WSJ Editorial Board member Mary Anastasia O’Grady unloads on President Obama for his pathetic performance at the Summit of the Americas:
If President Barack Obama’s goal at the fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago this weekend was to be better liked by the region’s dictators and left-wing populists than his predecessor George W. Bush, the White House can chalk up a win.
If, on the other hand, the commander in chief sought to advance American ideals, things didn’t go well. As the mainstream press reported, Mr. Obama seemed well received. But the freest country in the region took a beating from Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Nicaragua’s Danny Ortega.
Ever since Bill Clinton organized the first Summit of the Americas in 1994 in Miami, this regional gathering has been in decline. It seemed to hit its nadir in 2005 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, when President Nestór Kirchner allowed Mr. Chávez and his revolutionary allies from around the region to hold a massive, American-flag burning hate-fest in a nearby stadium with the goal of humiliating Mr. Bush. This year things got even worse with the region’s bullies hogging the limelight and Mr. Obama passing up a priceless opportunity to defend freedom.
Mr. Obama had to know that the meeting is used by the region’s politicians to rally the base back home by showing that they can put Uncle Sam in his place. Realizing this, the American president might have arrived at the Port of Spain prepared to return their volley. They have, after all, tolerated and even encouraged for decades one of the most repressive regimes of the 20th century. In recent years, that repression has spread from Cuba to Venezuela, and today millions of Latin Americans live under tyranny. As the leader of the free world, Mr. Obama had the duty to speak out for these voiceless souls. In this he failed.
The first black U.S. president could have named hundreds of others being held in inhumane conditions by the white dictator. He could have also asked Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet and Mexico’s Felipe Calderón where they stand on human rights for all Cubans. Imagine if Mr. Obama asked for a show of hands to find out who believes Cubans are less deserving of freedom than, say, the black majority in South Africa under apartheid or Chileans during the Pinochet dictatorship. Then again, that would be no way to win a popularity contest or to ingratiate yourself with American supporters who are lining up to do business in Cuba.
Instead the U.S. president simply floated down the summit river passively bouncing off whatever obstacles he encountered. The Chávez “gift” of the 1971 leftist revolutionary handbook “Open Veins of Latin America” followed by a suggestion of renewing ambassadorial relations was an insult to the American people. Granted, giving the Venezuelan attention would have been counterproductive. But Mr. Obama ought to have complained loudly about that country’s aggression. It has supported Colombian terrorists, drug trafficking and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. As former CIA director Michael Hayden told Fox News Sunday, “the behavior of President Chávez over the past years has been downright horrendous — both internationally and with regard to what he’s done internally inside Venezuela.”
Make sure to read the whole thing.
I’m still fuming over how Obama responded to Ortega’s rant. Ortega can say whatever he wants about this country, heck, any of those leaders could have (and some did). But it was up to Obama to rise to the occasion and respond to the remarks forcefully – not by telling Ortega he was “grateful” he didn’t blame him. Ortega’s remarks were not about Obama – they were about Ortega’s issues with the west – particularly about our country, and Obama as the leader of this country had a duty to address him rather than sit back and doodle notes that he apparently didn’t intend on using. I’m not saying he had to address everything point by point, but surely someone as eloquent as Obama could have come up with something more than “I’m grateful he didn’t blame me for something that happened when I was three years old”? Was there no time to consult with State before he got up to make his speech? Or was State still trying to find someone who could translate the title of the book Chavez gave him earlier in the day (or was it the day before? All the photo ops are kind of blurred together in my mind right now)?
This country has made loads of mistakes in the past, some of them against Latin America – there is no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean the President should ever sit back and take a lecture from Socialist thugs who have a thing against democracy, loathe free speech, and who fund terrorists who kill freedom-loving people in their own backyards, and maybe in the Middle East as well. We may have made mistakes in the past, but we’ve done a lot of good in the world at great cost to hundreds of thousands of men and women in our military and I’m sick of turning on the TV everytime Obama decides to go on a foreign tour and hearing him apologize for this country – especially when he does so to the likes of Chavez and Ortega. A President is supposed to always demonstrate pride in the country he’s been elected to lead, not act in the role of apologist every chance he gets. It’s one thing to have a dialogue with an ally and say “look, we’ve made some mistakes, but we’ve also worked well together over the years and I’d like that to continue” – but it’s another thing altogether to warmly pat on the back, shake hands, smile with, and chit chat with a Socialist thug dictator who told you to “wipe your a$$” last year, who wants to see this country “finished,” and who called the man who sat in the WH big chair before you “El Diablo,” and then turn around and lamely respond to accusations against your country by another Socialist thug.
When I first heard about Ortega dressing down America in front of Obama, I was outraged that he would disrespect our President in such a fashion in a public setting, instead of privately where they could debate. I was even more outraged when I read how weakly our President responded.
But hey, who knows? Maybe something “good” can come out of Obama’s sitting back and taking the abuse heaped upon our country by some of these Latin “leaders” – good for the administration, anyway. Perhaps President Obama’s hoping that, after rubbing elbows with him, Chavez will be able to put in a good word for him with Iran’s Islamofascist “leader,” a pal of Chavez’s. Let’s just hope the State Dept. doesn’t try the whole “reset” button idea on him.