Sen. John McCain And Critics of “The Handshake”: The Pain Of Obama Derangement Syndrome

The Horror.

The Horror.

There are many, too many,  aspects of President Obama’s conduct of his office that deserve to be singled out for legitimate criticism. Shaking hands with Raul Castro at a non-political gathering of world leaders is not one of them. It’s not even close.

The fury with which Republican and conservatives large and small, prominent among them Sen. John McCain, have attacked the President for this obligatory, unremarkable and  essentially meaningless nod to civility shows that they are in full fever with Obama Derangement Syndrome, a crippling malady with antecedents in the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush 43 administration. Rapid psychiatric intervention is called for. In this instance, President Obama is blameless. He did what any responsible President would do, and what many before him have done.

This apparently means that John McCain would not have been a responsible President.  “Why should you shake hands with somebody who’s keeping Americans in prison? I mean, what’s the point?”, Obama’s maladroit 2008 opponent said yesterday in a radio interview. I guess in the McCain family, feuding family members brought together in death should duke it out at granddad’s wake. Michael should have shot Barzini AT his father’s funeral. Shaking hands is just polite, and for the President of the United States to turn Nelson Mandela’s funeral into a protest, snub, a diplomatic slight or an international incident would have been rude and disrespectful to the man being mourned. (Sen. Ted Cruz ostentatiously stalked out of the proceedings while Castro was delivering his eulogy. Wrong time, wrong place, rude and classless. If you are going to act like that, Senator, stay home. Unfortunately, it is very possible, knowing Cruz, that he only attended the funeral to stage his walkout.)

“Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler,” McCain said. Yes, John, but it wasn’t the handshake that was the problem at Munich. It was handing over Czechoslovakia. Later on, FDR shook hands multiple times with Stalin, who murdered the equivalent of the population of Cuba many times over. President Nixon shook hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai (something President Eisenhower’s Secretary of State has pointedly refused to do, causing a diplomatic incident at the time), just as Vice-President Nixon had shaken hands with Nikita Khrushchev, also a human rights violator of note (Nixon insulted him later, of course). Kennedy also shook hands with Nikita on more than one occasion: this might have helped prevent World War III.

In the conventions of modern day manners and diplomacy, a head of state not shaking hands is a gesture of contempt that should never be undertaken on a whim; if Obama was going to do that, he had better have had a speech ready. If the President had competent advisors, which we know he does not, how to handle such an encounter should have and would have been discussed and thoroughly planned. Absent such competent forethought, Obama did the right thing. Mandela’s funeral was no time to insult the Castros, much as they deserve it.

Finding fault with President Obama when he is just doing his job—serving as symbolic head of state and giving funeral speeches are well within his limited sphere of leadership competence—isn’t just unfair. It also creates a Chicken Little effect. When Obama deserves criticism from McCain and the rest, he can counter by saying, with some accuracy, “Don’t mind them. They don’t like anything I do.”

Show some patience, guys. Wait for something serious that warrants criticism. Based on the last five years, it shouldn’t take too long.


Sources: Washington Post, Politico

17 thoughts on “Sen. John McCain And Critics of “The Handshake”: The Pain Of Obama Derangement Syndrome

  1. Yep. No better way to undermine one’s credibility in serious fights is to engage in petty fights.

    Work has been busy, so many great discussions from the last week.

    Also, in regards to the issue of his “selfies”, another minor issue, but still just evidence of a non-serious leader in serious times.

    • “Yep. No better way to undermine one’s credibility in serious fights is to engage in petty fights”

      Precisely. As a conservative myself, I am tiring of those who strain at a gnat and ignore the weightier issues. The Republican party would do well to divest itself of the Birthers, those who believe the President is a Muslim and those who find fault with him shaking someone’s hand. There are far more significant areas of offense out there. They do themselves no favors by fixating on the pointless.

  2. I absolutely agree with you here, Jack. The handshake is among the most basic civil expressions of courtesy and respect of dignity. GAWD! I hate how so many media, along with some politicians hunting for cheap affirmations, are hyping and tabloid-ing Every. Freaking. Image or Action. at the observance for Mandela.

  3. It’s overkill no doubt. So is most of what politicians, pundits and media say and do. I think we all need to get a lot less horrified and a lot more charitable. I also think the odds of that happening are slim to none. The new Puritans see sin everywhere but where the original Puritans saw it. Meet the new boss.

  4. Respect for Raul Castro? The Regimes human rights record is scarcely better than Fidel’s. No USA President has ever shaken hands with a Castro, which includes Clinton. I’m happy that Cruz made a statement by walking out of the Memorial Service. I’m surprised that Obama didn’t hug him.

    • I think in any other situation our leader would be completely right to snub an opponent to a Western style republic or commerci republic. But the context in this situation, I think as Jack described it, creates a unique situation in which it was time to overlook animosities and competitions.

      By no means does overlooking the animosities, during this temporary moment to acknowledge the passing of a fellow human, say “hey we’re friends” or “hey our differences are behind us”. No doubt Cuban propaganda will spin it as such, no doubt totalitarian regimes everywhere will spin it as such. It’s really too bad that worn out statesmen whose time to retire has long since come and gone is also glomming on to that spin. We are still enemies to communism and we are still enemies to totalitarianism.

      But WE ALL are still humans and die.

      • Like the unofficial Chrismas truces in the trenches on the Western Front, or temporary ceasefires in the war to attend to the dead, we’ll go on fighting tomorrow, but right now, let’s just be merely human.

  5. I will caveat. I think it is safe to assume that Obama doesn’t comprehend the gravity of a handshake with our opposition regardless… had it been an appropriate time to snub, I’d be willing to bet he’d have no clue that it would mean something to do so.

    • Wow. Tex, I so rarely disagree with you. But I disagree with your 11:36 pm comment. I have no doubt that Barack Obama comprehends the gravity of shaking hands with his opposition in public. If Obama intended to send any message in his shaking of Castro’s hand, he at least succeeded in provoking a lot of people to discuss whatever message was intended, versus what message(s) were perceived or assumed. Even if he did the handshake without any premeditation, it garnered lots of attention, which suits him fine.

  6. Even funnier to me than the ignorant freakout over the handshake is the pictures of Nixon shaking Fidel’s hand, or Mao’s, with captions that say “why is this ok but Obama’s isn’t?”…

    I mean this man, who was an ethical nightmare, is utterly reviled by the Left, and this is the guy they want to hold up and say “well, if he did it, why isn’t it ok for Obama?”?

    I mean, is that really the best argument they can make?

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