Monday, April 20, 2009

Handshakes and Tea Parties

As last week ended, President Obama was in Trinidad and a million Americans were being mobilized. No, we were not preparing to invade a Caribbean country, but these two separate events events made news worthy of noting.

While President Obama was attending the Summit of the Americas, finishing his foreign policy tour, about one million Americans gathered to protest the President's domestic policy efforts to revive the economy. In what many have called a preemptive strike, "Tea Parties" were held across the nation to protest what they say are inevitable tax increases to cover the expenses of the federal bailout plan.

So far, those tax increases do not seem to be on the horizon, at least not to the average taxpayer, but the protests, started by grassroots activists but usurped by Fox News and Newt Gingrich, have put many on notice that any sort of change in the economic policy will lead to a seismic shift in the body politic. 2010 should be an interesting election year.

Back in Trinidad, the President seems to have made a new friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez was all smiles when he met Obama on the first day of the summit. By the second day, Chavez became chummy enough with the President to give him a book. Now granted the book was forty years old and it was about how the USA has negatively impacted the Latin American countries, but it was a friendly gesture from an international leader who has roundly criticized the previous American president.

Obama said that one handshake and a gift does not immediately reverse years of discord, but he did acknowledge it was a good-spirited gesture. That was not the only highlight of a summit designed to discuss economics. Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan President gave a fifty-minute discourse on the evil past of the United States and all of the leaders were pressuring President Obama to end the embargo with Cuba.

That summit may have a bigger impact on our foreign policy than the G20 Summit held a week earlier because these are our closest neighbors. It will be interesting to see how the President responds in the coming months to the items discussed at the Summit of the Americas, while he is dealing with the tea parties at home.

Wonder how people would respond to a picture of President Obama shaking hands with Newt Gingrich?