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Wineke: The handshake scandal

By William R. Wineke, Special to Channel 3000
Published On: Dec 11 2013 06:03:10 PM CST
Mandela Service 19

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

President Barack Obama (L) greets Cuban President Raul Castro before giving his speech, as Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff looks on, at the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela at the First National Bank soccer stadium, also known Soccer City, in Johannesburg.

Barack Obama attended memorial services for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, delivered the principle address and then, just to show what a godless socialist he is, he shook hands with Raul Castro, of Cuba.

The press and the right-wing politicians were astounded. How could Obama betray his country by treating the Cuban leader as if he were an equal? How could he treat this head-of-state as if he were actually a head-of-state?

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who truly believes the wrong man was elected president in 2008, compared Obama to Chamberlain, or, perhaps, to Hitler.

The photo of Obama extending his hand to Castro’s played in almost every newspaper in the land, and many, including the Wisconsin State Journal, carried somewhat lengthy accounts of the gesture and of political reaction to it.

I guess that means the nation has solved all its real problems. But I am not quite sure what we would have the president do in that situation.

I mean, Obama was in South Africa to honor Nelson Mandela, the 95-year-old moral giant who died last week. Mandela spent 27 years in jail, most of it in solitary confinement, breaking rocks for a living.

When he emerged, he led his nation on a path toward racial reconciliation that would surely guarantee him sainthood if he were a Catholic.

Mandela was the guy who proclaimed that freedom applies to the jailer as well as to the captive.

Wouldn’t it be a bit hypocritical for President Obama to travel to South Africa, give a speech lauding Mandela, and then turn around and refuse even a simple gesture of greeting to the leader of Cuba?

This isn’t the first time Obama has been pilloried for his failure to be a jerk.

His opponents are still angry that we didn’t bomb Syria when that country used poison gas on its citizens. What we did, instead, is force Syria to give up its chemical arsenal -- which, when you think about it, is the goal the bombing would have hoped to achieve.

And his critics are furious that the United States is using diplomacy to try to convince Iran to stop its progress toward building nuclear bombs. We don’t know how well that effort will work in the long run, but the alternative is war, and war rarely convinces a country to give up its efforts to defend itself.

Here’s a hint to all those who demand we return to our bellicose past -- our bellicose past didn’t resolve any problems; it just cost a lot of money and killed a lot of Americans.

We haven’t engaged Cuba since 1959, but Cuba is still there. We haven’t engaged Iran since 1979, and Iran is still there.

Perhaps a new direction is worth the risk, don’t you think?

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