I was toddling around in nappies when the US flag was taken down in Havana in January 1961. The decision to break off diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba was taken a day earlier by President Eisenhower. So started a period of frozen relationships between the two neighbours which included years of trade embargoes.
It is a very significant act of statesmanship that Barack Obama and Raúl Castro have now restored diplomatic relations. It is without doubt a good thing – the people of Cuba have suffered for long enough.
This event, to me, answers the question: “What is Barack Obama for?” It is difficult to imagine a Republican president doing the same thing.
It tops a long list of achievements by President Obama. You can read a version of the list here, so I won’t recite it. I would just mention the Affordable Care Act 2010, or “Obamacare” if you watch Fox News. By passing that act, and making it stick, Obama did what five US Presidents tried and failed to do over the period of a century. He reformed US healthcare, bringing 32 million people into coverage. It is a towering, stunning achievement. In particular, it was very skilfully brought in at the start of Obama’s presidency while he was still, to an extent, in his “honeymoon” period and there were sufficient votes in Congress for it. The longest serving US Senator, Robert Byrd, was brought into the US Capitol building in a wheelchair to triumphantly vote for the act. By my maths, Obama engineered the act at the only time there was the maths in Congress to pass it – such was the skill of the enterprise.
Finally, I should declare an interest – I have been an unreconstructed Obama fan since he was senator from Illinois. So, yes, I know, MRDA (Mandy Rice Davies Applies) for this article.