Doug Clifton: Crist’s flip-flop on Cuban embargo was canny and correct

Was Charlie Crist’s greater sin that he “flip-flopped” his position on the Cuban embargo or that his new position will anger voters and cost him the election?

My view: Neither.

With not even a muffled drum roll, Crist answered an embargo question posed by liberal comic Bill Maher. Should the embargo be lifted? Maher asked.

A heartbeat later came this.

“I mean the embargo has been there — what — 50 years now? I don’t think it worked. It is obvious to me that we need to move forward and I think get the embargo taken away. Really. I believe that,” Crist said.

Perhaps it came off so casually because Maher and Crist rehearsed it, which is what I think. No Florida politician wades into the shark invested waters of Cuban politics without serious thought.

Think what you will of him, but Crist isn’t stupid. He sees the same changing numbers the rest of us do, maybe even a few more in his own polling.

By way of review, a substantial majority of Americans believe the embargo should be lifted. Even among Cuban-Americans embargo support is waning. Americans are flocking to Cuba on “people to people” visas and coming home wondering “why all the fuss?”

Just last week, Florida sugar baron Alfy Fanjul, for decades an embargo hardliner, said he had visited Cuba recently, met with Cuban officials and could see a future for his company there.

 Alfy Fanjul, the same Alfy Fanjul who has spent a fortune in dollars and political muscle twisting American foreign policy into an illogical pretzel.

If Alfy Fanjul can be weary of “La Lucha,” the fight, Charlie Crist can be too. And so can the rest of Florida’s voters. Which is what, I’m sure, Crist has concluded.

Maher set up his embargo question with a taunt. Who will have the “courage” to take on the Cuba lobby? he asked Crist, who I’m betting, knew it was coming.

So Crist stepped up and acted “courageous.”

I give him credit for being canny, not courageous. But if his so-called flip-flop puts the Cuba question into play, he will have done more to influence debate on the topic than anyone has in 50 years.

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Doug Clifton is the former editor of The Miami Herald and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Fort Lauderdale.

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