By Juan Cole
President Barack Obama’s casual hand shake with Cuban president Raul Castro at the memorial for Nelson Mandela has, predictably, set off a wave of outrage among right wing politicians and pundits who are anyway perpetually outraged by anything Obama does or indeed, just by his being president.
Sen. John McCain, who frankly seems to go in and out of lucidity, compared Raul Castro to Hitler and Obama to Neville Chamberlain.
But presidents have all along shaken hands with dictators. Until relatively recently, there were few democracies in the world, so ipso facto heads of state were dictators.
Even today, the Economist Intelligence unit rates countries in the world from democratic (dark green) to flawed democracies (light green), to hybrid regimes (yellow, brown), to authoritarian regimes (i.e. dictatorships) (red, dark red, purple):
So President Obama at any meeting of world leaders almost certainly is going to be shaking hands with dictators. The people screaming about this have often themselves shaken hands with or supported to the hilt an assortment of seedy characters and tyrants.
As for the Fox pundit who claimed that Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro desecrated Mandela’s memory, he leads a sheltered life:
It is only if the dictators don’t do as Washington orders that they typically get demonized. And somehow Republican presidents who have hung out with Communist dictators get a pass from the Right:
So here are presidents, other high officials, and dictators: