Charlie Crist’s project to reinvent himself as an independent may take him through Cuba, figuratively speaking. The old Crist enthusiastically backed sanctions and the embargo on Cuba, which made him popular with the politically-active Cuban-American community in Florida. With those voters presumably backing Marco Rubio anyway this year, the Miami Herald reports that Crist has started coordinating with groups opposed to the embargo — and to laws Crist himself pushed through as governor:
As the Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist backed U.S. sanctions against Cuba and signed a state law hiking costs on agencies that book trips to the repressive regime.
But as a newly independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, Crist is slated to collect checks from some of the same people who successfully fought to overturn the law last year and who advocate opening a dialogue with Cuba.
Crist’s position on Cuba is the latest example of his that-was-then, this-is-now political strategy as he tries to build a statewide campaign outside the traditional Republican party. The heavily Republican Cuban exile community backs strict limits on travel and remittances to Cuba, which they see as financially propping up the communist dictatorship. …
That was enough to outrage state Rep. David Rivera, the Miami Republican who spearheaded the Crist-backed bill in 2008 to require businesses to post a $250,000 bond to the state if they book direct tours to Cuba. Rivera noted that he also passed legislation under Crist this year to prohibit universities from using taxpayer money to facilitate trips to Cuba.
“As with most things, Charlie is all over the place on the Cuba issue,” said Rivera, a close ally of Crist’s chief Senate rival, Republican Marco Rubio. “The fact that he would now seek to raise campaign funds from Castro’s business partners is an affront to freedom-loving people everywhere. He is now on the record as cavorting with collaborators of a communist dictatorship.”
If Crist had no qualms about reversing himself on abortion a week ago, then the Cuba issue won’t keep him awake at night, either. Both involve the basic dignity and sanctity of life, and whether it gets treated as the sacred center from which springs liberty and freedom, or as a commodity that exists at the pleasure of another — in Cuba’s case, the state. Both also represent core values to people on either side of the debate.
For Crist, though, the only core value seems to be Charlie Crist. When he needed the Cuban-Americans, he courted them with paeans to the embargo laws that went even further. When Crist decided he needed to reinvent himself, the issues of Cuba and the embargo were secondary at best to his own ambition. He needs the money from people not already committed to Rubio, and so he’s off to his fundraiser with the very people he opposed on his 2008 bill.