Well, what was he supposed to do?
Some of the criticism seems a little unfair – he couldn’t very well have refused to shake Chavez’s hand. He just didn’t have to look so jolly pleased about it.
Especially after Chavez’s recent remarks about the US during his very chummy visit to Iran: “It’s a policy of permanent aggression, of war, of terrorism by the US empire. That’s the great guilty one, the great Satan, as they call it here,” Mr Chavez said. He also has been critical of Mr Obama, including calling him “ignorant” last month after the US president accused Mr Chavez of “exporting terrorism” and being an obstacle to progress in Latin America.
The problem is, you just can’t be chummy with everyone. You can’t be friends with everyone. And sometimes it is wrong to try, because if you are happy to be friends with the bully and the dictator, that sends a message to the bullied and downtrodden. It is not the message the US should be sending.
And Obama did look happy. Certainly happier than Bush when he met Rudd at last year’s G20.