President Obama delivered a rather beautiful tribute this morning to Nelson Mandela at the memorial service for in Johannesburg, where the U.S. president received an extraordinarily warm welcome as one of the world’s most popular leaders. The domestic political chatter has decided the remarks and the reception aren’t terribly important.
What does matter, apparently, is the “selfie” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt took with Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the perfunctory handshakes Obama made with other heads of state on the stage, including Cuba’s Raul Castro.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday compared President Obama’s handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro to Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolph Hitler.
“It just gives Raul some propaganda to continue to prop up his dictatorial regime,” McCain told PRI’s Todd Zwillich. “Why should you shake hands with someone who is keeping Americans in prison? I mean, what’s the point?
“Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler,” the Arizona lawmaker said, referring to the British prime minister’s handshake with the Nazi leader after Great Britain agreed to Germany’s takeover of the Sudentenland in Czechoslovakia.
In case you’re thinking this is an exaggeration, and even McCain wouldn’t be so reckless as to say something this foolish on the record, there’s an audio clip confirming the accuracy of the quote.
It’s been nearly two whole weeks since congressional Republicans compared the president to Chamberlain, so I guess we were due?
In terms of responding to McCain on the merits, we could explain that Raul Castro isn’t Hitler. And we could note that a polite handshake bears no resemblance to the agreement struck in Munich in 1938. And we could mention that the reflexive reaction from Republicans to play the Hitler card at a moment’s notice became tiresome a long time ago.
But let’s put all of that aside and instead focus on an event from recent memory: in August 2009, McCain traveled to Libya, where he personally visited with Muammar Gadhafi, shook the dictator’s hand, praised him publicly, and even bowed to him, all while discussing delivery of American military equipment to the Libyan regime.
McCain later described Gadhafi as a modern-day Hitler. By his own reasoning, wouldn’t that make McCain … Neville Chamberlain?