Every week there seems to be a particular type of national uproar, also known as "faux outrage," over every little thing that makes the political headlines. It is too early this week to know exactly what it will be, but last week it was the handshake seen around the world.
During the Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama was captured on video tape, for the entire world to see, briefly shaking hands with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. What is even worse is that Obama was caught with a reciprocal smile on his face. This opened the flood gates of criticism for the party without an official leader.
So it seems to have been former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's turn to hit the Sunday talk show circus with his party's horrified reaction and response to Obama's statement of the facts: "It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interest of the United States," Obama said and the Associated Press reported.
Obama went on to say that during the presidential campaign this debate over the use of civil tactics in dealing with previously hostile governments as reflecting a sign of weakness had been debunked by the American people at the ballot box. "And there's a good reason that the American people didn't buy itóbecause it doesn't make sense."
Even so, Newt Gingrich found it necessary to try to turn this type of diplomatic approach into a negative by saying that "Obama is bolstering the enemies of America," according to NBC News. He ridiculed the idea of face to face talks as projecting a sign of weakness on Obama's part. Gingrich, I suppose, took on the job of trying to convince his audiences that talking would make America look weak and that the silent treatment is preferable.
Chavez shaking hands with Obama will most likely not do what Newt Gingrich claims ó "Everywhere in Latin America enemies of America are going to use the picture of Chavez smiling and being with the president as proof that Chavez is now legitimate, that he is acceptable," the Associated Press quoted him as saying. Mr. Gingrich needs to remember that whether we like Chavez or not, he is in fact the twice "elected" president of the "democracy" known as Venezuela. Of course Americans clearly do not approve of all that he has done or everything that he stands for. Who would?
Gingrich tried to make the case that American presidents do not shake hands with or smile at or talk to countries that hate America. It is true that Mr. Gingrich does have a Ph.D. in European History, but it appears that he has conveniently forgotten some important past-presidential facts and obvious examples that need to be mentioned here.
One of the Republican Party's all time favorites, Ronald Regan, and one of Gingrich's supposed foreign policy heroes, met with the hated Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at four different summits, and pictures show him shaking hands and smiling, and the two actually spoke to each other in a civilized manner. And one of the most infamous Republican presidents, Richard M. Nixon shook hands with members of Communist China's leadership, and even gave Soviet leader Brezhnev a Cadillac as a gift. FDR shook hands with the tyrannical leader Joseph Stalin, and JFK stood next to the despicable Nikita Khrushchev as the two smiled for the camera. All of these enemies hated the United States and wanted our type of government destroyed, but true to form Gingrich left out these facts in his rants.
More recently, historically speaking, George H.W. Bush sat with and was cordial to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, while President Bill Clinton even negotiated on foreign policy with Yeltsin. And President George W. Bush got close enough to Russia's Putin to look into his eyes and see his soul. I think a handshake would have been a better choice in this particular case. Professor Gingrich would do well to review his history books before he teaches another class or gets in front of a camera and tries to rewrite the facts to bolster his bias.
When two leaders from two countries meet, it is only civil for them to shake hands. This act only establishes that the two recognize each other as the official leaders of established governments. It does not mean that the two leaders agree with or approve of what the other stands for or has done or said in the past. As long as President Obama remembers to use a handshake and doesn't hold hands and kiss, everything should be all right.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Carol Jensen is a long-time Barstow resident, graduating from Kennedy High School and Barstow College, where she was an English instructor for many years. Much of her time now is spent writing political and social commentary. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.