Responding to Castro’s Death, Statements From Obama and Trump Couldn’t Be More Different


trump-obamaThe big news of the day is the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro. As one would expect, we were provided official statements from those in political power. Of course, the statements we were most interested in were those of the sitting president, Barack Obama, and the incoming one, Donald Trump.

And just as you’d imagine, being that the two men couldn’t be any more different from each other, their remarks on the passing of a man who was seen as a brutal dictator who oppressively ruled his country for decades varied widely.

For Trump, he first took to Twitter to seemingly celebrate the passing of Castro, simply stating “Fidel Castro is dead!” He then followed that up with a three-paragraph statement that described the atrocities Castro committed on his people, such as firing squads and poverty, while stating that Castro’s death will hopefully lead to a “journey toward prosperity and liberty.”

(It should be noted that Fidel Castro resigned and his brother succeeded him in 2008.)

All in all, Trump’s comments were to portray Castro as someone whose death should be seen with joy and that only in death could there be a path forward when it comes to a free Cuba. During his campaign, Trump had promised to roll back many of the executive actions Obama had passed in an effort to normalize and open up our relationship with Cuba.

Meanwhile, Obama’s statement was more nuanced, taking a tone of understanding over the grief some Cuban people may be feeling and offering condolences to Castro’s family. Below is the release from the White House:

At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

While Trump’s entire statement was about the brutality of Castro’s regime, Obama made very little reference at all in his remarks. Obama’s comments seemed to be all about continuing the engagement that his executive orders have helped bring on with the relaxing of trade restrictions.

This statement reads more like someone who is trying his hardest to save a portion of his legacy — the opening up of Cuba — than acknowledging the facts of Castro’s life and actions. This is understandable, to a degree. But it also opens up the President to criticism for being wishy-washy and overly political. Beyond that, it also presents an opportunity for his loudest critics to claim he is a Communist sympathizer.

But more than anything, these two disparate statements reveal the sea change we’re going to see in how our executive branch is going to react to world-changing events. Gone will be the carefully worded, politically cautious, painstakingly vetted public responses and in will come the brash, off-the-cuff, potentially dangerous and politically damaging reactions to international occurrences.

This will create a jolt not only for us Americans, but for the world at large. Whether this will be a net positive or negative remains to be seen, but let’s not kid ourselves — this will be felt the world over when it is done.

[image via screengrab]

Follow Justin Baragona on Twitter: @justinbaragona

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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