The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg recently went to Cuba at the bidding of that island’s dictator. The results weren’t pretty. The tone of the first two articles by our man in Havana makes clear that he was intent on presenting Fidel Castro as a charming old rogue, a bit of a cute killer.
Then, suddenly, news happened. The octogenarian reprobate had five seconds of lucidity and uttered to his shocked interviewer: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
The death-bed confession came in response to Goldberg’s question on whether the Castro brothers (Fidel’s little brother, the 79-year-old Raul, is now playing president to Fidel’s dowager dictator) want to export revolution anymore.
But Goldberg seems to have been so mesmerized by “the great man” (his own description) that he failed to follow through. What were Castro’s answers to the stream of Goldberg’s follow-up questions? We don’t know; either the stream didn’t come or Goldberg didn’t want to clue us in on the answers.
The news that Castro admits failure was not even in the first installment of a series of articles which Goldberg promises. The first, on Tuesday, was on how much Castro respects Jews and their suffering. Goldberg lapped this up.
In the second installment we finally read Castro’s mea culpa, somewhere in the middle, amid some description of a dolphin show at the Havana Aquarium.
Did Goldberg ask, “Well, Fidel, old boy, since it’s ‘no longer’ working, will we be changing models?” Did Goldberg stick his head out the window, size up the crumbles that once was stately Havana, and ask, “Fidel, did it ever work?”
We know that Goldberg asked Julia Sweig, the Castro apologist from the Council of Foreign Relations whom Goldberg brought along, what she thought of the answer.
“He wasn't rejecting the ideas of the Revolution,” Sweig helpfully explained to Goldberg. “I took it to be an acknowledgment that under 'the Cuban model' the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.” And it makes sense that Sweig would respond thusly. Otherwise, she would then have to answer for her support for a system which its installer now admits is failing.
In fact, we don’t see much journalism here and wonder if Goldberg’s editors are now asking some hard questions. Castro, as Goldberg tells us, defended the Jews, but Goldberg seems not to have asked him why Castro broke relations with Israel in the opening years of the Revolution, or why in 1973 he deployed thousands of Cuban soldiers, plus tanks and helicopters, to fight against Israel in the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War.
Goldberg also doesn’t ask what happened to the thriving, thousands-strong Jewish community that existed in Cuba prior to 1959, whose newspapers, schools and synagogues got wiped out alongside the rest of Cuban civil society, and which has numerically been reduced to a few hundred. At least we hear of none of that.
And in the first two installments we also hear nothing of Castro’s victims (you know, the people who had dared exercise rights that Goldberg takes for granted, like freedom of expression, of assembly, etc), except the throwaway offensive comment: “The next day was Monday, when maximum leaders are expected to be busy single-handedly managing their economies, throwing dissidents into prison, and the like. But Fidel's calendar was open.”
We hear instead that Castro’s “body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor.”
Wish we could say the same of Goldberg.
Mike Gonzalez, Vice President of Communications for The Heritage Foundation, is a widely experienced international correspondent, commentator and editor. He spent 15 years reporting from Europe and Asia before leaving journalism to join the administration of George W. Bush, where he helped explain financial and foreign policy.
As a boy of 12, Gonzalez left his native Cuba with his mother and sister, fleeing the Castro dictatorship. After two years in Madrid, Spain, the family settled in Queens, New York, in 1974.
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