Bigger news story: “The Interview,” or Cuba?

the interviewWow, what a news day. U.S. moves to normalize relations with Cuba, and Sony Pictures moves to give north korea a veto over new releases.

And the bigger story is: Cuba. By a long shot.

Carl Bernstein told Anderson Cooper 360 that he thought the Cuba-U.S. relations news is just short of being Nixon goes to china. I almost agree, the almost for me being, I’m not sure that it’s not Nixon goes to china.

Few saw this one coming. The United States and Cuba have been mortal enemies since at least 1961, with only half-hearted efforts in the Carter administration in the late 1970s offering the slightest thaw in the the last remaining ice shards of the cold war.

What kept it cold was on our side in the form of Florida politics. Politicians, Republican and Democrat, have known better than push anything in terms of normalization of relations with Cuba out of fear of angering the Cuban ex-pat community and its voting bloc in the key swing state.

As it took an avowed anti-communist in Nixon to open the door to china in the early 1970s, it took a lame-duck second-term president in Barack Obama to open the door to Cuba. Carter explained the calculus in his interview with Anderson Cooper, saying he was planning to do more to normalize relations if he had won a second term.

Obama doesn’t have to worry about electoral consequences as a second-term president, and with two years left in his second term, there’s ample time for the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations to run the political cycle to minimize the impact on the 2016 presidential cycle on whoever the Democratic presidential nominee ends up being.

Which isn’t to say that Cuba won’t be a campaign issue. Florida is still a swing state, and the margins have been close enough the past few cycles to guarantee that every swing constituency will get its concerns magnified.

So in the end, very much a brave move, politically and otherwise, from the Obama folks.

Not so much on the other big news of the day, with Sony announcing that it’s pulling “The Interview” after threats of terrorist attacks from hackers that are almost certainly from North Korea, whose dictator, Kim Jong-un, is the focus of the plot in the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

I am still not certain that the furor over the movie isn’t something that is being manufactured by a savvy publicist, who if it turns out that this is an effort at getting a marketing campaign to go viral deserves a fat bonus for the effort, considering that “The Interview” is getting literally tens of millions of dollars of free publicity with the wall-to-wall news coverage of the controversy.

If it turns out that this one isn’t manufactured, then, well, shame on Sony Pictures, et cetera, and so forth.

I don’t want to play too much into their madness, because as I write this column, I’m watching TV, and I’ve seen commercials advertising a Christmas release for “The Interview” every 10 minutes for the past hour.

Cuba. Much bigger story. Not at all manufactured.

– Column by Chris Graham


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