as the idea that Cuba no longer supports terror. Nor does Obama have the moral authority to abandon victims of the Castro regime’s human rights abuses.
His is a fruitless policy of appeasement: the Castro regime has not stopped persecuting dissidents, and is demanding even more concessions. They are getting them, by flattering Obama.
Obama admonished on Saturday: “The Cold War has been over for a long time.” That same attitude led to disaster in Ukraine, against a Russian regime very much prepared to play by Cold War rules. Yet Obama believes he can make a separate peace. His actions should be disregarded, as the vanity of a lame-duck, failing president. They bind no one.