NBC’s Mitchell Slams Obama-Castro Comparison...Over Age Differences

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, has been reporting from Cuba since Wednesday, covering the first face-to-face meetings between U.S. and Cuban officials in decades, and has used her visit as an opportunity to promote the country of Cuba. 

On Thursday, Mitchell interviewed former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray on her daily MSNBC program Andrea Mitchell Reports. The NBC reporter seemed perplexed that her guest would dare compare Cuban President Raul Castro to President Obama, not because Castro is a communist but because President Obama is a “youthful American president” and Castro is an “elderly Cuban president.”

The MSNBC host began by wondering how anyone could ever compare President Obama to Raul Castro: 

I was talking to you and you said that Barack Obama and Raul Castro might not be that different fundamentally. And they may meet in April in Panama, the first time that they would meet officially. How can you compare this youthful American president and an elderly Cuban president? I mean, they’re different generations, different philosophies.

Carlos Alzugaray responded by insisting that both Castro and Obama have stressed similar themes in their political rhetoric: 

They have some things in common. First, they both face a very difficult critical situation in their countries when they assumed power. At the same time, I notice that at the time when Obama was, one of his catch words was “yes, we can,” Raul Castro was saying here “si, se peude” which is yes we can. He spoke about change. He spoke about change. Obama spoke about change.
--
They understand that. They are -- I think they both have the ability to know what more people suffer and how to change that. I think they both have the ability to know what small people suffer and how to change that. I think in both cases that happens. Raul is very, very down to Earth guy. He wants results. He wants to see results.  

Rather than push back against her guest’s assertion that Obama and the communist Castro have similar values, she allowed Alzugaray to continue comparing the two: 

They have to introduce transformation to their countries without changing basically what the countries mean and I think Raul has been very successful. I hope Obama is successful. I think President Obama’s not given all of the credit that he should be given by the things he has changed in the United States.

Mitchell never seemed to grasp that her guest was essentially saying Obama has a similar set of values as does a communist and merely objected to the comparison because Obama was 30 years younger than Raul Castro and how they have "different philosophies." 

Given the NBC host’s affection towards Raul’s brother Fidel Castro, one shouldn’t be surprised that Mitchell refused to criticize the Castro brothers’ brutal control over Cuba. On April 13, 2014, Mitchell helped celebrate Fidel’s 88th birthday during her MSNBC program by declaring “Cuba is celebrating Fidel Castro's 88th birthday today, starting the party early with a special concert last night. The opening of an exhibition called Fidel is Fidel.”

In 1999, Mitchell oozed over Fidel’s handling of the Elian Gonzalez controversy:

What's astounding is how much Castro is personally micro-managing the Elian case. He's not just the country's head of state, he's the CEO.” She even described Castro as “old-fashioned, courtly - even paternal.”

See relevant transcript below. 

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports

January 22, 2015

ANDREA MITCHELL: Joining me now is a former Cuban diplomat, Carlos Alzugaray, he’s a professor at the Center for Hemispheric and U.S. Studies at the University of Havana. And welcome, thank you very much. 

CARLOS ALZUGARAY: Thank you. 

MITCHELL: Well, we've just been talking about all of this change but how quickly it can come. How resistant will some parts of the Cuban government be to opening the doors to American investment, American ideas, global ideas, the internet? 

ALZUGARAY: Well, ideas, we're more aware of ideas than you would think. I mean, we have not been closed, completely closed. But I think we have in general the problem of the siege mentality, we have been under siege, that many people feel we have been under siege by our big close neighbors. So I think we have to work on that and stop thinking that our relationship with the United States can be very, very, very useful for Cuba. Take the case of internet–  

MITCHELL: You've been writing and you've gone on Cuban television calling for internet access. 

ALZUGARAY:  Yeah, I have done that. Universal access to internet. And if possible, free. I'm not sure that that’s achievable but I’m demanding what I consider the optimum. But, you know, people are changing a lot. Really there are parts of the Cuban government that might have the mentality that the United States is the enemy and you have to start thinking in different ways. By the way, I am also part of a very significant Cuban journal, Temas. We organize every last Thursday of every month, a public debate on public issues and we bring government officials, we bring the people -- sometimes government officials don't want to come but that's normal. 

MITCHELL: You know, I was talking to you and you said that Barack Obama and Raul Castro might not be that different fundamentally. And they may meet in April in Panama, the first time that they would meet officially. How can you compare this youthful American president and an elderly Cuban president? I mean, they’re different generations, different philosophies. 

ALZUGARAY:  I think they have some things in common. First, they both face a very difficult critical situation in their countries when they assumed power. At the same time, I notice that at the time when Obama was, one of his catch words was “yes, we can,” Raul Castro was saying here “si, se peude” which is yes we can. He spoke about change. He spoke about change. Obama spoke about change. It seems to me that they are both good family men. From what I have seen of Obama for what I know of Raul Castro, I haven't met him personally but I know his children. They are both family men. They understand that.

They are -- I think they both have the ability to know what more people suffer and how to change that. I think they both have the ability to know what small people suffer and how to change that. I think in both cases that happens. Raul is very, very down to Earth guy. He wants results. He wants to see results. Maybe there are some differences. Raul is not -- he speaks very little. He gives speeches every two months, he doesn't talk every week. He doesn't talk as long as his brother. Obama on the other hand is a great speaker, no doubt about it. A wonderful speaker. But I think they face the same challenge, they have to introduce transformation to their countries without changing basically what the countries mean and I think Raul has been very successful. I hope Obama is successful. I think President Obama’s not given all of the credit that he should be given by the things he has changed in the United States. 

MITCHELL: And do you think this happen, briefly, can this happen in a year, two years? 

ALZUGARAY: Well, we have two years of Obama. Raul will be the next four years. Raul has already said that he's going to retire in 2018. I think what is going to happen, my prediction is that both governments are going to work very hard to reach as many agreements on common issues that we can have. For example, counter narcotics. We’ve been working on–

MITCHELL: They've been working behind the scenes against that. 

ALZUGARAY: Now we can sign an agreement, a formal agreement. That's good. Environmental protection. Very interesting, for example, American oceanographers and marine biologists are working with Cuban marine biologists and oceanographers protecting marine life in the coral reefs surrounding Cuba. 

MITCHELL: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. There’s So much to talk about. It's a pleasure. Thank you so much for being with us. 

ALZUGARAY: You're welcome.   

Foreign Policy Cuba MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Andrea Mitchell Raul Castro Fidel Castro Barack Obama

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