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After Chavez photo, Ortega rant, Republicans say Obama acting like pushover to dictators

April 20, 2009 |  7:34 am

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez manages to get a photo with President Obama at the Summit of the Americans April 2009

Bad enough, in conservative thinking, that President Obama appeared to bow to Saudi King Abdullah during the G-20 meetings in Europe earlier this month.

Now, Republican critics are pouncing on the president for his charm offensive at the just-concluded Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The charge: He let Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez maneuver him into a smiling one-on-one photo, and he failed to answer Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega's 50-minute anti-American rant.

"Ortega disrespected America," fumed conservative commentator Pat Buchanan on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" today. Recalling that President Reagan rebutted Soviet leaders who trashed America, Buchanan said Obama should have responded to the rant.

And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the onetime Republican back-bencher from Georgia who is eyeing Obama's job, said on NBC's "Today Show" that the president's openness to talking to anti-American leaders like Chavez speaks to "a shallowness about how they analyze things."

For his part, Obama has defended his outreach-to-enemies approach to foreign policy, something he promised during the campaign. Before leaving the summit Sunday, he responded to the uproar over the Chavez photo, saying, "It's unlikely as a consequence of my shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the national security interests of the United States."

Just for the record: that book Chavez gave Obama? "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" by Eduardo Galeano started the weekend on amazon.com with a ranking of 54,295 and is now at No. 2.

But the truly amazing thing is that the book, written in 1971, is also increasing in cost. Yep, Chavez and Ortega, those bad-boy Marxists of Latin America, have provoked a good old-fashioned, capitalistic, supply-and-demand price war.

Is this a great hemisphere or what?

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Alfonso Ocando / EPA

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