December 10th, 2013

Barack and Raul: the handshake

I expect plenty of disagreement, but I’m actually inclined to give Obama somewhat of a modified pass on shaking Raul Castro’s hand at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

I’m second to no one in the strength of my alarm and disapproval at President Obama’s policies, both domestic and foreign. And I’m well aware of his kowtowing to dictators, as well as his leftism.

But he was in a lose/lose position here. Perhaps with advance planning there was a way for Obama to have avoided being backed into a situation in which he either had to shake Castro’s hand or cause a disruption by theatrically refusing to do so. And perhaps Obama has a secret affinity with someone like Raul and his older brother Fidel. Perhaps Obama even regrets the fact that Che wasn’t there to have his hand shaken, as well.

But as I said, on this score I’m going to give Obama at least a half-pass. To have turned away from Raul on such an occasion would have caused a different sort of commotion, although I actually think it would have been very appropriate.

At least Obama didn’t bow to him.

I’m much more disturbed by Obama’s official policies than by this act of protocol. The latter only takes on its significance because of the problems with the former, as a symbol of what Obama is doing on a larger scale.

36 Responses to “Barack and Raul: the handshake”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    obama could have just told everyone Raul acted stupidly. He does it for Americans while ignoring Medal of Honor recipients and ceremonies, right?

    But he didn’t bow, like he did to the Japanese royal family or the Saudis so…

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    So that means he must not give them as much status in his future Evil American Empire programs.

    I wrote the bow comment and then read that you had made the same comment, so there’s the clarification.

  3. Ann Says:

    Yeah, it could have been something more along the lines of the handshake with Chavez at the Summit of the Americas in 2009, when he “went out of his way to walk across a hotel meeting room to greet Mr Chavez during opening ceremonies”.

  4. physics geek Says:

    I dunno. My Cuban escapee acquaintances are in a somewhat less forgiving mood right now over the handshake.

  5. physicsguy Says:

    He easily could have just nodded his head, and said a subdued Ola” and then moved on. Shaking hands is a personal greeting and a tacit acknowledgement of mutual trust.

  6. artfldgr Says:

    Nobody is saying that Africans in Africa will ever be a minority

    Nobody is saying that Asians in Asia will ever be a minority.

    So why are they saying Whites will be a minority in Britain in 2036?

    And Sweden in 2024?

    and the USA?

    way too late now…
    the knockout game and polar bear hunting have morphed into torching (immolation) of the targets.

    Think of it as an oven with no walls…

    bows here
    bows there
    bows to despots everywhere

    we cant get him to follow the laws, and cant get rid of him for breaking rule of law, and the best we can do is discuss a handshake…

    good jobs…

    why not discuss whether he dresses to the right or left?

    bout as important…
    while ignoring more important things..

    like the collapse of population, allowing non citizen votors, and all that will remove the vote of the men who would prevent such – a remake of germany when the men died in WWI, and the women and those left back home voted in their despot who did a lot of the same

    unless you guys have a way to move your discussion ot the new residents, your talking is just waiting for the inevitable… kind of like continuing to talk when the water has reached your neck, and not caring as the talk is more important than the implications…

  7. kit Says:

    Please correct me if i am wrong. Didn’t he snub the leader of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and he refused to meet and take a photo with him…. He had to go eat his dinner instead.

    He just could not wait to shake Raul’s hand. Just another way to stick it to the good old USA.

    Get him outta here!

  8. vanderleun Says:

    dgr’s right.

    (Oh it costs me to say that.)

    This stuff is all just, in Limbaugh’s phrase, Sit-Com theater.

  9. M J R Says:

    Diplomat-ese is something that is expected to be observed. A handshake is essentially honor among thieves. Yawn.

    I am *far* more concerned with the disaster-in-chief’s reliable propensities to

    -1- blandly lie straight to every- and any- one’s face, and
    -2- disregard inconvenient laws, including his very own, and
    -3- enlist IRS, NSA, etc. to suppress political adversaries, and
    -4- [feel free to add your own].

  10. Charles Says:

    Neo, you are waaaay too kind. too kind. As you state:

    “Perhaps with advance planning . . “

    That is what the office of the President is suppose to do – advanced planning – thinking ahead, something this administration is not capable of.

    Someone, anyone, working at this White House should have asked who else would be giving a speech, where would they be sitting, how close to the president will they be, etc. etc. etc. But, as you say this would involve advanced planning.

    That being said, I give a lot of credit to the South Africans for pulling off this massive amount of security. I’m sure they were too busy to even think about the politics of who would be near who.

    But, again, that is the job of the US President’s people. And, they clearly dropped the ball or else they thought it would be good. Either way, they are idiots.

