WASHINGTON – Christmas surprises: President Obama is super-clever. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is less so.
Obama’s decision to extend diplomatic recognition to Cuba sent super-patriot Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., howling into the streets. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, weighing a bid to be the GOP presidential nominee, also shot from the hip and whined about it. Right-wing hate radio screamed Obama was lying down with dictators who opposed free elections and imprisoned their enemies.
These conservatives are oblivious to the ugly truth that business envoys from two fearsome dictatorships have denuded much of industrial America, upstate New York in particular, of their industrial base.
These are the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China. They run massive prisons. They stifle freedom. With the help of corporate America and their lobbyists who proliferate here, these two countries have ripped away our industries by cheating on their currency and treating their working people little better than slaves.
If any ask where the American dream went, it was moved to those two harsh regimes. More than 55,000 American GIs died fighting communists in Vietnam. About 36,000 Americans died fighting the Chinese and North Korean communists. Yet diplomatic relations were restored to China and Vietnam decades ago, seamlessly.
With Cuba, both sides can be blamed. American gangsters considered the Cuban entertainment business to be their fiefdom. Author William W. Turner, my cousin, wrote the CIA hatched a plot to murder dictator Fidel Castro, with the aid of the Miami mafia during the Eisenhower administration. Another writer, Patrick Sloyan, said JFK gladly inherited the scheme and moved its coordinators into the West Wing of the White House, bringing the Chicago branch of La Cosa Nostra into play.
After JFK’s aborted Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis, our relations froze, with all the players either now dead or mumbling into their beards.
The Cuban move, assisted by the protean Pope Francis, is a win-win for Obama and the Democrats. The incoming Senate GOP majority will have to approve an Obama nominee for ambassador or they will look like fools.
There is no lasting downside for Obama on this. If things sour, he can withdraw the ambassador. A Zogby Analytics poll shows most voters are sick of the standoff, favoring diplomatic relations 2-to-1.
Cuomo’s post-election ban on hydrofracking for natural gas and oil is widely praised. I think he could have done it better. He claimed it was the decision of his appointees, the commissioners of health and environment. The decision is clearly his. The ban is so total that he cannot withdraw it, or modify it during his term of service. This means that Cuomo, who did not poll well in upstate counties in a very low turnout, is politically stuck with it. It will be a monkey on the backs of Legislature Democrats.
Even after four years of study, the ban is subject to criticism because it is not based on a thorough scientific study. E.J. McMahon of the conservative blog NYTorch said Cuomo dealt “a huge body blow to the fragile and declining economy” of the Elmira-Binghamton Southern Tier, and harmed the business environments of Syracuse, Rochester and Utica. The state’s own environmental statement predicted more than 55,000 new jobs from fracking.
On the other hand, the extraction industry couldn’t have wanted it very badly. It offered no deal for mining rights with prepaid perpetual “save harmless” insurance against environmental damage even on an experimental basis, like a highway contractor’s performance bond. When prices on gas and oil rebound, the issue will be back with a vengeance.