Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Worst Thing About Kerry Becoming Secretary Of State: Anti-Cuba Zealot Bob Menendez Gets The Chair Of Foreign Relations Committee


Similar (very bad) agenda when it comes to Cuba

The GOP has been successful in forcing the dependably craven Obama to appoint John Kerry Secretary of State. Who cares which member of the wealthy elite gets these jobs? There's not a jot of difference between John Kerry and Susan Rice policy-wise. But with Kerry out of the way two things happen-- Scott Brown gets a chance to steal a Massachusetts Senate seat and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) becomes chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The difference in style between Kerry and Menendez couldn’t be greater. The patrician Kerry is known for his diplomatic skills, his long, detailed speeches, and his loyalty to Obama on foreign policy issues. Menendez, the only Hispanic Democrat in the Senate, is blunt and an aggressive interrogator during hearings. He also doesn’t mind going against the administration, as he has done over the past year in pushing-- and winning-- ever tougher sanctions against Iran.

“He’s a bull in a china shop, a street fighter,” said a senior aide for the Senate Banking Committee, on which Menendez also serves.

The focus of the Foreign Relations committee likely would shift significantly under a Menendez chairmanship, panel aides say. Menendez, together with Illinois Republican Mark S. Kirk, is expected to continue his efforts to sanction Iran as punishment for continuing its nuclear enrichment program. Menendez led the charge over the past two years to cripple Iran’s economy-- moves he says strengthen the administration’s hand in any negotiations with Iran but which some critics say only convince Tehran’s leaders that the real aim of the sanctions is to bring down the regime.

Since last December, the Senate overwhelmingly passed three rounds of Iran sanctions over the objections of the White House, which has sought to preserve its dominance over foreign policy.

Menendez, whose parents moved from Cuba to New York in 1953, also is expected to raise the profile of human rights abuses by the Castro regime in Cuba. Representing a major Cuban-American community in New Jersey, he has been an outspoken opponent of any moves to ease relations with Havana-- something that could complicate any efforts by the Obama administration to reach out to Cuba in its second term.
With an asshole like Menendez running the committee, Bob Corker (R-TN), also an asshole, taking over from Richard Lugar as Ranking Member, and, even worse, McCain joining the committee, Obama will be able to look forward to a lot of misery from a new quarter.

Most people outside of New Jersey (and Cuba) first heard of Menendez when he achieved the impossible. He presided over the abject loss of what was arguably the safest Democratic seat in the U.S. Senate. His first task as the new head of the DSCC was to hold Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat. Thanks, at least in part, to Menendez' ineptness and clear lameness, the very same voters who had given Obama a 62-38% win over McCain handed the GOP veto power over every single nomination and every piece of legislation. Menendez can't be expected to shoulder 100% of the blame, of course, but he was the only person whose charge was specifically holding onto Democratic Senate seats.

After that stunning debut, he then involved himself-- against party rules-- in the Democratic primary in the state with the most vulnerable Republican incumbent, North Carolina's Richard Burr. Not happy that the state's popular Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall-- a tad too progressive, a tad too harsh on Wall Street banksters, and a tad too... well unmale for a pig like Menendez (after all North Carolina already has a woman senator; they're not ready for two)-- the clueless New Jersey thug butted in and offered to bankroll an unknown empty suit to save the nomination from falling into Marshall's hands. Even after spending a small fortune on pushing his candidate and failing miserably in the first round, he insisted on a pointless, expensive charade of a runoff that he lost again-- by a huge margin, having wasted even more money that should have been invested into defining Burr.

Many Democrats are grumbling that if the former ward healer and corrupt boss of Hudson County had been paying attention, DeMint would never have gotten away with inserting Alvin Greene as his "opponent" in the South Carolina race. But Menendez was busy elsewhere-- working on his hideous pet project: toppling the Cuban government. Few Democrats realize that Menendez is the most toxic obstacle in the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. His obsession with inflicting more pain on the Cuban people is nothing short of psychotic and is more important to him than anything else in his miserable, worthless existence. That's why it's so alarming that he's taking over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Two years ago, when the House Agriculture Committee voted to ease restrictions on travel and commerce between the U.S. and Cuba, Menendez, hysterical, dropped everything and went on the warpath. In committee only 4 Republicans supported the bill, which passed 25-20 and must now go through further legislative hurdles. Menendez sides with the deranged GOP cold warriors.
Proponents of the bill said it would be a major boost for American farmers. The bill, which would allow American commodities to be sold directly to Cuba and allow some direct financial transactions with Cuban banks, is supported by several business and farming groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Farmers Union.

“This is a great opportunity to expand trade,” said Representative Collin C. Peterson, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the committee. He added that American travel to Cuba would “show the Cuban people how great democracy can be.”
"I oppose and will filibuster any attempt to pass the bill in the Senate," he thundered, still the hackish big city boss, ready to deploy every anti-Cuba propaganda trick left over from the Cold War. "The big corporate interests behind this bill couldn’t care less about whether the Cuban people are free or not-- they only care about padding their profits by opening up a new market. Repression is repression and dictatorships are dictatorships, no matter where they are located or whether you want to use their resorts." Aside from how bad this development is for the Cuban people, Menendez's elevation is really bad news for Alan Gross, currently in his third year in a Cuban prison.
After Barack Obama emerged victorious from his reelection campaign, perhaps no one—save the president himself—was more relieved than Alan Gross, a 63-year-old development worker serving a 15-year prison sentence in Havana on charges of trying to undermine the Cuban state. Gross, a former Obama campaign volunteer, filled out his absentee ballot from inside the prison hospital where he often passes his time watching Cuban baseball on TV. His hope: with the election now over, the U.S. can negotiate with the Cuban government to get him out of prison.

  Ever since Gross was arrested three years ago at a Havana hotel, analysts say talks between the two countries have been mired in Cold War politics. From the beginning, the U.S. government has said that Gross was merely trying to improve Internet access for Cuban Jews. In reality, Gross was setting up wireless networks outside the government’s control as part of a provocative program by the United States Agency for International Development. Its aim: to promote democracy and weaken the iron grip of the communist state. Taking part in these programs is illegal on the island, yet the Cuban court made bombastic claims, and Gross’s imprisonment has been denounced as “arbitrary” in a U.N. ruling to be released later this month.

  Havana disputes the U.N. ruling and is still upset about USAID’s democracy programs, but Cuban officials have reportedly said they know that Gross was not a spy and are willing to work out a deal to let him go. For more than a year now, Havana has been hinting at a tacit trade: Gross for the Cuban Five, a group of intelligence agents imprisoned in the States for conspiracy to commit espionage, mostly on anti-Castro groups in Florida. With the election now behind him, Obama has some leeway, but a deal remains politically tricky. It could become more difficult if Sen. John Kerry joins the cabinet, thereby elevating Sen. Robert Menendez, a Cuba hardliner, to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Menendez would have considerable clout in blocking the administration’s efforts to change policy toward Cuba,” said Peter Kornbluh, a Cuba analyst at the National Security Archive, a D.C.–based nonprofit.

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