BRENT KALLESTAD | Associated Press
Havana Journal Publisher’s Note: We apologize to the AP for adding the word Idiot to the title of this story and we apologize to our readers that have enjoyed hundreds of articles without commentary. We simply could not resist to add an appropriate descriptive term where obviously needed.
Read the unmodified AP story:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Larry Klayman stepped up his call Tuesday to forcibly remove Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, whom he described as “a master terrorist” and a primary threat to U.S. security.
Five Republican and three Democratic candidates seeking the vacant Senate seat created by the retirement of three-term U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Miami Lakes, spoke about their campaigns Tuesday during a two-hour forum at the 10th annual planning meeting hosted by The Associated Press.
House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, was the lone Senate hopeful not to take part in the candidates’ forum.
While health care, the deficit, national security and the Patriot Act were on the minds of all candidates, Klayman zeroed in on Castro.
“It’s time to remove Castro once and for all, by force if necessary,” said Klayman, a former Justice Department attorney. “He’s had free reign for too long.”
Klayman, who said last week at a GOP function in Orlando that if elected he’d file legislation to oust Castro, said the U.S. has stood by too long while the Cuban dictator “tortures, maims and rapes” his own people.
He said Castro also has bioweapons and shelters international terrorists while the U.S. looks the other way.
“All the politicians go around talking about how bad the situation is, but they don’t do anything,” Klayman said. “If we can do it for the Iraqis, create democracy there, can’t we do it for the Cubans who have done more for this country?”
There was no comment from Havana on Klayman’s comments.
The two Cuban-Americans in the Senate race, Republican Mel Martinez of Orlando and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas support Castro’s removal, but not by force.
“I am totally for a regime change in Cuba, but we must do it by peaceful means unless it’s apparent that Castro is a more obvious threat than he appears to be today,” said Martinez, who came to the U.S. from Cuba at 15 to live with foster parents until his family was able to rejoin him.
“The notion of taking a collective military action in Cuba without any specific evidence of imminent threats to America I would not support,” said Penelas, who also spoke Spanish on two occasions to differentiate himself from his Democratic opponents.
Gov. Jeb Bush later said he would not comment on suggestions the U.S. should invade Cuba to overthrow Castro.
In the Republican field, former New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Bob Smith staked out perhaps the most conservative ground with his positions supporting right-to-life from conception, total support for gun owners and ousting “lousy” judges.
State Sen. Dan Webster of Orlando said he would get on the ballot by using a “door-to-door” campaign to get 100,000 signatures while letting voters get to know him, while Bill McCollum, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee in 2000, said his 20 years in Congress made him the best prepared to replace Graham.
“I don’t need on-the-job training,” he said.
Democrats banged away at the growing deficit and tax cuts for the wealthy.
“It’s now a Republican deficit,” said Betty Castor, shown by some polls as the Democratic front-runner. “I think Republicans have handed us an issue we must confront.”
“We can’t be all things to all people,” she said, adding that health care is another issue of concern to many of the voters she talks with.
U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch of Lauderhill attacked what he said was the Bush administration’s failure to deliver health care to millions of Americans and said the escalating deficit also threatens the nation’s safety.
“We can’t have a strong national defense unless we have a strong economy,” said Deutsch. He also said President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush were systematically destroying public education.
Deutsch said he was running “to change the world” and would stay in Washington for “two or three decades.”
He laughed out loud when Penelas said he would be the Democrats’ best chance to win in November because he could attract votes among Republican-leaning voters such as Cuban Americans.