Why Did Obama Shake Castro’s Hand? Home Training

Stop being surprised that our president was polite to Cuba’s president.

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium Dec. 10, 2013, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anyone who can somehow remember way back to the olden days—May 1, 2011, to be exact—knows that President Barack Obama is quite capable of delivering a stand-up routine, dressed in black tie and smiling in front of a bunch of journalists, while at the same time a team of Navy SEALs crosses the Afghanistan-Pakistan border—on his orders—to kill Osama bin Laden.

So it’s a little mystifying that critics would take his brief, polite handshake and greeting earlier today with Cuban President Raúl Castro as some sort of betrayal of Obama’s true feelings. After all, if anything’s been proved over the past five years, it’s that Obama will send a personalized Kwanzaa greeting to somebody one week, then call in a drone strike on their compound the next.

The fact is, no one knows what Obama was thinking.

It might have been something colorful, like, “We’re still loving that rent-controlled Gitmo beachfront, buddy.” But it was probably more like a semibored recognition of just how gauche it would have appeared not to shake hands. Folks howl when Obama shakes hands with a Hugo Chávez or talks to Iranian leaders—but talking, and shaking hands, is a pretty big part of his job description.

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze ran with the headline “Obama Shook Hands With a Communist Dictator,” Breitbart’s John Nolte called the handshake “more than a little unsettling” and conservative radio talker Michael Graham half-jokingly tweaked President Obama on Fox News with the question, “What is he going to discuss, tips on how the Cubans could improve the Obamacare website?”

And there was the predictable Twitter backlash, with antagonists piling on with descriptions of Obama bowing and scraping in front of Castro before heading off to lay a wreath at Lenin’s tomb.

In the end, though, it’s really not much of a controversy—even on the right. But here’s why shaking hands shouldn’t be controversial at all:

Obama’s Got Home Training

For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a descriptor for child rearing that teaches the individual being brought up to comport herself with a measure of civility and cultivation. It’s a term usually used to connote someone’s tackiness, as in, “This guy clearly has no home training,” and it’s a bad look for how your mama raised you if you have none. As Twitter user @Karnythia points out:

If you think POTUS should have snubbed a leader of a sovereign nation at a funeral then you have no home training and no common sense.

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