Obama's Cuba Shift Shows Confidence
By Ben Pershing
Twenty-three weeks ago today, Barack Obama won Florida, marking the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has taken the state since 1996. Obama succeeded, in part, by capturing a larger-than-expected portion of the Cuban-American vote. And now he's doing something previous administrations of both parties have either opposed or been afraid to do -- softening U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Obama is lifting spending and travel restrictions for Americans with family on the island, and he's also allowing U.S. telecommunications companies to get into the Cuban market. (OMG -- maybe the country will be freed by Twitter!) Reaction in South Florida yesterday was mixed, with some critics complaining that Obama should at least have extracted some concessions from the Cuban regime before "unilaterally" making the change. The administration's move did represent a middle ground, since Obama did not lift the 47-year-old trade embargo.
Obama's move signaled that he is unafraid of being called "soft" on dictators or communism, or having his policies more generally pilloried by Republicans. And why should he be? Though some of his individual moves -- particularly in dealing with the financial crisis -- have been controversial, the president retains strong support in the polls across the board. In a new Public Strategies/Politico poll, 66 percent of respondents said they trust Obama "to identify the right solutions to the problems we face as a nation." So when he speaks today on the economy at Georgetown University, Obama will be addressing a national audience still more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
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