Argh! Pirates and the Caribbean
This week, President Barack Obama partied like it’s 1699.
With the backdrop of a Spanish inquisition, tea parties and pirates on the high seas, those who expected Obama to show up in Port of Spain acting like a Portuguese water dog have been met with a pit bull instead.
If you’re running a Latin American country that has fallen out with the U.S. in recent years, or you’re the premier of a Caribbean island nation whose principal exports are tax shelters and LisaRaye, you better come with your “A” game when you meet with President Barack Obama at the Fifth Summit of the Americas. And this week, the world saw a new side of Obama. He won’t hesitate to peel a cap.
Channeling Don Corleone’s sitting godfather to Connie and Carlo’s baby, Obama’s button men—three can-do Navy SEAL snipers—rescued Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates while the president rolled Easter eggs and strolled the compound with his kids’ new puppy.
On his way to the airport, Obama managed to squeeze in a quick speech about a high-speed rail, very much in keeping with his cutting-edge image, but swashbuckling around the world like a reverse conquistador, the president’s challenges were all retro: torture dungeons, angry mobs, Fidel Castro, pirates and dog poop on his lawn.
By the time anyone could say “assault weapons ban” three times fast, Obama’s press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón was over, and Air Force One was winging its way to the islands. In pretty much every photo with Obama, the beleaguered Calderón had a look on his face that screamed, “Please take me with you.”
Havana Nice Day
Obama is expected to get an earful from the Latin Americans about the futility of the 50-year-old U.S. embargo of Cuba during the summit. But by lifting travel restrictions to Cuba without lifting all economic sanctions, Obama more or less flipped his Iraq War mantra. He wants to be as careful about getting back into Cuba as we were careless getting out.
Before his arrival in Trinidad, Obama penned another op-ed in 14 newspapers and three languages Thursday, touting climate change and economic reforms. But it was probably more aimed at heading off fighting words from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and sidestepping last month’s statement by the decidedly Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who said that the world’s money woes could be blamed on “white, blue-eyed bankers.”
Freedom Don’t Cost a Thing
But not to be outdone in the anti-banker outrage department, a broad coalition of minutemen, plumbers named Joe and corporate sponsors spontaneously joined together for nationwide tax protests on Wednesday.
Despite the prevalence of protest swag like the popular “Chairman Mao-bama” T-shirts, event organizers insist that no one involved was worthy of being on the Department of Homeland Security’s new watch list.
The self-styled “tea-baggers” (apparently, not a single one of these folks subscribes to Penthouse Forum) might be dismayed to learn that they have a lot in common with the Million Man Marchers of 1995: They valiantly exercised their right to free expression, and by this time next week, most people won’t remember them at all.
Don’t Ta’zir Me, Bro
Just think. If George W. Bush hadn’t cut taxes during wartime, we might have been able to fund some really gruesome forms of torture.
What bugs us more? The agony inflicted on insect-phobic Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaida by placing him in a box with caterpillars or the thought that one of our own guys spent quality time coming up with this idea in the first place?
These guys ever heard of just a plain-old ass-whupping?
And while the rest of the world is understandably outraged, this time they need to let Americans sift through this on our own. The Obama administration needs to find a way to politely decline Spain’s “offer” to prosecute Bush administration officials for their roles in sanctioning torture at Guantanamo—just like Spaniards probably wish their former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had said, “thanks, but no thanks” to George W. Bush’s invitation to join the “Coalition of the Willing.”
Pirates, Yes ... But No “Chowder and Iced Tea”
Blackbeard’s ghost trolled the Atlantic to fund his penchant for “rum, song and an occasional wench.” But today’s pirates aren’t as friendly or musical as the ones from FreeCreditReport.com, and teenagers don’t hijack oceanliners because they’re tired of playing Nintendo Wii. Compared to Somalia, our 10 percent unemployment probably sounds like a paradise, so the recent uptick in piracy isn’t going away as long as joining up with a band of pirates is the Somali equivalent of joining the Navy. “Accelerate Your Life,” indeed.
On Sunday, President Obama will jet out of Port of Spain and head back to Washington where undoubtedly, he’ll be taking on the more contemporary problems of the banking crisis, Middle East conflict and brokering the sale of America’s iffiest car manufacturer to Italy’s iffiest car manufacturer. Piracy and the Caribbean might begin to look like a lot more fun.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root.