BYE BYE, FIDEL….Well, “Fidel Castro Retires” sure isn’t the headline I expected to see when I woke up this morning. But I guess that’s why they call it news, right?

Anyway, good riddance Fidel, and a warm norteamericano welcome to Raul Castro. Or something. Meet the new boss, etc. I can’t say that I have any idea what changes this will bring to Cuba itself, but speaking from a purely parochial perspective it would certainly be nice if we could use this as a fig leaf to justify ending our insane Cuba policy of the past 50 years. Steve Clemons is right when he says:

Of all the low cost opportunities to demonstrate a new and different US style of engagement with the world, Cuba is at the top of the list. Opening family travel — and frankly all travel — between Cuba and the US, and ending the economic embargo will provide new encounters, new impressions, and the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that George W. Bush, John Bolton, Richard Cheney, and Jesse Helms run scared of.

This is a huge potential pivot point in US-Cuba relations. Will Hillary Clinton step up to the plate — and will Obama move beyond the somewhat timid proposals he offered previously and go to the gold standard in US-Cuba relations articulated by Senator Chris Dodd?

And will John McCain just ignore history’s offered up opportunity or will he continue to paw the dirt and blow steam at the island nation just off the Florida coast?

The accession of Raul Castro is unlikely to appease the electorally important (but less important all the time) Cuban exile community in Florida, but why not try pandering to the nation’s cigar smokers instead? “Vote for me and Montecristo #2s will be legal again!” I’ve heard worse campaign slogans.

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