Imagine an exalted academic, author and Washington political advisor spouting -- and for public consumption -- any of the following phrases: "Those truly repellent New York Jews!”; or “Those truly repellent Detroit Negroes!"; or "Those truly repellent Los Angeles Mexicans!" Imagine the media hullabaloo, the affected frowns, the finger pointing, the gasps. Trent Lott, Earl Butz, Jimmy The Greek and John Rocker all caught hell for less. Would a "Professor Emeritus" at prestigious Georgetown University utter such insensitive blasphemies in a media interview?
It turns out that he has. He is the eminent professor Norman Birnbaum. With a doctorate from Harvard, Birnbaum boasts impressive credentials. Besides his Georgetown gig, Dr. Birnbaum has professed his wisdom and erudition as a visiting scholar at Oxford, The London School of Economics, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and the Universities of both Frankfurt and Bologna. His scolding of American society and his prescriptions for its betterment have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to The Nation, on whose board he sits. He has also served as advisor to The National Security Council, to numerous Democratic Congressional candidates, and even to three presidential aspirants.
Last week, however, Birnbaum came off sounding less than professional. During an interview with a Green Party Candidate for the Maryland Senate, Kevin Zeese, Dr. Birnbaum referred to an American ethnic group as "truly repellent." Among other media outlets, the interview has run on Al Jazeera -- though one has yet to hear a peep of protest from the usual bloodhounds and watchdogs in these matters.
"Those truly repellent Miami Cubans," was Birnbaum's exact phrase, and now you understand the discrepancy. Now you comprehend the utter silence from the professional sniffers of “ethnic sensitivity." Now the insensitivity of the usually ultra-sensitive -- from Abe Foxman to Jesse Jackson, from Ted Kennedy to Nancy Pelosi, from CNN to Univision -- becomes clear. Unsurprisingly, Birnbaum was an advisor to the presidential campaign of John "Bay of Pigs Betrayal" Kennedy, Jimmy "The Cuban embargo is the stupidest law ever passed in the U.S." Carter, and Jesse "Fidel Castro is the most honest and courageous politician I've ever met! Viva Fidel!" Jackson.
Birnbaum’s remarks are not entirely regrettable. Indeed, U.S. political discourse would be greatly enlivened by more such talk. The Europeans are much saltier than us in their political dueling and haggling and so their campaigns are much more entertaining as a spectator sport. Benito Mussolini's granddaughter, for instance, recently snapped at a TV interviewer of uncertain sexual orientation that she'd "much rather be considered a Fascist than a fag**t!" What refreshing candor! In the U.S., the media would have denounced her as a bigot without delay. My objection, then, is not to Birnbaum's comment -- it's good to know where he stands -- but to the double standard employed by our politically correct media.
Cuban-Americans have never been media darlings. It's actually an old story. Bryant Gumbel once referred to the demonstrators in front of Elian Gonzalez Uncle's house as "disgusting!" Fine. But let's hear some commentator say the same about the demonstrators in Jesse Jackson's New Orleans march last week, or about the ones in Los Angeles this week. It’s impossible to imagine that he would keep his job, or escape a mandatory course in "sensitivity training," or a "hate speech" rap.
To be sure, Birnbaum does have some things, apart from his contempt for Cuban-Americans, that he would like to get off his chest. Among his manifold complaints against U.S. foreign policy is that, because of our supposed bullying, we "terminated any chance of converting Castro into a Caribbean Tito...independent of the USSR." Is there something in Harvard water that turns brains to mush--at least regarding Castro and Cuba? Based on their powers of observation children eventually discard their belief in the tooth fairy. No such powers seem to grace Harvard's long list of Best and Brightest.
Recall, for instance, the remarks of McGeorge Bundy, JFK's National Security Advisor and a former Harvard Dean. On October 14, 1962 edition of the TV program "Issues and Answers," a disdainful Bundy made himself very clear on national TV. Referring to eyewitness reports from Cuban exiles about Soviet missiles stationed in Cuba--reports the exiles had been giving the State Department and CIA for months, after risking their lives to obtain them--Bundy proceeded to dismiss them as mere “refugee rumors.” Barely masking his scorn, Bundy announced that “nothing in Cuba presents a threat to the United States. There's no likelihood that the Soviets or Cubans would try and install an offensive capability in Cuba."
Exactly two days later JFK had the photos-- taken by a U-2 spy plane, of those "refugee rumors" nuclear-armed and pointing at the U.S.-- sitting on his desk. The solution from the Best and Brightest was to team up with the Soviets and grant the Cuban Communist regime (though not necessarily Castro himself) its Mutually Assured Protection.
Shortly thereafter came CIA honcho Desmond "Des Fitz" Fitzgerald (Harvard Law LL.D.) who was appointed by Kennedy to head the Cuba Task Force in 1962. "Des Fitz" promptly sneered at his Cuban exile charges as "militantly childish" and "genuinely stupid." He also concocted schemes to off Castro with exploding seashells, poisoned wet-suits and hypodermic inkpens. And yet, according to Desmond, it was the Cubans who balked at these Austin Powers-like plots who were "militantly childish."
Best of all, the crafty "Des Fitz" entrusted the Castro assassination to his "inside man" in Cuba, Rolando Cubela, a Castro double-agent. Remember, it was the Cuban exiles who repeatedly warned him against trusting Cubela and who insisted Castro would retaliate who were "genuinely stupid." "Des Fitz" was immensely proud of his gadgetry and was himself handing over a pen with a poison hypodermic tip to Rolando Cubela on November 22, 1963 (look at the date closely).
Now Norman Birnbaum, another Harvard alumnus, holds forth on Castro. Doesn't Dr Birnbaum know that, as early as 1958, when the U.S. was actually easing his way to power by embargoing Batista, Castro wrote that "war with the U.S. is my true destiny?" Doesn't he know that a dozen different back channel attempts to mend fences with Castro were made from 1959-1961? Or that the first anti-Castro rebellion--planned and staffed completely by Cubans who, despairing of getting any help from the US, turned to Rafael Trujillo--was tipped off to Castro by the liberal U.S. ambassador to Cuba at the time, Phil Bonsal?
The Boston elite's belief in witches eventually dissipated. Yet their belief in another fable, that "we bullied poor little Castro into the arms of Mother Russia,“ persists. Given Professor Birnbaum's long romance with liberal Democrats, his exasperation with Cuban-Americans is easy to understand. These insufferable people have never sought admittance into the Democratic Plantation. They've never squatted attentively at the Democrats' feet and toed the liberal line like good little "Hispanics."
Even more infuriating for leftists like Birnbaum, the 1998 census shows that second-generation Cuban-Americans have higher educational and income levels--not only than the groups who dutifully punch-the clock at the Democratic plantation every morning--but higher than the U.S. population in general. That they have nonetheless declined to throw their support behind the Democratic Party must be a source of constant aggravation for the professor and other party patrons. We're a sensitive people ourselves, too, Mr. Birnbaum. So let me assure you that, in light of all the snubs and humiliations you and your party have suffered at our hands, "I feel your pain."
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