Congress may not be ready. The American people may need more clarity. And even our so-called socialist president, Barack Obama, has some reservations. But the American news media are ready to lift the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba and embrace a ruthless socialist dictatorship.
If it were up to the pundits, Obama would be having lunch with Fidel and Raul Castro and ignoring their 55 years of repression and their millions of victims.
Ever since Obama shook hands with Raul at Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa in December, many in the media have been expecting the next shoe to drop.
Curiously, you don't hear them citing any overtures or concessions from the Cuban government that would deserve a change in U.S. policy — no newfound respect for human rights or civil liberties, no releases of imprisoned dissidents, no freedom of expression, no free press, no free elections, no sign that the Castro brothers are willing to loosen their shocking grip of the Cuban people.
The pundits can't cite Cuban overtures because there haven't been any! And yet, we hear them constantly insinuating that we should lift the embargo anyway. Their logic? "It hasn't worked for 50 years and it's time we try something different," they tell you with astonishing naivety.
Really? Does "something different" include turning a blind eye to persistent human rights violations and the suppression of all civil liberties? Does it include ignoring the still-imprisoned dissidents and their Ladies in White relatives, who are constantly harassed by government goons? And does it also include ignoring Alan Gross, the 64-year-old American who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for trying to help the Cuban Jewish community?
Does "something new" include betraying our democratic principles, our defense of freedom and human rights? Because our policies haven't worked, should we make friends with bloody despots?
They would not dare make such a comment about North Korea. In fact, they ridicule basketball players for going there. But when American celebrities and politicians go to Cuba — when they shake the bloody hands of its dictators — they are portrayed as groundbreakers.
Perhaps the greatest example of how skewed our media coverage of Cuba has become is the way most media outlets reported the findings of a "bipartisan" study released in February by the Atlantic Council, a think tank run by former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.
Titled "U.S.-Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change," the study was clearly conducted to reach the title's conclusion. And not only was the study skewed, the media slanted it even more!
Everyone went with the survey's most sensationalistic numbers: 56 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Floridians favor normalizing relations with Cuba.
It was immediately reported as "an apparent boost to efforts to end the half-century-old economic embargo against Cuba," according to Reuters. The New York Times noted, "Majority of Americans Favor Ties with Cuba, Poll Finds." The TV pundits went berserk, proclaiming the beginning of the end of the embargo.
The study actually acknowledged that when Americans are reminded of the state of human rights in Cuba, a majority still see it as "a strong deterrent to changing policy." But we didn't read or hear that in most of the news stories.
Most of the same media outlets that reported 56 percent of Americans favor normalizing relations with Cuba neglected to tell us that other side of the story.
When survey respondents were told that "Cuba continues to have a dismal human rights record" and that the "Castro regime represses virtually all forms of political dissent through detentions, arbitrary arrests, beatings, travel restrictions, forced exile, and sentencing dissidents in closed trials," most media outlets neglected to tell us that. By a 50 percent to 43 percent margin, Americans still consider human rights a deterrent to normalizing relations.
They also failed to report that when the survey respondents were asked to read three different statements in opposition to normalizing relations, a majority agreed each time. Yet none of this information was even mentioned in many of the news reports based on this study. All we kept hearing was that a majority of Americans favor better relations with Cuba.
Of course we do — until we are reminded that Cuba is governed by monsters! Although embargo supporters charged that the report was politically biased, the media made it even more biased by hiding some of its crucial findings.
And given the U.S. media's apparent obsession with lifting the Cuban embargo, regardless of consequences, we couldn't expect many journalists to challenge the way the survey was conducted. We couldn't expect them to acknowledge that many Americans still favor a tough stance against the Castro regime.
It took a University of Miami professor to expose "what appears to be a 'push poll' designed to elicit a predetermined result pushing an ideological agenda."
In an essay titled "Polling With an Agenda," Dr. Jose Azel from the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, noted that considering the "disingenuous" way in which the survey questions were asked, he was surprised only 56 percent of the respondents favor changing U.S. policy toward Cuba.
"The survey asks respondents if they support 'normalizing relations or engaging more directly with Cuba,'" Azel noted. "This is a featureless question of the 'would you be in favor of world peace?' variety."
Yet that's the question that got the 56 percent result that drew all the headlines!
"Regrettably these purported findings have been uncritically retold by numerous news outlets and are parroted as a truism without judicious review or analysis," Azel wrote. He noted that the report "deliberately implies that Americans support a unilateral, unconditional change in U.S. policy without concessions from the Cuban government," when in fact not a single question in the survey asked whether Americans expect Castro regime concessions on human rights and civil liberties.
And that remains as the biggest problem for those seeking U.S. relations with the Castro brothers. When Americans are reminded of their atrocities and their unwillingness to make any concessions, a majority still stands firm against shaking their bloody hands.
Skewed studies and slanted media coverage still can't hide Cuba's truth.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.