John wrote yesterday about President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro. Many of us would have preferred that Obama snub the tyrant.
However, Obama could reasonably have concluded that the Mandela funeral was not a proper occasion for antagonistic gestures. Thus, a simple handshake would not have bothered me.
Unfortunately, Obama went beyond a simple handshake. Even if we assume that he didn’t bow to Castro, as he appeared to do, Obama certainly bent down to engage him. This wasn’t a kiss instead of a handshake, to use the words of that famous mouthwash commercial of 50 years ago. But it was significantly more than the perfunctory handshake that would have been more than sufficient for the occasion.
If you are wondering why Obama behaved warmly towards the Cuban dictator, you haven’t been paying attention. For one thing, Obama takes perverse, childlike pleasure in breaking foreign policy taboos like the one that has caused his predecessors, all of them, to avoid providing the Castros with a photo op.
More fundamentally, the unifying foreign policy theme of this presidency is the desire to reconcile America with anti-American dictators. Obama started down this road with Syria’s Assad, but the revolution ended that foray, at least temporarily.
Obama then turned his back on the people of Iran when they took to the streets against the mullahs. He wanted to engage the bloody theocrats, not topple them.
Now he has engaged them by beginning to end sanctions he never wanted to impose. His deal with Iran has nothing to do with halting its progress towards a nuclear weapons capacity. The deal is about normalizing relations with a government that hates America and seeks to expand its power at our expense.
A president who holds our nation’s interests, as heretofore understood, in such low regard would relish the opportunity to give Raul Castro a warm handshake that had the feel of a kiss.
If Obama has his way, this encounter with Fidel’s brother will be the diplomatic equivalent of a first date.