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Mona Charen
Mona Charen
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An Ugly Handshake with Hugo Chavez


In one photo, President Obama is grinning as he clasps Hugo Chavez by the hand. In another, he grasps Chavez warmly by the shoulder. Those pictures disgusted several members of Congress. Some said so on national television.

Responding to criticism of this encounter, the president was by turns cavalier and obtuse. About the left-wing rant of a book Chavez gave him, Obama said mildly, "It was a nice gesture to give me a book. I'm a reader." Regarding the smiling greeting to an oil-rich, America hating, opposition silencing, drug smuggling Castro acolyte, Obama asserted, "We had this debate throughout the campaign. This whole notion that somehow if we showed courtesy or opened up dialogue with governments previously hostile that we were soft. Only the American people didn't buy it. And there's a good reason the American people didn't buy it. Because it didn't make sense."

Isn't it the case that some leaders, by their dangerous and destructive actions, forfeit the right to warm greetings? Is there anyone Obama would decline to exchange friendly greetings with at a diplomatic encounter? How about Robert Mugabe? Kim Jong Il? Chavez's close friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? If Barack Obama had been president in 1977, would he have shaken Pol Pot's hand? Chavez is not Pol Pot, of course. Nor even as evil as Ahmadinejad. Yet. But despite his sometimes clownish behavior, Chavez is more Mussolini than Charlie Chaplin.

Obama further justified his "courtesy" toward Chavez by observing that Venezuela's "defense budget is probably 1/600th of the U.S. They own Citgo. It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States."

This is proving to be one of Obama's favorite straw men (and he has so many!). He said something very similar about Iran during the campaign. But no one is suggesting that shaking hands with Chavez endangers national security. And no sensible person believes that it is only through building militaries to rival our own that nations can be threatening to their neighbors, to us and to the world.

It was Obama himself who noted soon after his election that Chavez is providing support to the narco-terrorist group FARC in neighboring Colombia.

FARC has conducted a reign of terror in Colombia and also plays a major role in funneling drugs to the United States. In the past decade since coming to power, Chavez has obstructed all U.S. efforts to fight drug traffickers, banned overflights by Drug Enforcement Agency aircraft and provided safe haven for FARC leaders. According to U.S. News and World Report, "It is no coincidence that during Chavez's presidency, Venezuela has turned into a major conduit for the transshipment of cocaine. Despite FARC's killing of thousands of civilians and its continued holding of 700 hostages, among them Venezuelans, the oil-rich Chavez government confessed its direct support for and solidarity with the region's most notorious terrorist group."

Chavez is mimicking his hero Castro in other ways. In his jails you can find people whose only crime was to oppose the regime. Humberto Quintero was arrested in 2005 for capturing a senior FARC leader. Francisco Uson was sentenced to five and a half years for making public comments about human rights violations in Venezuela. Opposition television stations have lost their licenses, and opposition newspapers have been closed.

Chavez is also leading, directing and encouraging state-sponsored harassment of Venezuela's tiny Jewish community. Venezuela has a 200-year history of benevolent treatment of its Jewish minority. Chavez has changed all that and aroused real fear. Synagogues have been attacked, desecrated and vandalized, their buildings spray painted with epithets like "Death to Israel. Get out Jews." Half the Jewish population has fled since Chavez came to power.

During the war between Israel and Hamas last year, government media outlets maintained a steady campaign of vituperation against Israel and against the Jews of Venezuela. A government newspaper suggested confiscating the property of Venezuelan Jews who supported Israel and distributing it to Palestinians, denouncing Venezuelan Jews in public, and boycotting Jewish-owned businesses. The Cardinal of Venezuela, Jorge Urosa, has been outspoken on behalf of Venezuela's Jews, as was the Papal Nuncio, who last year had a hand grenade lobbed onto his property for his trouble.

All of that should have been in President Obama's mind before he extended that friendly grin and handshake. It's not that he endangered national security. Rather, he diminished his own moral standing and, by extension, ours.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



