I first heard of this when John Podhoretz tweeted about it and I thought, “Nope, John’s exaggerating. I wonder what Shep really said.” Then a bunch of other people tweeted that Podhoretz was right, so I thought, “Okay, but obviously a joke.” Then I watched the clip.
Actual quote about an honest to goodness police state, no apparent irony intended: “The last thing they need is a Taco Bell and a Lowe’s.”
Two ways to read that, I guess. One is that he’s objecting to having the wrong priorities, not to American businesses invading the island. Cubans need basic necessities, not fast food. Get a couple of Charmin factories in there churning out TP and that’d be a corporate move worth applauding. But wait — if that’s his point, why’s he reminiscing at the start of the segment about the sweet-ass four-dollar Cuban rum he likes to bring back whenever he travels there? That’s not a necessity. Which brings us to theory two: This is exactly what it sounds like, a guy seemingly willing to trade away greater prosperity for Cubans if it means Americanizing the island in return for preserving the quaint, simple culture that decades of authoritarianism and economic retardation have produced. It’s basically the “noble savage” view of economics. What doth it profit a Cuban to gain a middle-American depot for cheap building materials if he lose his cheap-rum-making soul? Where are we going to go to watch people riding around in 60-year-old Studebakers now?