  11. artfldgr Says:

    The other document dated December 5th, 1980 is a Decision of the Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Nine of the nine Members of the Central Committee signed an order for the KGB to organize the course on “the Party’s Techniques”. A Communist Party unlike normal political party was subversive organization which run illegal activities inside the democratic states. The ANC wanted to send “its trusted comrade” for such six weeks training to Moscow. As the document says the KGB would provide the travel assistance, accommodation and cover the expenses of the participant.

    This is an answer on the request which the ANC leadership sent via diplomatic mail “through the Soviet Ambassador from the city of Maputu in special telegram no. 738 on November 18th, 1980”. (as the other top-secret document of the Central Committee from November 28th, 1980 states). The course on “the Party Techniques” would be run by the trainers from the International Department. This document was signed by the Deputy to the Director of the International Department V. Zagladin who informed that the Deputy of KGB V. M. Chebrikov “was in agreement with him”.

    Those Soviet documents clearly show the true nature of the activities of the African National Congress of the South Africa, which Mandela belonged to.


    Necklacing is the practice of summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with petrol, around a victim’s chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.


    The practice became a common method of lynching among black South Africans during disturbances in South Africa in the 1980s and ’90s. The first recorded instance took place in Uitenhage on 23 March 1985 when black African National Congress (ANC) supporters killed a black councillor who was accused of being a white collaborator.


    In 1986 Winnie Mandela, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, stated “With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country”

  12. blert Says:

    Protocol mandarins so stage the participants that I’d call the event staged.

    It was not all that ‘accidental.’

    Not with this control freak ‘in charge.’

    Remember, his management style is: Angry Autocrat.

    It can never change.

  13. parker Says:

    BHO did not go to Thatcher’s funeral, sent back the bust of Churchill, and gave the Queen an iPod loaded with his campaign speeches. He supported Zelaya’s attempt to seize power in Honduras and went out of his way to shake hands with Hugo. He snubbed the green revolution in Iran, withdrew the installation of defense missles in Poland, lead from behind in Syria, Libya, and Egypt; and so on and so forth. Shaking the hand of a Castro is just the icing on the cake of his contempt for traditional allies and support for traditional enemies.

  14. PCachu Says:

    So, given what we know about this administration’s careful study of history and attention to detail, the proper caption should be:

    “Castro! How ya been, buddy? Y’know, I was expecting your beard to be a bit fuller.”

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    Remember back in the good old days when people would tell us that we just needed to wait and give Obama more time to fix things, because of Bush’s mess?

  16. neo-neocon Says:


    Yes, I thought I was subtly suggesting that they should have had more advance planning and clearly either did not foresee the situation, or didn’t care, or actually welcomed it.

  17. parker Says:

    ” actually welcomed it.”

    It was intentional.

  18. rickl Says:

    Sure it was intentional. Birds of a feather.

    Meanwhile, check out these photos of Barky, Mooch, and the Danish prime minister:

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    Obama kept the PM of Israel in the servant’s entrance of the WH one time, with no food or other offerings, and told him to wait a few hours until Obama was ready to see him.

    Reminds me of the tools on the net that kept telling us about how Israel and Iraq are just puppet governments of the US.

    They weren’t so much talking about Bush, as they were talking about how they really see foreign nations. And how they’ll treat them when they get power.

  20. Matt_SE Says:

    A “professional” doesn’t get caught flatfooted.

  21. rickl Says:

    Weasel Zippers quotes NBC and the UK Telegraph saying that Obama also shook Robert Mugabe’s hand.

    Obama Shakes Blood-Stained Hand of Mass Murderer Robert Mugabe -Update: NBC Flushes Down The Memory Hole…

    The Telegraph still mentions it on their site. I haven’t found any photos, though.

    Here’s a photo essay. I see an awful lot of clenched fists.

  22. NJcon Says:

    If Obama were a better man/president/leader the handshake would have been a symbol of power rather than the weakness we all see it to be.

  23. mike Says:

    Neo – this is the video of Hussein bounding up the stairs and going straight to Castro, not only shaking his hand quite warmly but having a smiling exchange of words with the dictator.

    This is a debacle. The pres. is without honor or adequate knowledge of the symbolism of his office as a defender of freedom. I am embarrassed by POTUS and FLOTUS on world display.

  24. J.J. Says:

    A symbolic gesture that, no doubt could have been avoided. That said, it’s by no means anywhere near the top of the outrageous actions performed by Obama. I’m with MJR. This is small potatoes. In fact I would aver that the WH hopes it might deflect some of the heat they’re getting from Obamacare.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    Damage per second in a war is not deflected by trying to focus on a smaller front. In fact the more fronts there are, the more they must be fought simultaneously. It’s only in politics when the media can be bought, that selectively fighting on a few advantageous fronts is feasible.

    The question is whether people think they are fighting a war or campaigning for an election.

  26. Mike Says:

    Normal Decent Behavior for Normal and Decent Times, the Conservative Headline Reads: Give Obama a Pass on This One.

    Proper Behavior Reflecting the Immense Gravity of the Situation where we have a President who is a Domestic Enemy of the Country he is Prsident Of, the Conservative headline Reads: President Obama Obama Warmly Greets Oppressive and Murderous Communist Dictator of Cuba. Cuban Americans Outraged.

    Hitler gets no passes. Napoleon is not handed back his sword for a fair fight.

    It’s not about you any more than the Battle of the Bulge was about the reporters there.

  27. Liz Says:

    What’s funny is that, in all the pictures I’ve seen, Obama is waaaay more into it than Castro.

  28. Conrad Says:

    I don’t think a handshake implies affection or agreement. It’s just an affirmation that the specific interaction taking place between the two individuals will be a civil one. IOW, in shaking hands at a funeral, Obama and Castro are saying to each other, “I acknowledge your presence here and I’m not going to punch you in the nose.” It really doesn’t mean anything beyond that, unless there’s more to the handshake itself, e.g., bringing the other hand into play, sustaining the handshake for an extra moment or two, or pumping the other dude’s hand effusively.

  29. Charles Says:

    Neo, yes, re-reading it you are clearly making that point; sorry, picking up subtle isn’t my strong point.

    Liz; I hadn’t realized that; but, yes, watching some of the videos of it you are right – Obama does seem to be more “into it” than castro. Sad; but oh so funny!

    Further, trying to give Obama the benefit of the doubt; is it at all possible that Obama doesn’t know who he is shaking hands with?

    Afterall, Obama is quite ignorant about so many things so he might not even recognized Castro. I seem to recall reading a news report several months ago about Obama not taking the time to read his briefings. So, maybe he skipped the briefing on who’s who at Mandela’s funeral.

  30. Don Carlos Says:

    Artfldgr has it 100% correct: “we cant get him to follow the laws, and cant get rid of him for breaking rule of law, and the best we can do is discuss a handshake”.

    As does parker @5:52pm.

    And Mike @7:04 am sums it up nicely: “Normal Decent Behavior for Normal and Decent Times, the Conservative Headline Reads: Give Obama a Pass on This One.”

    Why are they so filthy dirty and we’re still fighting clean? Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee yesterday: “We know what we’re doing.”

    We are losing and we are gonna lose big time, people of the right. Then we losers can give ourselves passes for good behavior.

  31. Steve Says:

    I could not disagree with you more. Obama goes out of his way to alienate allies and only look happy when he is hobnobbing with dictators. It should be the other way around.

  32. neo-neocon Says:


    We actually don’t disagree at all.

    I first wrote about that phenomenon many years ago.

    My point in this post is to say that what matters is Obama’s policy, not whether he shook Castro’s hand at the funeral of Nelson Mandela. The terrible handshake (and it is terrible) is only important because of Obama’s terrible foreign policy. I can imagine another president in the same situation (Mandela’s funeral) shaking Castro’s hand without so much fuss being made afterward, if that person’s policy was okay.

    For example, Clinton (who you may not have liked as president, but whose policy towards allies and enemies continued in the usual vein of his predecessors, as opposed to what Obama has done) shook Fidel Castro’s hand in 2000 (see this). There wasn’t that much of a brouhaha, in part because there was no photo and in part because it was Castro who initiated the contact, but in part because Clinton wasn’t suspected of being especially soft on Castro.

    My point is that it’s not the handshake; that’s just a symbol of Obama’s terrible foreign policy (which I called the Obama Doctrine as early as 2009: “offend our allies and friends, and cozy up to our enemies.”).

  33. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos:

    That’s my point–discussing a handshake is irrelevant. It’s the policy that’s relevant, whether it be foreign or domestic or both, plus Obama’s refusal to limit his power as the law says.

    Who’s this “we” you speak of? This is a blog, and the comments section of a blog. Of course it’s about talking about things. But the things we talk about are hardly limited to a handshake. Nor does this post say that the handshake is especially meaningful except as a symbol of the rest of it.

  34. neo-neocon Says:


    I believe he knew full well who Castro was. But it did occur to me that he did not.

    If the latter were true, it would be merely another order of terrible on Obama’s part.

  35. blert Says:

    From Drudge: it’s official.

    The entire affair was pre-arranged.

    The back-channel has been buzzing for months on end.

  36. blert Says:

    It’s now coming out:

    The South African sign interpreter correctly translated the President’s remarks: he simply flailed his arms around!

    Now that’s brutal honesty, for you.

    He, no doubt, had heard it all before.

    “If you like your life, you can keep it.”

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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