Chris Cuomo: not exactly a descamisado

CNN reporter Chris Cuomo

During the next couple of days, in the wake of President Obama’s highly touted sojourn in Cuba, we’re going to make a brief return visit to that long-suffering island – and to the useful stoogery of those in the West who now dread the prospect of a Cuban populace living in freedom and prosperity. Or who, at the very least, in the name of some perverse concept of sensitivity, subtlety, and/or solidarity, refuse to explicitly acknowledge the black-and-white distinction between liberty and tyranny.

Take CNN reporter Chris Cuomo. He’s the son of late New York governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of the Empire State’s current honcho, Andrew Cuomo. On March 21, Cuomo (the reporter) appeared briefly on a CNN morning program, New Day. He was not in the TV studio but out in the Havana sunshine, covering the presidential visit. Asked by the in-studio hosts about the shirt he was wearing, Cuomo announced, with palpable delight, if not outright pride, that it was a Cuban guayabera, presented to his father many years ago by Fidel Castro.

What Cuomo then went on to say was rather puzzling. Having explained the shirt’s provenance – which was obviously the whole point of wearing it – Cuomo hastened to deny that the garment meant anything, either to himself or his father, “because it came from Fidel Castro necessarily.” No, he insisted, it was important “because it marked conversations going on decades ago that were the same as those today.”

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo

Huh? Cuomo explained, or pretended to:

The concern was the freedom of the people. What is the point of this communist regime if it is not to truly make everyone equal — not at the lowest level; not by demoralizing everyone; but lifting everyone up? My father, generations of politicians, have been fighting this. So, I wear this shirt as a reminder of that, and of my pop.

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

What exactly was Cuomo trying to say there? He certainly wasn’t serving up a categorical condemnation of Communism. Such a condemnation would have been easy to put into clear, unmistakable words. No, what Cuomo was giving us was something that came off as incredibly murky. On the one hand, he was affirming the importance of freedom and equality. On the other hand, it sure sounded as if he was suggesting that Communism, when properly implemented, might actually have the capacity to provide freedom, engineer equality, boost morale, and lift everyone up.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stands during a news conference following a bi-state meeting on regional security and preparedness in New York, September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER HEADSHOT) - RTR46CAA
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

We may be reading him wrong. But if we are, it’s his fault – because he seemed to be deliberately out to obfuscate. Perhaps the fairest thing to say is that he was loath to denounce Communism unreservedly – but, at the same time, quite understandably disinclined to praise it too full-throatedly.

It seems fair, in any event, to say this: if he did mean to put down Communism, doing so while wearing a shirt presented to his dad by a Communist dictator sent exactly the wrong signal.

We’d have loved to see him douse the camisa in gasoline and set fire to it: that would have made the right point and done it beautifully. But of course who would ever expect any member of the mainstream U.S. news media to do anything so gauche?

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