Friday, December 22, 2006

Jane Harman's CNN Interview On Cuba Visit

Text from CNN interview that's dated 12/18/06. This was provided via email by Harman field staffer today:



PHILLIPS: Well Congresswoman Harman is back in Washington now. She joins us with more on her trip. Congresswoman, we saw a little bit of you there in Morgan Neill's piece. And I'm just curious. You said that you were told that Fidel Castro was going to be back in the game, that he's fine. But I guess a lot of critics here in the United States want to say, did you call their bluff? Did you say, well, why can't we meet with him? Why can't we talk to him? Why can't we have this conversation with him?

HARMAN: Well, it was obvious that we couldn't meet with him. We were disappointed that we were not able to meet with Raul Castro either. What we assume is they're not ready to roll out the next generation of leadership because their story is -- and they're sticking to it -- that Fidel is coming back.

I'm not a medical doctor and I'm not a psychic. Seems to me, however, the pictures and the absence of Castro in any meaningful way demonstrates that he's probably not coming back, and we should assume, as I said in that clip you just showed, that the transition has begun.

PHILLIPS: So why make the trip if you can't meet with the two main players, Fidel Castro -- well, is he a main player or not is still up in the air -- but his brother, Raul?

HARMAN: Well, we made the trip for several reasons. First of all, we weren't told we would meet with Raul Castro, but we were not confident we would not. Apparently the way this always works is at the last minute, the meetings come off. And the delegation had a lot of members on it who have met regularly with Fidel Castro on visits. This was my first visit. So I didn't have that experience.

But the other reason to come is because it is time to change our Cuba policy. The United States should change our Cuba policy. Most of us who were on that delegation have voted for years to change our policy. It's an an anachronism. It was developed during the Cold War. Maybe we had reason to fear Cuba when it was a Soviet satellite. But now 11 million people 90 miles off the Florida coast are surely not going to threaten a nation of 300 million people. We have 1.4 million Cubans living in America. And but for some very active folks in Florida, I think the majority of the Congress -- of the country wants to change our policy.

PHILLIPS: Now, State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack said that your trip would have no effect on U.S. policy toward Cuba.

HARMAN: Well, it seems to be having no effect on President Bush's policy toward Cuba. We did meet with the Cuban intersection in Cuba, and they support the policy.

But our delegation was the largest since before the Castro revolution, the largest since 1959. Ten of us, four Republicans and six Democrats. And we, on a bipartisan basis, in Congress, are going to work to change the policy. So new laws could be passed. PHILLIPS: Do you really think that can happen, though, especially dealing with human rights and economic freedom when the Castros are still running that country?

HARMAN: Well, there are legitimate issues with that government. I'm not supporting the government. But what I'm saying is that U.S. policy that embargoes Cuba, that keeps Cubans from reuniting with their families, that prevents remittances, those are small paychecks to be sent back to Cuba, it doesn't make any sense anymore.

We don't have a huge threat just 90 miles off the Florida border. And by moving on some of these issues, even if it's not a full-scale embracing of that country, we do something that is more rational. Let's understand that we have normal relationships with many countries in the world who have terrible governments.

We have a normal relationship with Vietnam, which has a communist government. We have a normal relationship with many countries in the Middle East and south Asia, which have governments that are pretty tough to digest. And why do we do this? We do this because it's in our national security interest. I would say it's in our national security interest to have Cuba as a good neighbor.

PHILLIPS: I've got to ask you real quickly, it's a totally different subject, if you don't mind, I'm curious to know how your relationship with Nancy Pelosi is going, and are you disappointed that you were passed over to chair the house permanent select committee on intelligence?

HARMAN: Sure, I'm disappointed, but I'm moved on, and I support the Democratic leadership and the Democratic majority of which I'm a part. I'm going to continue to focus on security issues. You can see that I just went to Cuba, and I have some very good committee spots in the Congress and I'm very excited about January 4th when the Democrats take over.

PHILLIPS: All right. One more follow-up. That was a kind answer. Jeff Stein with "Congressional Quarterly," you'll remember, made a number of calls to leaders on the Hill. He called Congressman Silvestre Reyes, who is now the chair of that intelligence committee.

You may remember the article, I'm not sure, but Jeff Stein discovered that he didn't even know if al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite, nor did he know Hezbollah's makeup. It astounded a lot of people. It definitely shocked us. Jeff Stein came on and talked about this. Does that concern you that the man heading up this intelligence committee can't answer those questions about national security?

HARMAN: Well, it concerns me that the intelligence committees in Congress have not played the role they should have in the last six years, doing real oversight over the administration's policies. Silvestre Reyes is my friend. He served on the committee for six years. He has my strong support and I will do whatever I can to help him be a successful chairman of the committee.

PHILLIPS: Congresswoman Jane Harman, thanks for your time.

HARMAN: Thank you


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