Again, we get a stark comparison in styles between President Obama and the previous administration.
To me that handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez symbolizes one of the things I like so much about Obama. He doesn’t avoid the face to face meeting, but walks right up to an adversary and says, “Let’s talk.” The old American arrogance has been replaced with strength and confidence. The first step in diplomacy is establishing an environment where discussion can take place. Obama has opened the door.
President Obama, seeking to thaw long-frozen relations with Cuba, told a gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders on Friday that “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” and that he was willing to have his administration engage the Castro government on a wide array of issues.
President Obama, facing criticism at home for appearing too cozy with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, defended his overtures on Sunday, saying the handshakes and polite conversation the two leaders shared here were hardly “endangering the strategic interests of the United States.”
Mr. Obama . . . said he believed he had paved the way for “frank dialogue” with countries like Venezuela and Cuba, countries whose relations with the United States are, respectively, strained and practically nonexistent.
But . . . the president also sought to calibrate his message more finely . . . He said he has “great differences” with Mr. Chávez and insisted that freedom for the Cuban people would remain the guiding principle of his foreign policy.
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