Obama Shakes Castro’s Hand

And let the fallout in certain corners of the internet begin…

Via The TelegraphPresident Barack Obama shakes Raul Castro’s hand at Mandela memorial service.

This is the second such US-Cuban shake:

The gesture – which comes despite half a century of hostilities – came as Mr Obama made his way to a podium to deliver a speech. It is only the second time ever that a US president has shaken the hands of a Cuban Communist leader. President Bill Clinton was the first to do so in 2000 after a lunch during a United Nations summit in New York, when he shook hands with Mr Castro’s brother, Fidel.

On that occasion, the White House initially denied the handshake had taken place but later backtracked, saying it had been instigated by Mr Castro, who had approached Mr Clinton. Unlike the latest occasion, however, the exchange was not photographed.

Heck, this one was videoed (see link).

I recall President George H. W. Bush purposely avoiding Fidel at an event in the early 1990s.  I used to to have a newspaper clipping of Bush clearly pretending like he hadn’t seen Fidel, but I am not sure I have it any longer.

Is this a big deal?  No.  Will it be made into one by partisans?  Oh, heck yes.

FILED UNDER: Latin America, US Politics, World Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Mr. Prosser says:

    “Actually nobody was really tripping over Obama shaking Raul Castro’s hand before #CNN decided to remind everyone again and again” This tweet from Groove SDC sums it all up.

  2. legion says:

    Well, no Republicans cared about Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, so surely they won’t be so petty, simple-minded, hypocritical, and just plain stupid as to raise a stink about this, right? Right?

  3. al-Ameda says:

    If it (shaking Castro’s hand) causes conservative heads to explode then Obama probably did all of us a great favor. Does anyone really think that if Obama did something as little as glance toward Castro that conservatives would not be “Neville Chamberlaining” him right now? Of course they would.

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @legion: That video is stamped December 20, 1983. At that point, Rumsfeld was CEO of G. D. Searle & Company, while Cheney was a Congressman.

    Besides, I suspect Obama didn’t even recognize Castro; he was just glad-handing the crowd.

  5. Franklin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Besides, I suspect Obama didn’t even recognize Castro

    Heh, “who let all this riffraff into the room?”

  6. C. Clavin says:

    I’m pretty sure Obama gave Castro Miami…being the socialist appeaser that he is.

  7. wr says:

    He’s got commie cooties! Impeach!

  8. stonetools says:

    You could look it up, but there are pictures of Richard Nixon shaking hands with Fidel Castro-and Mao Tse Tung. The Republicans seemed fine with those.

  9. CB says:

    Throw in the fact that the embargo (and Cuban policy more generally) is nothing but a relic of the 60’s, and this story is a big bag o’ nothin’.

  10. Tony W says:


    this story is a big bag o’ nothin’.

    Since when has that been the standard?

  11. Woody says:

    This act completely reinforces everyone’s strongly held positions about President Obama.

    So . . . what’s on tonight?

  12. C. Clavin says:
  13. grumpy realist says:

    I’m sure if we dug around in the history books we could find some suitable embarrassing pictures of US Republican politicians shaking hands with some not-so-nice people. We’ve already got the one of Cheney shaking Saddam Hussein’s hand.

    I’m sure we could even find some of McCain…..start your Google (TM) engines, boys!

  14. stonetools says:

    McCain is on record meeting with and even praising Gaddafi in 2009.

    It was August 2009 and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was in Libya with a group of fellow lawmakers. Late one night they met with the country’s strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
    Afterwards, McCain said on Twitter, “Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his “ranch” in Libya – interesting meeting with an interesting man.”

    Obama sure is fortunate in his choice of enemies!

  15. PJ says:

    This reminds me of Tito’s funeral in 1980, President Carter decided not to attend allegedly since it was an election year and he didn’t want to end up meeting Leonid Brezhnev.

    And while we are at it:
    Conservative saint Margaret Thatcher had no issues with attending the funeral of Tito (who at the time of his death clearly still was a strong believer in Titoism, his own brand of Marxism) and bow her head in front of his casket…

  16. Long Time Listener says:

    Hmm. I thought that you would have dropped some troll-bait with a ‘POTUS Selfie With Danish and British Prime Ministers’ post. I guess Castro will have to do, in a pinch….

  17. @Long Time Listener: I actually find the Castro handshake to be interesting, given that I study Latin America. I also knew that it was going to likely cause an uproar in some rightward parts of our politics.

  18. Tyrell says:

    Better than hugging him. He should have challenged him to some thumb wrestling. The president would have stomped him. Look, I am not bent out of shape over this. He could have also said something like “you recall those missiles down there years ago? We got you on that one”.
    “You can go home pig or pork. Make your choice” (Marshall Dillon “Gunsmoke”)

  19. I’m always amazed at the stupid reactions to these kind of things. What exactly should the president do in a diplomatic situation when faced with a leader he dislikes? Punch him? Spit on him? Is that what a Real Murican like Ted Cruz would do?

  20. Tyrell says:

    @Facebones: You have some good ideas, but my personal favorites are the flying takedown, the sleeper hold, and the abdominal stretch. Match him up with Undertaker!