By DeWayne Wickham
As Barack Obama and John McCain crisscrossed the presidential battleground state of Florida on Wednesday, a United Nations vote challenged the idea either man is really serious about bringing meaningful change to America's foreign policy.
By an overwhelming margin of 185-3, the U.N. voted to condemn this country's 46-year-old economic embargo of Cuba. Two countries abstained and two others didn't show up.
The U.S. embargo of Cuba is a relic of the Cold War - and a foreign-policy stalking horse of politicians who shamelessly court Cuban-American voters in South Florida.
While it has failed to choke the economic life out of Cuba's communist government, the embargo has been kept in place to satisfy Cuban-American leaders who are tone deaf to the call for change that has dominated this presidential contest.
Despite the U.N. vote - and despite widespread support here at home for an end to the Bush administration's political intransigence - it doesn't seem likely either McCain or Obama would heed the world's call to end the embargo.
McCain has said he would try to get international support for a further tightening of the embargo.
Obama has said he would loosen restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba. He also would immediately permit Cuban Americans to visit the island nation once a year and send remittances to a wide range of relatives in Cuba.
Under 2004 rules imposed by the Bush administration, Cuban Americans can send $1,200 a year to immediate family members only, and are allowed to visit them just once every three years.
McCain's position represents change in the wrong direction, and Obama's stance is far from enlightened.
By allowing limited travel to Cuba for only one group - the 1.4 million Cuban Americans - this country discriminates against the other 298 million Americans who aren't allowed to travel there.
More importantly, continuing the embargo sharply restricts Cuba's ability to feed and provide medical treatment to its people, condemning untold numbers of Cubans to an early death.
Obama, the front-runner in the presidential race, has vowed to repair America's standing in the world. That won't be easy if he doesn't undo the embargo, which is opposed by virtually every other country in the world. Only Israel and Palau joined the U.S. in voting against the U.N. condemnation of the embargo.
Even Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries heavily dependent on American troops and financial aid, don't support the embargo. Afghanistan voted Wednesday to condemn it, and Iraq voted against it last year. This year Iraq didn't bother to show up for the vote.
The two presidential candidates insist some form of embargo should remain in place until Cuba gives its people more freedom. What makes that laughable is that neither man has called for similar actions against the communist countries of China or Vietnam or against other countries State Department officials say have even worse human-rights records than Cuba.
McCain and Obama have made competing claims to being agents of change, but their support for the embargo mocks those claims. It also threatens the lives of many of Cuba's 11 million people, innocent victims of the long-running tug-of-war between the Cuban government and ours.
Whatever the outcome of next week's election, neither McCain nor Obama can be counted on to do much to bring meaningful change to this lingering Cold War struggle.