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Friday, October 21, 2016

Charlie Crist wants to go to Cuba this summer, in the middle of his campaign to get elected governor of Florida again.

It would be a flaky thing to do, but that’s Charlie. He thinks the trip will win him votes.

His sunny optimism is based on polls showing that most Floridians want an end to the U.S. trade embargo and travel ban against Cuba. This trend is apparent even in Miami-Dade, where many younger Cuban-Americans and non-Cuban Hispanics believe the embargo should be lifted.

Crist declared the same thing publicly in February at Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, a boldly chosen venue. It was a 180-degree swing from his position when he was governor, and also when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

A newly minted Democrat, Crist says it’s time for a new strategy toward Cuba. Of the embargo, he recently said: “The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expect[ing] a different result. This policy has not worked.”

He’s actually talking about futility, not insanity, but we get the point. The embargo has been a costly, colossal failure, a propaganda gift to the very regime it was meant to topple. This is not what you’d call breaking news.

Nor, for that matter, is it shocking to see a headline reporting that Crist has switched positions on a major issue. As I’ve said before, you’ll get whiplash trying to keep track of all his flip-flopping.

Still, based on the polls, it’s probably safe for a politician running statewide in Florida to come out in favor of normalizing relations with Cuba. To travel there, however, is riskier.

Crist, who has already applied to the State Department for permission, said he wants to meet there with “regular” Cuban citizens, not bureaucrats.

At the same time he conceded that his itinerary on the island would likely be controlled by officials.

So it would basically be a government-guided tour. Charlie won’t be strolling unescorted down the Malecón to chat with food vendors and fishermen, who in any event would be cautious about what they said to him.

The potential for looking like a chump seems high, so why go? And why now, stirring up an increasingly close and nasty gubernatorial race?

I can’t imagine a particular photograph or video clip of Crist tooling around Havana that would move an undecided Florida voter in his direction. The embargo is a federal matter, and the governor is helpless to do anything about it.

Another good reason for Crist to stay here is that his trip would give loads of ammo to Governor Rick Scott’s camp, which is spending a fortune on political ads trying to undermine Crist’s credibility even before the Democratic primary.

Back in 2006, during his successful first run for governor, Crist blistered his opponent for visiting Cuba. It was Rep. Jim Davis, a Democrat, who had gone to the island a few years earlier.

  • charleo1

    As Democrats, when a person like Charlie Crist, that has changed his Party affiliation, and changed his mind on, let’s face it, a wedge issue. We’ve said, for a long time now, made more sense. We’ve got to stop with the flip flop charge. Its the ideologues along the Right side of the isle, that hold it’s a weak man indeed, that ever changes his mind about anything. They’re still defending Bush. Well, an excellent Governor, to a voter that puts Country, family and responsible Govt, before Party, is still an excellent public servant, no matter what letter follows his name on the ballot. It’s why as a staunch Democrat, Crist was the first, and last Republican anything I had voted for since Richard Nixon. (I was young, and Bobbie was dead.) So come on Carl, leave the flip flopping charges with the T-Party acolytes where they belong. Charlie is a good decent man, that has proven he can, and wants to serve the people of Florida. And has been in the business of politics, at least as long as you’ve been a fantastic writer. And speaking of writing. Think about sitting down and writing a strong endorsement for Governor Crist. Now that he is an official, honest to goodness, pro glades, environmentally conscience, Democrat. Then hold him to it. No one speaks more strongly for Florida’s future in that respect, or is more widely read than you. It could be the new beginning Florida needs right now.

    • midway54

      As usual, thoughtfully and beautifully stated. As an aside, I had great hope for Robert Kennedy’s becoming president. Very close to Kennedy’s vision for the future of this Country and all of its citizens, was that of John Edwards, who shockingly and tragically completely destroyed himself and his character politically and morally through his dalliance with a woman during his campaign even while his wife was struggling with the cancer that not too much later following the revelation and their separation killed her.

      • charleo1

        Well, thank you for those kind words. I would take this opportunity to repay the compliment in kind to your contributions as well. That I’ve noticed consistently uplift the conversation with light, and ample heat as the subject, dictates. And I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of John Edwards. Who knows why we do some of the things we do? What passes between two people, who have traveled such a long road together. And share a history, and children. And, the sudden, and tragic loss of a child. And, then, one’s partner was certainly, and unavoidably leaving the other, who had so much of life’s road yet to be traveled. A scandal reveals a character flaw, we judge, and a man’s public life is over. But I wonder if it’s not the Country’s loss, sometimes more so than the man’s? Our stubborn streak of Puritanism would have denied us how many of our greatest leaders, if the truth of their human foibles, and particular weaknesses had been exposed? That Jefferson took his slave as a lover. Would Adams have made the Louisiana Purchase? If the dalliances of FDR, or Dwight Eisenhower, had come to light, would our world be the same? Would LBJ have navigated the missile crisis? Or, would we all be dead, and our children never born?

    • Allan Richardson

      I imagine there were some Senators in Rome who accused Constantine of “flip flopping” from Jupiter to Jesus. Of course, in that system they didn’t last long, or get their comments into the public record (except as last words).

  • midway54

    I know that the plutocrats will see to stirring up the plentiful crowd of crackpot Teabaggers and dupes that put Scott in office (together with West and Rubio) in an effort to defeat Crist and expose the rest of Florida citizens to another delightful Scott administration. Mercifully, West was dumped in his last effort toward reelection after a change in the size of the District brought new voters. He is now one of the wise men at Fox “News.”Millions of voters I believe are looking forward to getting rid of Rubio, a predictably opportunistic hack with few, if any, convictions beyond his dedication to serving the political and financial objectives of the ultra right wingers.

  • TZToronto

    It’s probably quite common (I say probably since I don’t know for sure) for Americans having dual citizenship in Canada to travel to Cuba on a Canadian passport. I know of Americans who have traveled to Cuba for a destination wedding and had a great time. As long as the U.S. isn’t aware of it, it isn’t a problem. Of course, it requires traveling only on a Canadian passport. (Leave the U.S. one in your safety deposit box at the bank!) The pig-headedness of the USA with regard to Cuba is simply ignorant and a very poor attempt at saving face. As for flip-flopping, when was changing one’s mind when presented with valid and convincing arguments a bad thing? Heck, even George Wallace eventually rejected segregation.

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    After he wins, THEN he should go to Cuba, because then he’ll actually have some clout. Until then, he’s just a vulnerable candidate. The potential downside for a visit is too great during a campaign.

  • ganymede1

    If the National Memo wants to attract a larger audience they should be more careful how they pitch their articles. Most of us think that Crist is doing a great job in repudiating his past. Like many Republicans he has seen the ‘error of his ways’. Our policy towards Cuba has always been stupid and self-defeating, especially the pandering to the rightwinger Latinos in Florida. The Republican Party has done very little good for our country and it’s a pleasure to watch the collapse of this negative, nihilistic, know-nothing party. The Democrats aren’t much better, but there is a growing number of Democrat politicians who are getting the message that we’ll elect them if they wake up and start serving the interests of the majority of Americans.