By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Our View: No harm in Obama talking to U.S. 'foes'
Placeholder Image
One of the stale ideas rejected by voters during the 2008 presidential campaign was that having the president acknowledge - let alone talk with - a leader of an "enemy" state was akin to appeasement or a display of weakness. Hillary Clinton tried to make that argument during the Democratic Party primaries, as did Republican candidate John McCain during the general election. Neither won the presidency.

But President Obama's critics continue to make that tired argument, to the preposterous extent that the president accepting a handshake offered by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has become significant fodder for talk television and radio. Not only did the president return the handshake, he smiled. And accepted a book.


Among the lessons that should have been learned during the George W. Bush administration is that a with-us-or-against-us foreign policy only will turn more people "against us." It doesn't work. Sometimes, to get what you want from someone else, you must talk to them.

Chavez will not become a friend of the U.S., or even stop saying unkind things about us, by continuing to isolate him. He very well may not do either even if the United States has a dialogue with him. But talking at least provides a chance for some sort of reconciliation - which is what any of us should want.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Sunday said Obama's greeting of Chavez sends a poor message to enemies by giving legitimacy and credibility to the Venezuelan leader. But couldn't it also be said that painting him as an enemy also elevates him to a certain, unwanted level of legitimacy?

Talking with someone is different than giving in to them. Obama is right to encourage conversations with Venezuela, Cuba, or Iran, for that matter. If those countries aren't willing to make concessions necessary to normalized relations with the U.S. - Cuba freeing political prisoners; Chavez loosening the authoritarian reins; and Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons development - the U.S. can stop talking then.