When President Barack Obama was pictured smiling and shaking hands with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas, he presented many right wingers at home with the equivalent of a stick in the eye or a red flag to a bull.
It is true that Chavez is no sweetheart - a socialist egomaniac, he thrives on tweaking the nose of Uncle Sam. But as bullies and wannabe dictators go, he isn't the threat to the United States that both he and his critics think he is. He's no Kim Jong Il or the late Saddam Hussein, for example. And as much as his ideology is wrong-headed, he does try to do something for his own people, which makes him no Robert Mugabe.
Anyway, you don't have to like someone to smile and shake hands with them. We all do it, at least those of us who are not chronically rigid. This is called civilized behavior, or, as Obama himself said, courtesy.
I know that courtesy is a lost cause among the most rabid reaches of the right wing, but everybody else will look at this encounter and say: So what?
As the old folk adage remind us, there's two ways to catch flies - honey or vinegar. We tried vinegar for the last eight years and it didn't work.