Is the Obama-Castro Handshake a Big Deal?

Right fumes over gesture at Mandela memorial
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2013 1:03 AM CST
Is the Obama-Castro Handshake a Big Deal?
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Raul Castro in Soweto, South Africa, at a memorial service Nelson Mandela, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.   (AP Photo/SABC Pool)

At Nelson Mandela's memorial, President Obama shook hands with the Cuban president, and the media is in a tizzy about it. "The handshake between Obama and Raúl Castro makes the stomach turn," writes Mona Charen at the National Review. "The nature of the Cuban regime should be enough to cause our president to find some way to avoid a handshake." At Breitbart, Frances Martel lists activists in Cuba "whose plight President Obama willfully ignores and whose oppression he embraces as he embraces their oppressor."

Republican lawmakers expressed their distaste, too, with Sen. Marco Rubio saying Obama should have asked Castro "about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba." John McCain pointed to Neville Chamberlain's handshake with Adolf Hitler, while Politico notes that Ted Cruz walked out of Mandela's memorial when Castro spoke. But at the Week, Jon Terbush says everyone needs to chill out about this "ridiculous faux-controversy": "The idea that the president should avoid this most basic form of decorum is absurd. Presidents routinely shake hands with world leaders with whom they disagree," he notes. The Obama-Castro handshake is hardly the only gesture riling pundits; there was also this selfie. (More President Obama stories.)

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