Tag Archive: Cuba

Cory Booker, here’s what I expect of you on Iran

Cory BookerHuffPo runs down the 15 wobbly Democrats who could make or break Pres. Obama’s signature piece of diplomacy, the nuclear agreement with Iran. Listing Cory Booker, they cite a tweet from ally Rev. Al Sharpton, reminding Booker that posting nice quotes about war and poverty is inconsistent with a vote that might pull us back into battle. Today, NJ.com says Booker’s caught between Obama and the pro-Israel lobby that gave him more money for his 2014 election than they gave anybody else in Congress.

Not every pro-Dem Jewish group lobbying Booker is anti-deal (shout out to pro-Israel pro-peace J Street and NJDC). But neither has the power and reach of AIPAC, to which both my disappointing congressman Leonard Lance and Sen. Bob Menendez adhere. Menendez has lost me; his hard-line stance on Cuba (where today our American embassy opened) and war hawk views on Iran are troubling, especially for a guy who was senior Dem at Senate Foreign Relations till this mess forced a demotion.

But back to Booker. I don’t always agree with him (except on vegetarianism, holla!). But on this, I expect two things from him:

(1)  I expect Cory Booker to respect and support diplomacy – particularly when the alternative is likely war. I expect Cory to run for president himself one day and believe he can be elected. And if high-stakes diplomatic negotiations under a Booker administration have been conducted with the diligence and intelligence that the President and Secy of State Kerry have shown here, I believe a President Booker would expect and deserve support from senators in the position he is in now. Doubt me? Look how much Hillary Clinton’s Iraq War cheerleading is costing her right now with ‘her’ base, voting to authorize the war machine of George W. Bush, a president unlike Obama and one who cared little for diplomacy or even facts.

(2)  I expect Booker to decide what is right for this country’s interests – and no other. And even in the face of close friends like Schmuley Boteach, whose next book is titled The Israel Warrior’s Handbook. The celebrity rabbi is anti-deal, thinks Obama suffers from naiveté about the Iranians and likes to tell religious scare stories about them. That’s fine but he’s not the one who has the responsibility of a vote in the U.S. Congress. Boteach just published a heavy-handed piece in The Observer recounting yet again his personal history with Booker, even as he assures Jewish audiences that Cory would “never vote against Israel” or it’s “game over”. You know, considering all the friendship.

Boteach seems to be suggesting that the Obama administration give cover to Booker, with a pre-arranged face-saving vote against the deal. Unclear if such a thing is even possible given the numbers. I do believe this vote is career-defining. And I wish Senator Booker my best.


Menendez Slams Obama Over Possible Diplomatic Normalization With Cuba

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It looks like there is a push to end the 50 year embargo against the island nation of Cuba and to normalize diplomatic relations, and that President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro are on board.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is of Cuban ancestry and has long opposed such a move, and he vehemently opposes the decision to start talks with Cuba.

“Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” Menendez said in a statement. “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”

He added: “Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. … This asymmetrical trade will invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement and the hardening of the government’s dictatorial hold on its people.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), an ally of Menendez on this in the past. is also unsupportive.

“This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba. But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

It’ll be interesting to see what Senator Cory Booker has to say on the issue, and if it’ll cause a rift in the delegation.

Right Wing Media Outlet Used by Communist Country to Smear Menendez

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Imagine if we saw this come across the wires:

The bombshell report in The American Prospect that Senator Ted Cruz had visited prostitutes while on vacation in central America turns out to have been planted by Cuban propagandists to discredit the Texan.  

A CIA report indicates that the liberal magazine was used by the communist regime to discredit the one-term Republican Senator during his reelection campaign.

Movers and Shakers talks with Menendez

In the June issue of PoliticMagazine.com, they have an interview in the Movers and Shakers column with Senator Bob Menendez. In the interview, they ask the Senator to handicap the 2010 races touching on the PA US Senate race where the Senator says:

As President Obama and Sen. Reid have said, we’re very confident that Arlen Specter can do very well in the Democratic universe and do exceptionally well in the general election universe. Rep. Sestak has an excellent background and he has every right to consider the race. I think he’s looking at it and making his own decisions. He’s got a great position in the House, and he is developing seniority there, and he’ll have to make those considerations at the end of the day.

In fact, Congressman Sestak has declared his intentions to run and now it remains to be seen whether the party will try to prevent people from supporting his effort. He talked about lessons learned and about trying to take more of a long range approach rather than focusing on the short two year term:

I’ve been talking about creating some longer term institutional opportunities so that when we reach out to young professionals – the ones who were engaged by Obama – they aren’t going to be the $30,400 giver, but they can be the $5,000 giver. And if you get enough $5,000 givers, you start adding up to some real money. More importantly, you get them engaged in the process, and then we turn them into givers to the party and also contributors back in state in terms of engagement with our candidates.

They also turned to Menendez’s Cuba position and where it conflicts with the intentions of the Obama Administration:

I applaud the president on the family reunification efforts as I have said. I disagree with some of the other provisions, particularly doing them unilaterally. For example, there’s no place in the world that you send money to your family and it costs you more than 3 or 5 percent to do so. If you send money to family in Cuba, the regime takes 30 percent. So it seems to me that instead of unlimited remittances, we could have done something that allowed remittances to take place if [Cuba is] willing to lower the usurious rate charged to Cuban Americans. That’s our disagreement – a little bit more of the how versus the what.

On the Cuba front, the latest flare up that has the Senator threatening to withold funds centers around whether Cuba should be allowed to join the Organization of American States (OAS).

Overall, the Senator really seems to try and manage expectations for 2010 talking about where they stand and what they plan to do. The article is a good read.

