What Will Obama Say at AIPAC? Reading the Cuban Tea Leaves

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Barack Obama has a much-anticipated speech tomorrow before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The big questions in my mind are what kind of rhetoric he will use—i.e., how hard he will pander—and whether he will announce any new wrinkles in his position on Israel/Palestine.

One possible indicator is a speech Obama gave in Miami a couple weeks ago before the Cuban American National Foundation, which is the rough analogue of AIPAC in the Cuban exile community. The speech included the usual nods to the concept of diplomacy and a proposal to relax current rules limiting family travel to Cuba. But, as Michael Moynihan of Reason convincingly argues, “the real news is that Obama is merely interested in tinkering with America’s Cuba policy, not substantially changing it.” Here’s the money graph of the address, in which Obama flip-flopped on his previous support for ending the embargo:

I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: If you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That’s the way to bring about real change in Cuba—through strong, smart and principled diplomacy.

So, especially after some high-profile stories about Obama’s putative troubles with Jewish voters, what kind of red meat is the candidate going to throw to the AIPAC crowd? My top three guesses (in order of likelihood):

1) Saber-rattling toward Iran.

2) Gratuitous Palestinian bashing.

3) A swipe at Jimmy Carter.

I’ll be tuning in tomorrow, hoping Obama proves me wrong.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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