Castro began menacing his hulking northern neighbor even before he came to power by kidnapping Americans around July 1958. The editorial board didn't think the U.S. should sit on its hands:
The Cuban rebels are not sovereign; and we wage no cold war with the Cuban government. Still, we have many precedents, the last less than 30 years old, for sending the marines. Our fathers before us would have moved before this . We wonder whether the quieting of the Dominican Republic on the eastern end of Hispaniola is much in the mind of the Cuban rebel chief, Fidel Castro. For that pacification gave Rafael Trujillo his bloody chance to rise to dictatorship and fortune.
Despite that hawkish sentiment the board displayed some restraint on Jan. 2, 1959, shortly before Castro took power:
Batista's strength has been slowly sapped by the remarkable revolution of Fidel Castro and his followers .Castro has said repeatedly he has no desire to be President .whatever unofficial or official role he assumes, Castro will surely be the new Cuban "strong man." Meanwhile the world waits to see how his strength will be used.
And months later, on May 25, 1959, then-publisher Norman Chandler, returning from a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, opined quite generously of the man the board would come to hate:
He impressed most of us as a man of sincerity but whose program for Cuba, as far as I could tell, seemed to consist of good intentions without any definite plans . It is early in Castro's revolution and maybe his plans will come later. I hope they will .
That hate started to bloom in 1960. In February the board was pleased that U.S. capital was leaving the communist-tilting island:
Any sympathy other Latin Americans may have had for Cuba's captor, Fidel Castro, must now be tempered by the realization that his statist policies have disturbed the flow of capital that can come adequately from no other source but the United States.
On April 24, 1960, the board railed against Castro's press restrictions and began its long tradition of futilely wishing for his ouster:
Nothing hurt Peron more than the exile of Alberto Gainza Paz. Fidel Castro too might find one of his exiled editors looming larger symbolically and lasting longer than himself.
By July 2, 1960, the board dropped a Hitler reference, and never looked back sympathy for the "Little Seizer of the Caribbean", as the board called Castro, wouldn't be found on the pages even as they grew to support a liberalized Cuba policy:
More than six years ago Castro like Hitler in "Mein Kampf" before him proclaimed his program.... Unless we and our Latin-American friends take the initiative and start to act in concert, communism may gain its greatest victory, right in our own back yard.
And on Sep. 21, 1960 the board launched another proud tradition in Castro commentary outright mockery as the leader came to New York for a United Nations conference:
Fidel didn't like the rates the Hotel Shelburne was charging ($400 a day for 30 rooms) so he and his entourage of food tasters, beard-combers and chicken pluckers moved out, lock, stock and confiscated bank assets. After threatening to camp in Central Park (where, as some wag remarked, all the squirrels are) they settled in a hotel in Harlem ($845 a day, payable in advance, please). What they left behind.... Telephones torn from connections, piles of steaks ripening in refrigerators, chicken feathers on the sofas, cigar butts ground out in the rugs, and here and there small piles of bones, ashes, pills and empty milk cartons. The wire service reports, perhaps mercifully, omitted mentioning the condition of the plumbing.
It took a more serious tone after the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, praising the president but acknowledging that Cuba would remain a challenge:
dismantling the bases does not remove Cuba as a base for potential subversion and non-military penetration of the hemisphere. Indeed, Mr. Kennedy's undertaking to guarantee non-invasion of Cuba if the missile bases are destroyed gives Cuba an almost protected status as a base for Red agitation and propaganda.
The death watch began on June 8, 1972, around the time the board began to push for an eased Cuba policy:
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, declaring that his heart is strong as steel, is doing his best to discount reports from Polish sources that he shows signs of coming down with a heart attack .There is a strong case for more flexibility in the American posture.