Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the plane as he flys to...

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the plane as he flys to Cuba on Monday. April 20, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Yancey Roy

Fifty-six years after Cuba's revolution, U.S. politicians still mark their place on the right-to-left scale by expressing their views about the island nation.

Symbolically, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's quick Cuban adventure this week reflected his usual bid to land in the mushy middle, or New York's version of it.

Cuomo talked about "engagement and full relationships" with the Raul Castro regime. He praised President Barack Obama and Castro for efforts to normalize relations. He conferred with government officials. He expressed no position on prodding the regime to return Joanne Chesimard, a New Jersey prison escapee convicted in the 1973 killing of a police officer.

But also, Cuomo had important New York State capitalists in mind and in tow. As announced before his departure for Havana, Cuomo's fellow travelers included officials from JetBlue, MasterCard, the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Regeneron, and Cayuga Milk Ingredients, an Auburn-based dairy company.

Cuomo added Tuesday: "Human rights are an issue that is very important to the people of the United States, and New York in particular, and those issues have to be worked through."

Not all elected officials, of course, sound so determined to avoid a clear tilt on Cuba.

Before his indictment on corruption charges cast a shadow over his public career, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who's of Cuban descent, expressed sharp disagreement with Obama. Farther away, so did Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a declared presidential candidate.

"I think it stinks," Menendez said in December of Obama's move to lift economic sanctions against Cuba. "I think it's wrong. I am deeply disappointed in the president." Rubio, of course, went further. "This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, based on a lie," he said. "The White House has conceded everything and gained little.

"I don't know of a single contemporary, reluctant tyranny that has become a democracy because of more trade and tourists."

Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio posted himself quite differently on the Cuba spectrum by visiting there on his honeymoon in the 1990s in violation of a U.S. travel ban.

That, and the mayor's past activism for the former Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, put his profile firmly to the left of both Cuomo and Menendez, in the enduring Cuban gauge of our politics.

Before Fidel Castro took power in 1959 from pro-U.S. dictator Fulgencio Batista, imposed economic control and aligned his regime with the Soviet Union, U.S. holdings in Cuba were huge.

President John F. Kennedy noted in a 1960 Democratic dinner speech in Ohio: "At the beginning of 1959, United States companies owned about 40 percent of the Cuban sugar lands, almost all the cattle ranches, 90 percent of the mines and mineral concessions, 80 percent of the utilities, practically all the oil industry, and supplied two-thirds of Cuba's imports."

Against that past, and all that followed, any New York official's trade trip in 2015 has to be but a modest mission.