Chavez_1__524861a.jpg

When I saw the above photo, I laughed. I laughed because President Obama gave President Hugo Chavez the “You think we”re cool” handshake. Basically it disarms your opponent/adversary/enemy and makes him or her feel like everything’s fine and dandy (cool) when it’s really not. President Obama then made a point of saying that we (USA) “won’t be prisoners of past disagreements”. Of course there are folks here, here, and here that think photo and subsequent interactions is the worse thing since Joanie Loves Chachi. But I find President Obama’s diplomatic strategy the right way to go during these times.

See, you don’t have to be a hard arse to get things done all the time. President Bush had a “you’re either for us or against us” policy. I understood that policy in some situations and with some dictators. But I thought it was short-sighted to do that towards everyone. President Obama’s way is to be cool with you, say we’re going to work it out, with the goal of disarming said dictator and/or questionable leader. And when someone’s disarmed, your at a distinct advantage. When people are disarmed, they frequently are a lot more loose with the words and actions. Look at the picture again. President Chavez said all kinds of kooky nonsense about the USA in the past (recently as well). And what does President Obama do? Give him the “it’s cool brother” vibe and Chavez is just all smiling and blubbering. Embarrassing is Chavez’s reaction after talking so much “crap”. He just got charmed! That’s a win-win for America. And the hullabaloo about Chavez’s anti-America gift (book) to Obama is just downright silly. All because someone gives you a gift doesn’t mean your going to make it a part of your worldview/lifestyle/leadership. You take the gift and smile it off. Simple and plain.

Look my wonderful patriots. I know this type of diplomacy and interactions rankles you. You like the hard arsed approach. Cut ’em off. Ignore ’em. Give ’em the hand. But in today’s world, charming a questionable leader to the point that they say “I want to be your friend” and smiling like a big ol’ kid can give you leverage that can be exploited for your benefit. Not theirs. “Kill ’em with kindness” does work a sizable amount of times.

On a related note, don’t underestimate the power of President Obama’s color on the world stage. The United States Of America has never been represented at it’s highest office by a “brown” person. When dealing with other “brown” or “black” heads of state, President Obama’s “brown-ness” can be a powerful tool in diplomacy. I emphasize tool because Obama’s skin color is only that, a tool. Easy pickings are not assured. So kill any “Messiah” or “Obamessiah” jokes/memes at the front door.

On a second related note, I am well-aware of the failings of many Latin American countries. But Latin America, in my opinion, has many more paths to success diplomatically than Afghanistan and Pakistan (not saying we should abandon those two places). Yes, we have a “drug war” and illegal immigration but we don’t have a huge religious barrier that seriously hinders negotiations at the quick with Islamic/Muslim nations. Central and South America should be high priority in securing allies. A aligned Americas would be terrific force to be reckoned with.

UPDATE: Al Giordano at The Field makes a great point about how the previous headline from the Trinidad and Tobago’s Daily Guardian was “Chávez vs. Obama.” Now it’s “Let’s Be Friends” (said by President Chavez). Ol’ Hugo caved in pretty fast off the rhetoric, eh?? If you think that this is a sign of weakness from President Obama, “leader of the free world”, then I call bollocks!

UPDATE #2: The Wall Street Journal has more about Chavez now restoring his Ambassador to the United States.

T-STEEL, Site Administrator
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GeorgeSorwell
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GeorgeSorwell
7 years 5 months ago

Ol’ Hugo certainly did cave pretty quickly.

dynaman50
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dynaman50
7 years 5 months ago

You lefties will fall all over yourself for the prsident for life amemdment coming soon from Obama. At least we can get the annoying campaign ads off tv without our the pesky elections.

CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago
I think it’s appropriate that you stress the idea of different paths with different dictators. I agree with that, and I think there has to be some logic in the decisions of which path to pursue. So while I sort of agree that Latin American generally provides more options, I think one part of the calculus that seems missing when you do the ‘you think we’re cool’ approach with any particular person is the propensity for that person to use propaganda against us. Chavez has a pretty big megaphone among certain anti-Americans around the globe, so I think this approach… Read more »
T-Steel
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7 years 5 months ago
Thanks dynaman50 for adding absolutely nothing to the conversation. President for life? What conspiracy theory screed has that come from? And what’s with folks just calling you a “leftie” (not that it is a bad term just as “rightie” isn’t) when you approve of President Obama’s action. For your information dynaman50, I belong to the Slant Wing that follows the teachings of the Mystical Hamburger Lord. Want a burger? CStanley, I agree with the extreme caution approach in diplomacy in general. About the big megaphone that Chavez has, I’m not that sold that it is THAT big. Chavez is more… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago
I think this exchange with President Obama makes him look even sillier and weaker in terms of his anti-American stance. I think that could prove true but it probably depends on what happens next, so I’ll reserve judgment. But I think you’re assessment of his popularity and influence is too glib. Sure, to our ears he’s a blowhard- but so is every other dictator. Doesn’t mean they don’t have their own fan club. And the thing is that even if the strategy you describe ‘works’ to the extent of deflating his anti-American rhetoric’s value, isn’t he likely to become even… Read more »
Don Quijote
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Don Quijote
7 years 5 months ago
Sure, to our ears he’s a blowhard- but so is every other dictator. Not to put to fine a point on it, but Chavez is the democratically elected president of Venezuela, and from what all the international observers have said, he won fair and square(His anti-Americanism might have a little something to do with the US backed coup against him in 2002). You will also notice that despite the fact that the media is often controlled by the right-wing pro-American Oligarchs, the left has been winning elections through out Latin-America for the last 10 years which might have a little… Read more »
marcshifflett
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marcshifflett
7 years 5 months ago

I look at it this way, *everyone* is leaping at the opportunity to bask in the Obama glow, and given Chavez’s growing unpopularity in Venezuela, Obama has maximum leverage from the get go and can though intelligent diplomacy practically clean the slate and establish new policies in one meeting.

T-Steel
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7 years 5 months ago
But I think you’re assessment of his popularity and influence is too glib. Sure, to our ears he’s a blowhard- but so is every other dictator. Doesn’t mean they don’t have their own fan club. I don’t think every other dictator is a blowhard. Robert Mugabe, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Kim Jong-il are much more than blowhards and have demonstrated their explicit nastiness in terrible actions. Hugo Chavez, from an American relations point of view, doesn’t have that level of nastiness as the aforementioned dictators/leaders. As coxsackie pointed out, Chavez want to bask in Obama’s “glow”. Then let… Read more »
AustinRoth
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AustinRoth
7 years 5 months ago

Well, it certainly didn’t have any immediate positive effect elsewhere in CALA, and only served so far to make US lefties swoon over Chavez (not that THAT is news, or even new):

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/18/obama-endures-ortega-diatribe/

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aun_fNO0161g

CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago

T: I meant blowhard in the sense that Obama referred to Iran as a tiny nation. They’ve engaged in varying degrees of nasty stuff but individually (without their ability to influence other players on the world stage) what power do they really have against US? Their propaganda power is their greatest tool.

catransplant
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catransplant
7 years 5 months ago

I got a quick glimpse of “the handshakeke” and was a little upset that Pres. Obama was so eager to shake the hand of this trash. Of course it goes with the job. Presidents have shook the hannds of Stalin and countless other thugs. I guess the long campaign trail prepares them. The “you think we’re cool handshake” was a nice touch–a nuance other president’s haven’t had. Let’s hope South America gets it.

