On the Plane

Bush Eagerly Awaited This Day

KIGALI, Rwanda -- It was the moment that nine other American presidents waited for but never saw. Finally, Fidel Castro, the bete noire of Washington for the past half-century, is stepping down.

For President Bush, the news caught up to him here in Africa when Ben Feller of the Associated Press called out a question during a photo op with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley briefed him about the reports coming out of Havana. It's not entirely clear who actually broke the news to him first.

Either way, Bush was all smiles when the question came up again at a later question-and-answer session with reporters, although he had the self-restraint to not cheer or whoop or anything that might look unseemly. After all, much like his predecessors, Bush has eagerly anticipated this day, even if he never imagined it would come while he was in Africa. Once last year, he even waxed publicly about Castro's death.

"The question really should be: What does this mean for the people in Cuba?" he asked today in Kigali before flying onto Accra, Ghana. "They're the ones who suffered under Fidel Castro. They're the ones who were put in prison because of their beliefs. They're the ones who have been denied their right to live in a free society."

Bush said he views Castro's decision to step down as an opportunity to bring democracy to Cuba, although he did not say how that might happen given that Castro's circle remains in tight control of the island. Bush has on occasion met with Cuban dissidents and relatives of political prisoners and he has over the years increased funding for U.S.-sponsored radio broadcasts into Cuba.

"This transition ought to lead to free and fair elections -- and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy," Bush said. "And we're going to help. The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

Still looking for any photos that would let us know if the president went off to privately bang some bongos in celebration as the last president did when good news caught up to him during a trip to Africa.

-- Peter Baker

By Washington Post Editor |  February 19, 2008; 5:15 PM ET  | Trip:  Bush in Africa, Feb. 2008
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Comments

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Nobody cares what george bush thinks.

Posted by: binkynh | February 19, 2008 5:46 PM

"Bush says he views Castro's decision as an opportunity to bring democracy to Cuba, although he did not say how that might happen..." Well, he could give them ours, which he stole. His words make clear he believes Cubans deserve better times than us.

Posted by: jhbyer | February 19, 2008 5:49 PM

I'm guessing Cubans don't want anything to do with W's version of "democracy". The Iraqis don't seem to be enjoying theirs.

Posted by: dan, Reality, USA | February 19, 2008 5:56 PM

I enjoyed watching old TV footage of President Castro today. Love him or hate him, he had the courage (physical and mental) to lead an entire revolution against a U.S.-backed dictator. Then the TV footage switched to Bush rattling off the same old drivel, and I thought, "here's a guy who avoided the draft, went into the National Guard, and didn't even finish his term with that".
One of these leaders is a real man. Guess which?

Posted by: Brent | February 19, 2008 6:06 PM

No intentional pun intended, but aren't the remarks that Bush is making with regard to Cuba's hopeful freedom and liberty hypocritical and somewhat of an oxymoron, especially since he (Bush) has decimated our own?

Posted by: Sapa | February 19, 2008 6:38 PM

Why would an intelligent person epitomize a leader (as "Brent" does) who squelched any and all forms of freedom in the name of the greater good as Castro did his entire "political" career. For the remarks that are made in this blog, if we were in Cuba, would get you a cell with no hope for any reprieve, yet you still have the freedom to make such remarks. Funny how the US Constitution allows for that to happen.

Posted by: Link | February 19, 2008 7:05 PM

---------------------------------

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Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2008 9:07 PM

---------------------------------

i am a young and handsome man from us. i just think internet is a good place to meet friends. , because i am at the beginning of my career and i need someone's support..i uploaded my hot photos on sugarmommamatch.com under the name piccolo , maybe you want to check out my photos firstly!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2008 9:58 PM

I just returned from Cuba last week and
saw everyone has a roof over one's head.
That is a far cry from the homeless
that one sees on the streets in the States!

Posted by: Annie | February 19, 2008 10:08 PM

"This transition ought to lead to free and fair elections -- and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy."

The height of hypocrisy!!!

Posted by: Kiwi | February 20, 2008 12:28 AM

So what kind of hypocrisy do you mean? The kind were anyone with a dream and a vision for the US can enter politics and then make a name for himself (or herself in the case of the losing side of the Democrats yesterday) and attempt to become President? Is that the hypocrisy you are referring to?

Posted by: Link | February 20, 2008 8:10 AM

Bush is always looking for legacy; here's a prime opportunity for him to get a leg up in his quest: Immediately announce an end to the embargo and a normalization of relations with Cuba.

What have we to fear? If we can trade and talk with China, the largest Communist nation on the planet, surely we can safely deal with that impoverished little nation in the Caribbean?

He must have learned from his intrusion into Iraq that he cannot bring liberty, freedom, and democracy to people at the point of a gun. Let us open our country to the Cuban people and let them see the blessings of democracy at work.

Will Bush jump at this opportunity? Nah, he's proven that he's a slow learner; a very slow learner indeed. Our loss, and a loss for our long suffering Latin neighbors.

Posted by: Barney Scott | February 20, 2008 10:00 AM

"This transition ought to lead to free and fair elections -- and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy," Bush said. "And we're going to help. The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

yeah, just ignore the florida/ohio machinations that the bushies have perfected.

i mean, honestly, the lack of self-awareness by this idiot is staggering.


dave letterman had the best joke last nite:

Letterman: "Many observers believe Fidel Castro will either be replaced by his brother Raul, or by his idiot son, Fidel W. Castro."

Posted by: linda | February 20, 2008 12:55 PM

The best way to bring Democracy to Cuba is to open the doors to tourism. Having thousands of American tourists along with their tourist dollars will do the job. Florida's Cuban Americans appear locked into a 1960's cold war mentality, out of step with the power of the internet and the American dollar to cause real change in Cuba.

Posted by: A.Lincoln | February 20, 2008 9:09 PM

Can that MuFu just leave, he has no legacy, just a legacy of destruction.

Too bad the AIDS funs have run out this week, what about the never ending IRAQ funds, seems like humanitarian causes buy so much more than corruption & stealin'!!!!!

Posted by: Betsy | February 20, 2008 9:23 PM

The best way to bring Democracy to Cuba is to open the doors to tourism. Having thousands of American tourists along with their tourist dollars will do the job. Florida's Cuban Americans appear locked into a 1960's cold war mentality, out of step with the power of the internet and the American dollar to cause real change in Cuba.

Posted by: A.Lincoln | February 20, 2008 09:09 PM

Yep. the Cubans are still driving cars from the late '50's!!!

They make their own brake shoes, now the auto techs will be suffering from asbestos poisioning, and yep you guessed it, it's from DarkDick, Dresser Industries.

Posted by: Betsy | February 20, 2008 9:26 PM

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