Florida is a swing state, and in Florida, Cuban-Americans are a swing constituency.
By and large, Cuban-Americans don’t like Fidel Castro. And Castro, it seems, doesn’t much like Sen. John McCain.
So it comes as little surprise that McCain would wear Castro’s disdain like a badge of honor in an interview with a Spanish-language radio station in Miami on Oct. 29, 2008.
"I notice in the past couple of days that Fidel has made his preferences known in the campaign and had some very unkind things to say about me," McCain said. "My feelings are hurt."
How’s this for unkind words? In an Oct. 11, 2008, commentary published in Cuban state newspapers, and translated by Granma Internacional, Castro says McCain "cultivates his reputation as a belligerent man" and "was one of the worst students in his class at West Point."
"He has confessed that he knows nothing about Mathematics, and presumably far less about complicated economic sciences," Castro states. "There is no doubt that his rival surpasses him in intelligence and serenity."
Castro doesn’t seem to think much of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin either, and he warns that due to McCain’s age "his health is not at all secure."
"I mention this information to indicate the eventual possibility — if anything should happen in terms of the candidate’s health, given that he is elected — of the rifle lady, the inexperienced former governor of Alaska, becoming president of the United States," Castro states. "It is obvious that she knows nothing about anything."
While Castro stops short of supporting either candidate, he seems to pay Obama the most backhanded of compliments, saying, "It’s a miracle that the Democratic candidate has not met the same fate as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and others who dreamed of justice and equality in recent decades."
Earlier this summer, we took a look at an e-mail from the Republican Party of Florida (which claimed it was a joke) that carried the headline, "Fidel Castro endorses Obama," and included a doctored image of Castro holding a poster of Obama. Above Castro were the words, "I love this guy!" We ruled that one Pants on Fire .
A link in the e-mail went to another Castro commentary published in a Communist newspaper on May 26, 2008. In it, Castro says Obama is "doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency." Castro also praises Obama’s "great intelligence, his debating skills and work ethic." But it amounts to lesser-of-two-evils praise, at best. For example, Castro later calls the embargo that Obama pledged to maintain "an act of genocide."
Stated Castro: "Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable handouts and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it."
Castro also clearly understood that any praise for Obama would provide fodder for his opponents.
"I feel no resentment towards him (Obama), for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity," Castro said then. "Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favor. I have therefore no reservations about criticizing him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly."
But back to McCain’s statement. That Castro had "unkind things to say" about McCain is clear. Our issue is whether Castro "made his preferences known in the campaign." Castro stops short of endorsing one candidate or the other. But we think the tone of Castro’s statements leaves little doubt he prefers Obama. For whatever that’s worth. We rule McCain’s statement True.