T-Steel
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7 years 5 months ago
AustinRoth, Yes, Ortega’s rant showed there is a long way to go with other Latin American countries (and what a tired, stale rant it was). For the record, I’m not swooning over Chavez (although I do know some “lefties” that do even though I more of a center-left dude). There is just more traction in dealing with Chavez which is why I made my post (I kept it on Chavez). CStanley, I get your point. I would add that you take the trail with the most traction. Hurdles in a better Chavez relationship are lower than say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago
The problem with commonality though, T-Steel, is that the degree of anti-Americanism there may be just as high as it is in Iran. Some people like to point out that Iran’s culture and history should be more aligned with Westerners than with the Arabic cultures, and that there lies an opportunity for us. But years and years of this propaganda (not completely without merit, mind you- I certainly understand the legitimate complaints that the Iranians and the people of Central/South America have with us) but that propaganda has been such a steady drumbeat that I don’t think the people in… Read more »
Don Quijote
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Don Quijote
7 years 5 months ago
Yes, Ortega’s rant showed there is a long way to go with other Latin American countries (and what a tired, stale rant it was). Schools of the Americas Until January this year, Whisc was called the “School of the Americas”, or SOA. Since 1946, SOA has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Among its graduates are many of the continent’s most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators and state terrorists. As hundreds of pages of documentation compiled by the pressure group SOA Watch show, Latin America has been ripped apart by its alumni. In June this year, Colonel… Read more »
T-Steel
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7 years 5 months ago
Don Quijote, Respectfully, my answer is: AND? What does Ortega want the USA to do then? See you can rant, rave, loudly discuss many issues of the past. But what is the endgame? To continue to rant, rave, loudly discuss? I was a card carrying member of a particular black nationalist group. I blamed EVERYTHING on “whitey”. I mean EVERYTHING. I grew up in Black Panther lore. Now everything that was being said to me wasn’t all bombastic speech. The were elements of truth involved. BUT I changed my viewpoint because my “whitey” didn’t mess with today’s “white people”. I… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago

I agree completely on the double standard with regard to China, and on the need to figure out a new approach to Latin America, T- and again, I hope that Obama’s on the right track. I’m not condemning him (though it’s predictable that others are, and to some degree I see where they’re coming from but just really disagree with them.) I’m only expressing what I see as the risk here.

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago
“… we can deal with China and basically have them make damn near everything we use and wear. And they have a regime that is communist: bane of the free world and free market. Yet leaders more closer to home like Hugo Chavez need to handled more harshly.” Well, China DOES have an awesome military complete with nukes. So part of treating countries harshly has to do with military power. It’s easier to bully a country like Venezuela than a nuclear armed country. Iran did offer us help in the fight in the war on terror back in 2002 or… Read more »
GreenDreams
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7 years 5 months ago

T-Steel, this is a bit off topic, but I am continually impressed with the way you take part in the discussion of your posts. It really makes it a dialog with the TMV community. Thank you.

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago
Just to add something (I hope) to the CStanley/T_Steel conversation…. Obama IS popular in Latin America. Some politicians even changed their name to Barack Obama: http://www.tressugar.com/2031381 (Though none won.) So I think it’s important to take the popularity of Obama in Latin American into account when discussing Chavez (or other leaders in the region) using his bully pulpit. If his people like Obama then he has to be more careful with his anti-US rhetoric (or drop it altogether). Or else those people may start to wonder why their leader is so against Obama, who is a symbol to them. After… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago

A decent point, Stockboy. I’d say that there’s a current of politics of personal adulation in general in Latin American politics, and if Obama can leverage that to his advantage then I will not object to it.

Cautious optimism is the description of my current mood on it.

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago
CStanley, “Cautious optimism is the description of my current mood on it.” Yes, that’s what I think and a very good way to sum it up. What’s interesting is that people either tend to see the glass as half full or as half empty when it comes to Obama. For instance you said “cautious optimism” or seeing the glass as half full. But then there are those anti-Obama people who perpetually see the glass as half empty. For instance dynaman50 seems convinced somehow that Obama will amend the constitution so the presidency can be a lifetime job. And others on… Read more »
ChrisWWW
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7 years 5 months ago

The spat between Venezuela and the US always seemed silly to me. Sure, Venezuela had a reason to be pissed off (we tried to depose Chavez), but why exactly were we so intent on demonizing them?

Don Quijote
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Don Quijote
7 years 5 months ago

but why exactly were we so intent on demonizing them?

Because Chavez had the balls to stand up to the US. Period. We don’t take it very well when our client states tell us to get lost.

Don Quijote
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Don Quijote
7 years 5 months ago

Respectfully, my answer is: AND? What does Ortega want the USA to do then? See you can rant, rave, loudly discuss many issues of the past. But what is the endgame? To continue to rant, rave, loudly discuss?