Menendez ready to “duke it out” over Cuba policy

While momentum grows for relaxing our Cuba policy including discussions over potentially lifting the travel ban, Senator Menendez remains in the middle of things:

The son of Cuban immigrants, Menendez has risked the goodwill of the White House and his standing within the party to press the continuation of sanctions and travel restrictions against Havana’s totalitarian regime. He riled many of his colleagues this month by blocking two of Obama’s science nominees and by holding up the 2009 spending measure to protest the Cuba provisions it included.

The bill to be unveiled tomorrow in the Senate goes well beyond the measure Menendez just protested by removing legal barriers to all travel to Cuba, as opposed to just family-related visits.

Reacting to the blowback over his strong stand on the issue, Menendez said this:

“Anyone who knows me knows my views are both heartfelt and principled,” Menendez responded. “It should be of no surprise to anyone that I have used political capital in my many years in the House and the Senate on this issue.”

Senator Menendez said he would continue to use every available tool to preserve U.S. sanctions until political conditions change in Cuba, although he attributed much of his earlier ire to the fact that the provision had been inserted with no notice into an unrelated bill.

“If you want to change Cuba policy, fine, let’s duke it out.” “Let’s duke it out on the floor and let’s have our debate and let’s have our amendments. Let’s know who’s for democracy and human rights and who wants to sell their stuff no matter how many people are in prison. That’s fine. At least it will be an honest discussion.”

But then there is the campaign politics of the issue for Menendez too:

Fellow Democrats were surprised by the force of his defiant, public opposition to a provision that enjoys broad support in the party. Menendez also serves as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a coveted leadership post that demands a degree of party loyalty.

Some liberal donors protested doing business with a man they thought was taking an outdated stance, and some of Menendez’s fellow senators questioned whether they had picked the wrong person for the DSCC job. Dodd, for instance, is a top GOP target in 2010. He has called U.S.-Cuba policy “an abject failure.” Some Democrats have wondered privately how hard Menendez would work to defend his colleague.

That will be a fine line for the Senator to walk.  I don’t think the Cuba policy has been effective and am not a fan of seeing things held up in order to maintain that.  I understand he wants to use his political capital, but I’m sure people could come up with a few other suggestions.  What do you think of the Senator’s Cuba position and his use of political capital?

Is Senator Menendez holding Obama science appointees hostage over Cuba policy?

According to the Washington Post, Senator Bob Menendez has placed an anonymous hold on two Obama appointees: Harvard physicist John Holdren and Oregon State marine biologist and Jane Lubchenco. Holdren is Obama’s pick to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology, while Lubchenco would lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admninistration (NOAA). The Post’s sources say that Menendez has objection to these nominees, and that he is holding them up in order to garner concessions on Cuba policy from Senate leaders. Menedez’s office has declined comment, stating their policy “not to speculate or comment on anonymous holds or rumors of anonymous holds, across the board.”

If the Post has its facts right, Menendez’s tactics are unacceptable and disappointing. The Senator should release his hold immediately so that these appointees can get to work cleaning up the mess left by the Bush administration as soon as possible.

Update: Menendez objects to a provision in the omnibus spending bill that would loosen restrictions on trade and visits to the island nation. His remarks on the senate floor (see video below) are eloquent and heartfelt, but they still do not justify holding up key scientific appointees who have nothing to do with Cuba or Cuba policy.

Menendez on Castro Resignation

Senator Menendez [press release]:

“This is not the cause for celebration that some would believe. This does not represent the replacement of totalitarianism with democracy – instead, it is the replacement of one dictator with another. In essence, today’s action makes official what has been in place for a while now, with Raul continuing to lead the same iron-fisted regime that his brother brought to power almost 50 years ago. Just because the dictator is now named Raul instead of Fidel, it doesn’t mean that the regime’s repressive rule will automatically change.

“What this move does perhaps present is a moment of hope. Raul does not have the same relationship with the Cuban people as Fidel, and now is the time to challenge him. Cubans who have been clamoring for change may see this as the opportunity to peacefully protest and make their aspirations known. The recent activism of Cuban youth wearing white “Cambio” bracelets is a reflection of that desire for change. Here in the United States, it is a time to further nurture the human rights activists, political dissidents and independent-minded journalists inside of Cuba who have the capability to stoke the movement toward freedom.”

Steve Clemons takes on Clinton & Menendez over Cuba

Foreign policy wonk and The Washington Note publisher Steve Clemons has some stern words for Hillary Clinton over “her support of a backwards, counterproductive embargo against Cuba,” saying it is “the price” of Senator Menendez’s endorsement. Here’s part of it:

Why isn’t Hillary blowing that policy out of the water?! Tell me, please, that Senator Robert Menendez is not asking for the perpetuation of what is really an anti-Cuban-American policy that perpetuates the interestes of Venezuela, China, Israel, Europe, and just about everyone else but us in Cuba.

What do you think?

Bergen County and The 78th Birthday Celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

While I would love to adopt the honorable 37th District, I am afraid I am just beginning to get a sense of New Jersey politics. What I will try to do from time to time is give a brief synopsis of events that I attend or comment on Englewood, District 37 and/or Bergen County. Through my work/job in Englewood I am slowly learning, painfully at times. But at the very least it is a worthwhile education. A life experience.

Tonight I attended the 78th Birthday Celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The program was hosted by The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday Observance Committee of Bergen County. The event was held at SMA Fathers (Society of African Missions) in Tenafly. The theme of the program was “Coming Together to Make the Dream a Reality” and the Keynote Speaker was the Reverend Lucius Walker.