Winning the Hearts and Minds of the New York Elite

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You have to hand it to Fidel Castro (search). Despite years of oppressive rule and a profound hatred of the U.S. (even once trying to start a nuclear war with us), he can still win the hearts and minds of the New York elite.

I remember attending a Manhattan luncheon for Fidel in which stars like Barbara Walters (search) and Diane Sawyer (search) greeted and hugged the aging dictator like he was a sweet old uncle at a family reunion. When I dared to ask a slightly critical question of Fidel, I was shot down by the host, who informed me that Fidel was an honored guest and would not have to answer to any criticism.

But even given this sad history, I admit I was surprised by the vehemence with which some New York congressmen voted against a resolution to support democratic activists in Cuba. The resolution expressed solidarity with Cubans who risk jail time in order to promote democracy. But New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey (search) called the resolution “silly,” saying, “Castro is harmful to no one.”

Congressman Charlie Rangel (search), a longtime friend of the dictator also voted against the bill, saying, “[American politicians] refuse to give the Cuban government the respect that it deserves.” Respect for Fidel Castro and disdain for Cuban democracy protestors? That’s not an easy sell. But Fidel is one hell of a salesman, even among supposedly savvy New Yorkers.

And that’s the Observer.

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