It would seem that the news out of Latin America is that president Obama traveled to Cuba to normalize relations after years of tensions between the United States and the Fidel Castro regime. Or that the POTUS went even farther south to Argentina to hold talks with their new leader, Mauricio Macri, the first American chief executive to do so in 20 years.
But the news cycle, being what it is, has paid more attention to this video:
At a state dinner, a pair of dancers, one male and one female, invited Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to tango with them briefly and it, of course, has captured the Interwebs and the Twitterverse.
Nevermind that Obama successfully held diplomatic talks with Castro’s brother Raul and later made headway on issues like the environment, economics and defense with Macri — all in a region where America has not always been looked at favorably on the world stage.
What was more important to foreign policy wonks and talking heads was Obama’s timing, which opened him up for political potshots. Critics bashed Obama for dancing in Argentina while Brussels is continuing to reel from a terrorist attack that has killed at least 30 people. He got the same criticism for attending a baseball game in Cuba on the day of the attack.
“President Obama should be back in America keeping this country safe. Or president Obama should be planning to travel to Brussels,” GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz said today at a news conference.
“That was a tremendous mistake,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Thursday morning on MSNBC. “It’s fine to go to Argentina…but you’ve got to be careful of these little photo-ops or optics. Baseball games and tangos, that’s inconsistent with the seriousness of the day.”
Obama, however, explained his actions to ESPN while attending the baseball game:
“The whole premise of terrorism,” he said. “Is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives. One of my proudest moments as president was watching Boston respond after the marathon, and when (David) Ortiz…talked about Boston, how strong it was and that it was not going to be intimidated.”
Apparently neither Cruz or any of those criticizing Obama has said anything about the president’s response or lack thereof to attacks at a beach resort at Grand Bassem, Ivory Coast on March. 13 that killed 22; or a suicide bombing in Maidiguri, Nigeria that killed 24.
Tango or whips and nae-naes aside, for his part, Obama emphasized to reporters covering is Argentina trip that he is focused on winning the battle against ISIS. So basically, this:
— WH National Security (@NSC44) March 23, 2016
“…There’s no more important item on my agenda than going after them and defeating them. The issue is how do we do it in an intelligent way. And our approach has been continuously to adjust to see what works and what doesn’t. What has been working is the airstrikes that we’re taking on their leadership, on their infrastructure, on their financial systems.”
Obama plans to remain in Argentina with the First Family for the remainder of Thursday before returning to Washington, according to WhiteHouse.gov.