Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Republican Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) said that President Barack Obama was putting America at risk by being polite to Hugo Chavez. Ensign said that it was irresponsible for the president to be seen joking with Chavez.
Ensign was asked if it was right for Obama to accept a gift from Chavez. He answered, “Well, it’s not just what he talked about with George W. Bush. This is a person who is one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world. He is a brutal dictator, human rights violations are very, very prevalent in Venezuela. And you have to be careful. When you’re talking about the prestige of the United States and the presidency of the United States, you have to be careful who you’re seeing joking around with. And I think it was irresponsible for the president to be seen kind of laughing and joking with Hugo Chavez.”
Ensign continued, “This is — you know, this is a person along the lines with Fidel Castro and the types of dictatorship that he has down there in Venezuela and the anti-Americanism that he has been spreading around the world is not somebody the president of the United States should be seen as having, you know, kind of friendly relations with.” For their part, the White House said that the gift and handshake was nice, but Senior White House advisor David Axelrod said on Face the Nation this morning, that Chavez would have to clean up his act and stop his anti-Americanism, before real progress can be made.
I don’t think Chavez’s behavior towards Obama was any kind of a surprise. Obama is popular. It would not be good politics either at home or abroad to pick a fight with the president. If Chavez wants to be civil in public, that’s fine, but Ensign was correct, that Chavez is a brutal dictator, although it always funny to hear Republicans like Ensign who supported torture talk about human rights, Chavez is going to have to offer a great deal more than a handshake and a book for real progress to occur.
If Obama can help the United States form a more civil relationship with Venezuela, how is this bad? Ensign’s comments are more evidence of the increasing desperation of the GOP to find something to criticize Obama for. If Obama would have been cold to Chavez, it would have accomplished nothing. Ensign is saying that Obama was irresponsible because he was polite to Chavez. Think about this, politeness is making America less safe. This is all they have. From this point of view, it is any wonder that they are holding tea parties?