Apparently, the most important news story in the world right now is OMG OBAMA SHOOK RAUL CASTRO'S HAND!!!!1!!
As President Obama made his way through a crowd of 90 other world leaders in Johannesburg on Tuesday, he shook a surprising hand: that of Cuban President Raul Castro.
Video cameras caught the handshake, which came as Obama reached out to dozens of other leaders during the song that preceded his eulogy of Mandela....
The right is going to howl, but all that means is that the right will have temporarily substituted "Obama Kowtows to Commie" for "Obama Wants to Kill Us All with Socialized Medicine and Benghazi." As for the Obama base -- well, there was that 2011 Pew poll in which poor people, African-Americans and the young had more positive feelings about socialism than capitalism. This was probably just a reflection of how little capitalism has done for all of those groups lately, but it does say that, among these groups, shaking hands with a communist isn't going to be seen as horrifying; it will certainly be seen as a gesture of reconciliation in the spirit of Mandela.
The problem is the middle -- not the Fox/Limbaugh audience, but the audience for Washington Post pundits and CNN bloviators. This will be discussed Very, Very Seriously for a day or two by all of these people. It will play on endless loops -- I guess it's already playing that way:
Actually nobody was really tripping over Obama shaking Raul Castro's hand before #CNN decided to remind everyone again and again— GrooveSDC (@GrooveSDC) December 10, 2013
It's not going to be read by the middle as Obama goes Bill Ayers!!!, but it is going to be read as Obama reaches out to scary evil foreigners, which plays into a couple of messages the center finds at least somewhat credible: that Obama focuses on other issues when he should be focusing on the economy, and that the Obama foreign policy isn't always steady and stable and thus exposes America to danger. The right may not have gotten the middle to shriek about BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! every day, but the middle now regards Obama foreign policy efforts warily:
The White House and Iran face an uphill selling job to convince Americans to embrace the interim nuclear pact negotiated with Tehran last month, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds.Too many people in the middle will regard the handshake as more ill-advised outreach. We'll forget all about it in couple of days, but it won't play well -- largely because centrist pundits will make it into a bigger deal than it is, and will talk about a mere gesture as if it's a major diplomatic initiative. Oh, by the way: Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel in 2000. America survived.
In the survey, taken Tuesday through Sunday, 32% approve of the agreement and 43% disapprove. One in four either refuse to answer or say they don't know enough to have an opinion.
By more than 2-1, 62%-29%, those who have heard something about the accord say Iranian leaders aren't serious about addressing international concerns about their country's nuclear program....
ON THE OTHER HAND: I suppose Obama, intentionally or not, was giving fellow funeral attendee Ted Cruz a chance to overplay his hand. Surely Cruz will be asked about this. Will he do the tacky thing and attack both the president and the extending of olive branches while still in Mandela's South Africa? We'll see.