Earlier today, Josh flagged Andrea Mitchell bringing the supposed controversy over Barack Obama’s brief handshake with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez into the mainstream. As ridiculous as this all is–and Josh lays out the reasons nicely–she’s had a lot of help in the last few days from many of her colleagues.
But there was a small problem with her segment. She said “the analogy [conservatives and Republicans] are making is when John F. Kennedy went to Vienna, Kruschev sized him up and realized or thought that he was weak, and what we had then was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall, and a series of East-West conflicts.”
That’s not really the point Newt Gingrich made on the Today Show during the segment Mitchell was referring to. Here’s Gingrich:
Everywhere in Latin America, enemies of America are going to use the picture of Chavez smiling and being with the President as proof that Chavez is now legitimate, that he’s acceptable…. How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country, and who wants to undermine you…. We didn’t rush over, smile and greet Russian dictators.
Whatever Gingrich is saying there, he’s certainly not making a comparison between Obama and Kennedy. He’s saying that Obama has failed to live up to the standards past presidents set when dealing with America’s enemies. This, of course, is deeply ahistorical, but it’s representative of the tenor of the backlash coming from the right.
Tonight on Hardball, Pat Buchanan went on a bit of a tirade, saying “Bush and Cheney would have done a far better job of defending their country…. This guy is not a leader. This guy went down there and virtually groveled to these characters, Chris. I mean what is the matter with people.” Watch:
Dick Cheney added some thoughts of his own and his hagiographer, Stephen Hayes, took his cues and chimed in for himself on CNN:
I can tell you from having spoken to a number of those Republicans that there is considerable uncomfortability [sic], at least on the right, with the handshake. With I think the warm embrace between Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez, getting more disturbing than just shaking hands. He seemed to actually be enjoying it. And as you say, you know, this is somebody with a very long past of making comments, disparaging to the United States.
And, of course, high profile conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and bloggers at Red State weren’t about to let an opportunity like this pass them by. The rhetoric thus far has been somewhat mild compared to some of the stuff we heard last week, but with an issue like this, it could easily veer into ugly territory. Keep your ears peeled.