Despite growing speculation in recent days that President Barack Obama will hold a one-on-one meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at next week’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, there will be no special meeting between the two leaders, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
In fact, Obama may not hold bilateral meetings with any of the 33 other leaders attending the April 17-18 meeting, well-placed U.S. officials planning Obama’s trip say.
More broadly, I’ve been irked by how the media has eagerly construed Obama’s much-ballyhooed — and misunderstood — campaign promise to meet with nefarious foreign leaders “without preconditions” into a sideshow anticipating awkward encounters between celebrities. Whether or not Barack Obama will shake Hugo Chavez’s hand is not the point of the new internationalism that he has brought to the White House. The important consideration is that the United States — not just the individual representing its executive branch — will engage in diplomacy. The willingness to talk with even hostile nations is a powerful signal of an entirely new foreign policy outlook; these talks, on whatever level, have an impact on international relations, not just interpersonal ones, and it’d be nice to see the media cover that aspect of actual policy, rather than the “gotcha” frivolities of imagining Hugo and Barack at the punch bowl together.
(image from flickr user rogimmi under a Creative Commons license)