Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear President Obama

                                                                                                                   January 30, 2011

Dear President Obama,

As usual, the state of Florida is expected to have another close election. I'm sure that although you "aren't paying attention" to the GOP primary, behind the scenes you must be getting a few good laughs in. It may be obvious to some people that the GOP finds itself trapped by not only appearing to be the party that puts ordinary people second to business interests, but by having to appeal to a part of the population that is the least informed and also the most selfish people in our country. Your party traditionally stood for things that were more progressive. Although that was the tradition of the Democrat Party, recent times have shown that this party too is extremely cozy with some of the same interests as the GOP. The lack of enthusiasm for your presidency can be explained by the hopes that were in many ways dashed by what your administration has done, or not done. I won't trouble you anymore with that kind of political analysis, I'm sure that you have plenty of professionals who can tell you the same types of observations.

What I'm interested in providing you is a perspective on how you may be able to make inroads in my state, Florida. As you are aware, Rep. Castor is not like the representatives that are around in South Florida. She also stands out when compared to your party Chairwoman. She has taken a bold stance supporting a new type of relationship with Cuba. She has been able to do so comfortably because in this area people are able to see through the stale rhetoric that permeates the South Florida air. For many years, the business community in the Tampa Bay area has been interested in forging a relationship with Cuba. If you have been paying attention, you already know that Tampa's City Council sent a friendly letter to Cuba, and was able to do so over the objections of one councilman who unfortunately is tied to the past. Since your administration gave the OK for direct flights from Tampa, there have already been new flights added to the schedule at TIA. There is much enthusiasm for travel to Cuba and the increase in the number of arrivals from the US shows that.

Recently, the Senator from your home state traveled to the island and stated called for more constructive engagement between the two countries. You can choose to ignore that the Cuban government has also expressed its willingness to engage with your administration, but by doing so you are showing a lack of incentive, a lack of desire to take the bold steps that people believed and hope that you are capable of. We can have the issue of Alan Gross remain as a stumbling block, or there can be an honest effort by your administration to find a solution to this problem.

I understand that the thought of driving the hard liners wild and giving them a talking point during a campaign year may be a bit unsettling for a candidate. But I believe with all of my heart that they are a lot louder than they are effective. The winds of change, both here and on the island are making the hard liner position marginalized. There have never been such displays of division within their own districts as when their representatives attempted to limit their abilities to visit their families. It is clear that the hard line position is weakened and now may be a better time than ever to completely marginalize it.

Many of the people that take a tough stance on Cuba, and in my humble opinion an incorrect one, will never support you. They have dismissed your party since the era of President Kennedy and I see pandering to them as futile. Perhaps pandering is too strong of a word, so I would suggest appealing to the people who would prefer a future which differs from the unfortunate past which has been hurtful for too many people on all sides. Changing the indefensible policy towards Cuba will happen. The question is when and who will be the president who shows the courage to take that step.

I feel that you are the one president, the one person who has it in you to take that step. What better time than now, or when the bumbling GOP figures out which candidate will challenge you. Putting them on the defensive on an issue such as this perpetual political football, would show the kind of courage that so many Americans once dreamed that you were capable of showing. Let your opponents spin in circles trying to defend a policy that almost everyone agrees is outdated and has proven to be incapable of achieving its goals. Whether an American is supportive of Cuba's right to determine its own path or just can't figure out why Vietnam is a trading partner and Cuba isn't, it is becoming openly criticized by people of all political stripes as a bad policy.

No longer should it be considered political expedience to treat Cuba as some sort of terrible enemy. In many news outlets, on many occasions, the hypocrisy of the policy is talked about. I understand the twisted politics of this issue and I'm trying to show a way that it can become untwisted. How would it feel to have Republicans in the House and Senate wind up supporting you on this issue during a campaign year? They would either have to change their positions and look like they are more concerned about party politics or just simply admit that the Democrat candidate is correct on at least this issue. How many farmers in "red" states may be very satisfied with open trade with Cuba? I'm sure there are enough to cause a bit of uncertainty for the GOP. How about the oil industry which is usually a Republican leaning constituency? They are aware that our policy is the major obstacle to their participation in oil exploration in Cuban waters. Even environmentalists would be a bit more comfortable knowing that the two countries would be working on plans together in the case of an accident. You could make a campaign stop in Key West, whose representative is so stubbornly irrational on this issue, and upstage her by explaining that it is beneficial to do more than just threaten foreign oil companies, and cooperation in this area would provide more protection for their beautiful islands and livelihood. The Tampa Bay area would be yours. You would like make inroads for the Democrat party within the South Florida Cuban community.

This is not necessarily a plea to your humanitarian side, but a fundamental explanation of how a bold political strategy may help you. But of course, there are many humanitarian reasons to do away with this poilicy. Your campaign can consider this a political tool and have a drasticly positive humanitarian effect as a result.

Please take all of this in to consideration and perhaps you will go down in our history books as one of the better presidents we've had.
Jimmy C
A Tampa resident

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