I would assume that Ortega

A) wants us to acknowledge our leadership and participation in the various bloodbath’s that occurred during the eighties in Central America.

B) wants us to butt out of the internal affairs of his country and that of their neighbors.

C) and expects neither to happen.

Keeping in mind that Assume make an ass out of u and me.

CStanley
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CStanley
7 years 5 months ago
SB, you had me until the tax cut part, because Obama’s tax cuts are disingenuous so many of us oppose his tax policy on that basis. There’s no way to pay for the current spending levels without either increasing the amount of hidden tax (cap and trade, and sin taxes like cigarettes) and/or having tax rate hikes on increasingly lower income folks later on. The projections for growth in the economy which underlie the Obama administration’s claim to reduce the deficit without such tax hikes is bogus because the projections are unrealistic. Now that’s nothing new- probably every administration uses… Read more »
StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago
CStanley, from what I understand Obama will let the Bush tax cuts on those earning over $250k to expire next year. But I agree with you about Obama’s projection for growth in the economy…. I don’t think those figures are going to be achieved. And as far as the glass half full / glass half empty… I agree with you and mentioned that if one is against an Obama policy then one wouldn’t be cautiously optimistic (or see the glass as half full). I distrust those who always see the glass as half full as much as I distrust those… Read more »
pacatrue
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pacatrue
7 years 5 months ago
I guess I’m with CStanley’s “cautious optimism” in the sense that I don’t see this handshake as yet much of anything. Obama’s obviously going to try the carrot approach for a while. It’s a legitimate course of action which works sometimes (only sometimes) and is worth a try since the stick approach was not working in Venezuela. Stockboy hit this already in a different way, but Obama’s interaction with Chavez are as much about the region than about U.S./Venezuela relations specifically. It seems very likely that at some point sooner or later that Chavez will reject such overtures. So be… Read more »
ChrisWWW
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7 years 5 months ago
It’s unfair to pretend that since SOME people are partisan hacks in their criticism of Obama, that no one who is skeptical of him on certain issues could possibly have a point. But it is more than a little interesting that the same people who claim to have qualms about Obama’s fiscal policies had no such objections to Bush’s. If you recall, Bush also cut taxes and dramatically increased government spending. What us skeptics were told then was that tax cuts will pay for themselves because of increased economic activity and revenue. Apparently that theory only applies when a Republican… Read more »
GreenDreams
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7 years 5 months ago

well, the demonizing of Venezuela has always been so disingenuous. By nationalizing the oil companies, Chavez hurt oil companies plans for Venezuela’s oil. But at the same time, we want their oil, leading to the laughable situation in which we buy oil through the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire, 40 miles off the Venezuelan coast. What a knee slapper. Pay another middleman in order to pretend we’re punishing Chavez.

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago

I just want to be clear that I’m not predicting success for Obama in Latin America or failure. I think Obama is off to a good start and the leaders of those countries have to be especially careful in dealing with Obama.

But one misstep by Obama could destroy the whole process.

AustinRoth
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AustinRoth
7 years 5 months ago

I want to see Obama French-kiss Ahmadinejad next.

In the name of World peace, of course.

:)

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago

AR, Obama and Ahmadinejhad kissing…. now that would be a sight, though probably one I can do without. I suppose the right would say it’s proof that the poofs are taking over the world. :)

Thanks!

T-Steel
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7 years 5 months ago

Thanks GreenDreams for the compliment. I don’t like posting something and then just “leaving”. Makes me feel like I’m being rude. LOL!

“Cautious optimism” is fine with me as well. I do have to dial myself down some since I see so much more potential in Latin American allies. And it doesn’t help that one of my best friends is from Brasil.

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 5 months ago

As to the criticism Obama is receiving on meeting with Chavez…. I just wanted to point out that the majority of people in this country were tired of Bush’s blowhard, “us v. them” mentality in dealing with enemies. Obama on the campaign trail did say he was willing to meet with Chavez and while some people in the US may not like it (and would never like anything Obama does anyway) I think far more people do like Obama’s more reasonable approach.

Elections have consequences and Obama won.

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