3 Comments | Post Comment
Barry the buffoon. Barack the betrayer. Simple Simon. Dumb as dirt.
Folks mused and feared about his running for president based upon his voting record and his ideological idiocies.
Those who voted him in with a slight margin, nowhere near a mandate, have much to explain away, if they can.
In his fleeting moments of reality and honesty, he will have to acknowledge that Bush may have been a bumbler on the verbal stage, but his clarity of who the enemy is and how to deal with them kept another attack of destruction on our continent away since 9/11.
But His Nibs sees it differently: he sees himself as so irresistible and enchanting that he can bow and scrape to Arab sheiks, he can hold hands with dictators and murderers and he can make nice to anyone on the world stage who he deems important, and he can affect policy in those countries based upon his personality. He is dead wrong.
All of those leaders are snickering and guffawing behind his back. They know that they will only recognize one thing in a leader, and that is power. They know that this flip-flopper is a wuss and won't follow through on his promises. They know he is a neophyte and is, in a Clintonian way, holding his finger to the wind and is depending on polls to keep him in his present position of power. But down deep, he is beholden to the axis of controllers of whom George Soros is but a bit player, and he cannot operate outside of the constraints set forth for him by the world bankers. He can bluster and blow, but his glibness is merely a blowing in the wind. Truth to tell, he is a powerless pawn in a machine that runs it all.
If things begin to go against his dictates, he may pull out the dog card out and try his bluff by trotting out his pit-bulls, Hillary, Rahm, and Michelle. Oh, wait a minute--Rahm isn't a fighter--he lurks and throws out stuff for Obama to do and then hides. But the girls would frighten anyone. His best tactic would be to send them out to the front lines and order them to "moon" the enemy; doubtless they would all shriek and run, and so would I.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Juanito Verde
Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:30 AM


TAXPAYERS are saying "Obamas' radical and socialist changes are more than can be tolerated; therefore, look for the Tea Parties to increase and all politicians pay to be cut to $12,000.00 yearly! Or, sell them a one-way ticket to the foreign countries they've sold America to, taking all assets to pay off the trillions they've borrowed without Taxpayers' consent! Gitmo looks better for them everyday, doesn't it?

There was a Pied Piper who said,
“We live in the greatest country in the world. Help me change it!”
*And the people said, “Change is good!”

Then he said, “We are going to tax the rich fat-cats,”…*And the people said “Sock it to them!”

“and redistribute their wealth.”
*And the people said, “Show me the money!”

And then he said, “Redistribution of wealth is good for everybody”
*And Joe the plumber said, are you kidding me?”

And Joe's personal records were hacked and publicized.
*And one lone reporter asked, “Isn't that Marxist policy?”

And she was banished from the kingdom!
Then someone asked, “With no foreign relations experience, how will you deal with radical terrorists?”

And the Pied Piper said, “Simple. I'll sit down and talk with them and show them how nice we really are and they'll forget that they ever wanted to kill us all!”

Then the Pied Piper said, “I'll give 95% of you lower taxes.”
*And one, lone voice said, “But 40% of us don't pay ANY taxes.”

So the Pied Piper said, “Then I'll give you some of the taxes the fat-cats pay!”
*And the people said, “Show me the money!”

Then the Pied Piper said, “I'll tax your Capital Gains when you sell your homes!”
*And the people yawned and the slumping housing market collapsed.

And he said, “I'll mandate employer- funded health care for EVERY worker and raise the minimum wage.”
*And the people said, “Gim'me some of that!”

Then he said, “I'll penalize employers who ship jobs overseas.”
*And the people said, “Where's my rebate check?”

Then the Pied Piper actually said, “I'll bankrupt the coal industry and electricity rates will skyrocket!”
*And the people said, “Coal is dirty, coal is evil, no more coal! But we don't care for that part about higher electric rates.”

So the Pied Piper said, “Not to worry. If your rebate isn't enough to cover your expenses, we'll bail you out. Just sign up with ACORN and your troubles are over!” Then he said, “Illegal immigrants feel scorned and slighted. Let's grant them amnesty, Social Security, free education, free lunches, free medical care, bi-lingual signs and guaranteed housing.”
*And the people said, “Ole`! Bravo!” And they made him King!

And so it came to pass that employers, facing spiraling costs and ever-higher taxes, raised their prices and laid off workers. Others simply gave up and went out of business and the economy slowed even further. Then the Pied Piper said, “I am the Messiah and I'm here to save you! We'll just print more money so everyone will have enough!” But our foreign trading partners said, “Wait a minute. Your dollar isn't worth what it was. You'll have to pay more.”
*And the people said, “Wait a minute. That's not fair!”

And the world said, “Neither are these other, idiotic programs you've embraced. You've become a Socialist state and a second-rate power. Now you'll play by ourrules!”
*And the people said, “What have we done?”

But it was too late.
If you think this is a fairy tale, open your eyes and ears. It's happening RIGHT NOW!
Did you know the president's name is really an acronym…
One Big Astounding Mistake America - WHICH SPELLS, YOU GUESSED IT

Comment: #2
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:07 PM
Hugo Chavez is bad. So was Sadam Hussien. Our "friends" the Saudis sentenced an old woman to flogging because a man who is not her husband gave her food. Things go on in other countries that are beyond our control, and we can't even set an example for the rest of the world because of our record on torture of prisoners. Our president has to meet with foreign leaders, smile and shake hands, and show the world a strong, yet courteous manner in dealing with them. After meeting with some of these folks, I am sure he can't wait to take a shower.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Paul M. Petkovsek
Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:07 AM
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