During Nelson Mandela's funeral this morning, President Obama shook the hand of Cuban leader Raúl Castro. It's not completely unprecedented. Bill Clinton shook Fidel Castro's hand in New York in 2000. It's still an odd sight.
But what does it mean? Of course, the internet is buzzing with people trying to politically dissect a brief moment of basic manners at a funeral service.
CNN anchor Chris Coumo immediately tried to downplay any significance (which, of course, outraged right-wing site Breitbart.com):
And that handshake obviously was a huge moment. But not to be misunderstood, the handshake with Raul Castro, the president of Cuba, we believe was President Obama showing respect to Nelson Mandela and the occasion of today, the spirit of reconciliation.
Miami-based exile blog Babalu is, of course, disappointed Obama's hand touched Castro's "blood-stained hand":
I had hoped against hope (no pun intended) that Obama would somehow find the courage to fend off his proclivity to act submissive before other world leaders, especially the most despotic ones, but apparently, he simply could not resist. Once again, Obama lends credence and recognition to a vile and bloody dictatorial regime responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of innocent people.
I do not know if there is enough soap or hand sanitizer in the world to wash off the blood Castro left on Obama's hand.
Notorious right-wing blog Hot Air at least tried to empathize with Obama's predicament:
What's the protocol for something like this? You're at the funeral of South Africa's great conciliator. Castro's right in front of you -- and to my eye, it looks like he positioned himself there deliberately to meet O as he was coming down from the podium. Do you stiff-arm him or do you do a five-second heyhowareya and move on?
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez notes the government-controlled Cuban TV stations did not broadcast the handshake:
— Yoani Sanchez (@yoanifromcuba) December 10, 2013
National Review's Mona Charen finds it a "shameful day to be an American" while citing that Alan Gross, an American, is imprisoned in Cuba:
That the Obama Administration has not seen to his release is outrage enough -- but to witness the handshake between Obama and Raul Castro makes the stomach turn. Even without the Gross case, the nature of the Cuban regime should be enough to cause our president to find some way to avoid a handshake. Shameful day to be an American.
Twitter user William K. Wolfrum thought it was a missed opportunity:
All I'm saying is that Obama should have punched Castro in the mouth, screamed "Capitalism!!" and then eaten a Big Mac.
— William K. Wolfrum (@Wolfrum) December 10, 2013
Obviously there are some lesser-known right-wing blogs wondering if Obama "bowed" to Castro:
This looks like a bow. And the reaction of the American people is going to be "He's bowing. Why is he bowing?" Considering that Obama has been captured on camera doing that on numerous occasions, which irritates the hell out of the American people, and considering that he has a reputation for weakness on foreign policy which is beginning to incentivize people like the Chinese and Argentines into adventurism, it's not a good time for anyone to believe he's bowing to the Castros of Cuba.
Liberals are already trying to find ways to be mad at conservatives for being angry about the handshake:
I can't even imagine the outrage-gasm happening at Fox News right now over this Obama-Castro handshake
— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) December 10, 2013
And here's the second sentence from the Fox News story on the handshake that expects controversy but isn't quite creating it yet:
The handshake could rile Cuban-American lawmakers and activists whose distrust of the Castro government runs deep.
As far as we can tell, no Cuban-American federal lawmakers have yet reacted to the news.
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But did Obama have a message for Castro in the remarks he delivered at the service? It sure seems like it:
"There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with [Mandela]'s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people."