Our View: Handshake, or ‘selfie’?

Posted: December 12, 2013

That presidents reside in a huge media fishbowl — and at times do little to escape it — was never more apparent than at Nelson Mandela’s funeral this week when President Obama extended his hand to Cuban butcher Raul Castro, brother of Fidel. Representatives from both sides of the ideological spectrum raced to weigh in.

At first blush, the gesture seemed fitting in context, a mark of “civility” (so said The Boston Globe) suggestive of “good manners” (RealClearPolitics’ Carl Cannon) at a funeral. Or maybe it was simply a reflexive action by a president accustomed to working a rope line (albeit one made up of fellow heads of state).

But viewed from a broader perspective, it can be argued, with considerable validity, that The Handshake was yet another instance of Mr. Obama bowing and scraping to people he has no business bowing and scraping to — like late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, Saudi King Abdullah, and former Chinese President Hu Jintao.

But if The Handshake was not sufficiently cringe-inducing, the president’s, ahem, photographic spontaneity — snapping a photo of himself (in today’s parlance, a “selfie”) — during the protracted funeral ceremony most likely was.

Let us note such puerility apparently knows no ideological bounds, as Great Britain’s Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, along with Danish counterpart Helle Thorning-Schmidt, joined Mr. Obama in this incongruous act.

A photographer who captured the juvenile moment tried to explain it away — stating, in essence, that such excitable preening was a normal human inclination, characteristic of Everyman.

Excuse us, but when was the last time, or first time, you took a “selfie” . . . at a funeral?