Barack Obama is back with another challenge to the foreign policy orthodoxy. (His willingness to attack Pakistan and his ruling out of a nuclear attack to eliminate terrorists are two others.)
This time, it’s about Cuba. Obama stated a position in a Miami Herald op-ed that makes sense but doesn’t take into account the political world’s customary set of panderings. Members of the Cuban exile community that has huge sway in Florida politics take a hard line against the island nation, and any politician who hopes to win the Sunshine State usually follows their lead. They want to cut off or heavily restrict remittances and travel to Cuba, so as to kill Castro’s regime by a slow strangulation. Obama said that he wants to ease restrictions, so Cubans in the U.S. can visit their relatives on the island, and send money home if desired.
Hillary Clinton and the Republicans, who all support the status quo, attacked Obama for his position, arguing that it is borne out of naiveté and that it illustrates the lack of strength and seriousness that makes the Illinois senator unfit for the role of Commander-in-Chief. Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, and Dennis Kucinich, however, all said they agree with Obama in the wake of his Herald op-ed.
Stuff like this is getting Obama called gaffe-prone (see Hannity and Mitt Romney in this video), but in reality these aren’t traditional faux pas; he’s just refusing to accept conventional wisdom. Can you win a presidential election when you are frequently at odds with the think tanks, most of Congress, the powerful interests, and the status quo? Well, he was right on the Iraq War, and all those folks were wrong… What do you think?