Florida’s Mel Martinez Welcomes Cuban Doctors; Can Lamb/Lion Mating Be Far Behind?

Florida’s junior senator, Republican Mel Martinez, has shown the first tentative signs of growing a spine. Scientists caution it’s too early to say for sure, but the Cuban-American politico, famous for handing off both strategy and blame to his staff, is looking…firmish and principley.

Martinez said he welcomes help for Katrina victims from Cuban doctors, as offered by Fidel Castro last week. Miami Herald:

Castro’s offer has put the administration in a tight spot. Refusal could be perceived as placing politics before the needs of victims…

“But if we need doctors, and Cuba offers them and they provide good service, of course we should accept them,” he said in his Washington office. “And we’re grateful for that offer.”

Martinez truly has been such a Bush lackey up to now that it’s hard not to think the president’s stock is really low if Mel’s willing to go against him.

Oh, we need doctors. Despite FEMA claiming we don’t and turning them away at the gates, a medical team from Florida made it in to Waveland, Miss. earlier this week. People ran to the ambulance and beat on its doors before it came to a stop in a shopping center parking lot, wheeling loved ones unable to walk in shopping carts. The sick and injured told the medicos they were the first doctors and nurses they had seen since the hurricane hit, with one person already dying from lack of dialysis.

So we need all the help we can get, but someone should first check and see whether the earth shifted on its axis if Martinez said we are grateful to communist Cuba. Anyone not familiar with the bitterness found among some in the Cuban community toward Castro can’t appreciate the daredevil Mel is turning out to be.

Martinez recalled how Cuba rejected a U.S. offer to send $50,000 when the island was ravaged by Hurricane Dennis in July. “I regretted that,” he said.

Castro has refused all U.S. aid as long as Washington maintains the trade embargo against the island.

The Bush administration has not responded to Cuba’s offer, which was made over a week ago.

But Mel was on a roll. He didn’t stop with Castro, he barreled right on ahead and extended the old olive branch to Pat Robertson target Hugo Chavez while he was at it.

Martinez also welcomed an offer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a close ally of Castro and a fierce critic of the Bush administration, to donate $1 million to the Red Cross. Venezuela will also ship one million barrels of oil to the United States this month, in addition to the usual exports…

Asked if he thought Chávez was using the offer for political purposes, Martinez said, “I think at this time we accept any offers of assistance in good faith. He’s offered oil. That would be very helpful.”

There’s something else going on here, from where I sit. Martinez truly has been such a Bush lackey up to now that it’s hard not to think the president’s stock is really low if Mel’s willing to go against him. I wonder who the next crack in the GOP wall will be?


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