ACTUALLY, CASTRO WON OUT

1. It’s Tuesday, November 29, 2016.

2. A lot of smart journalists point out that Trump likes the distraction method of dodging controversies.

Today’s case in point: When The Wall Street Journal put out a story about the massive loans from foreign and domestic banks given to son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s misdirection play was flag burning. 

This morning, he not only tweeted how terrible burning the flag is, but suggested that the penalty for doing so could be loss of citizenship.

Up until now, the Constitution of the United States has banned the loss of citizenship for native citizens; unlike the Russia of Trump’s buddy, Putin, we don’t do exiling here. Yet. 

Now, whenever this furor rises on the right, you have to ask the question: Is there some sort of hidden epidemic of flag burning across the land? Is there anything stupider to protest something than burning the American flag?

But instead of discussing something off-topic like flag burning when we get bored -something unlikely between now and 2020 – Trump tries to distract us with a phony flag-burning crisis.

3. Why would Trump bring up flag burning today?

Well, it could be because there’s another big story about the financial entanglements of this pillbug, his spawn and anyone who embraces them. And how better to take attention from the real story with a agita-inducing discussion of something else inflammatory – literally and figuratively.

This is what he did with the “Hamilton” flap a couple of weeks back. The fact that he paid $25 million to settle the fraud claims against his Trump University got short shrift next to the president-elect’s irritation with the booing and lecturing of his running mate at the theater.

4. It’s how he rolls. It shouldn’t be how we roll.

According to the Journal, Jared Kushner’s real estate company has hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from financial institutions, sells condominiums to buyers in the United States and  abroad, and is part of a program that helps wealthy overseas investors get green cards to emigrate to this country.

The paper quotes a Kushner spokeswoman as saying he’ll resolve all conflicts if, as expected, he’s given a position of responsibility in the new administration.

But shouldn’t he have done that by now? Trump is making decisions about government positions and policies, and he and his family are doing so knowing full well that they could stand to benefit financially from those decisions.

That’s what the flag burning’s about. Let’s keep our eye on the prize.

5. It’s hard for any reasonable American to get choked up about the death of Fidel Castro.

But Cuba’s a complicated issue, which makes it hard to get as excited about it as those who celebrated in the streets of Miami early Sunday.

Here’s why those people in Miami were happy: Castro was vicious. He killed his enemies. He destroyed families. He repressed his people.

His policies were to the benefit, the enrichment of his family. In that way, he was no better than his corrupt predecessor, Fulgencio Batista, who Castro overthrew in the revolution of 1959.

And, because the United States wasn’t on his side, he did everything he could to screw us over. The Mariel boatlift in 1980 was aimed at dumping more than 100,000 people – some of them criminals and the mentally ill – in the U.S. And, before that, he help bring the world the closest it’s been – until now – to nuclear war when he let the Soviets put missiles just 90 miles from Key West.

The reason many of those celebrating were in Miami in the first place was to flee Castro’s dictatorship. So their joy is understandable.

6. Here’s the problem: Castro died at age 90.

He survived numerous attempts to kill him launched by the United States government, organized crime and whoever else. He managed to keep power despite the U.S. economic embargo, partly because he kept people happy with free health care and improvements in the nation’s literacy.

He was going to die someday. Making it to 90 is pretty good. He wasn’t around to see all the celebrations, partly because – like him or not – he had the last laugh.

Now, his brother and the current Cuban president, Raul, is stuck. Not only did his brother leave him with this somewhat troubled country. But now, the guy who might have been able to help him untangle the mess – President Obama – is headed out of the White House.

And the jerk who’s taking over is listening, for now, to the bitter-enders who think the economic embargo – the most unsuccessful U.S. nonmilitary foreign policy ever! – should continue.

Obama’s logic was that if something doesn’t work for more than 50 years, maybe you should try something else. But Trump is indicating he’ll go a different way unless there’s some kind of deal ( the world might have spared the coming debacle if only Trump had gotten picked from the audience by Monty Hall on “Let’s Make a Deal”).

That deal could very well be the one he wanted to make when it was illegal to do so – build a Trump property in Havana. Raul Castro might want to think about that. Right now, he’s got to ride herd on a deprived country that might just want to join the rest of the world’s consumers.

But Castro’s death is a reminder that good doesn’t always triumph over evil. Yes, he’s dead. But he died undefeated and peacefully in his own bed. Unfortunately, there are tyrants who get to say that.

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