- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I have no affinity for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. I found his September 2006 United Nations tirade against President George W. Bush to be despicable and unbefitting a civilized world leader. Nevertheless, I think President Obama did the right thing in returning the extended hand offered by Mr. Chavez at the weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

It would ill serve our president and our people if Mr. Obama were to enter the world stage with preordained hatred and contempt for the leaders of nations with which we have been at odds in the past.

Mr. Chavez poses a potential danger to his people and to the world, but if he proves himself to be a leader with whom we can work and communicate, what is to be gained from shunning him? What do we get by slamming the door on the potential for civil relations, as was done by Mr. Obama’s narrow-minded predecessor?

The leaders of Saudi Arabia are Neanderthal-style, repressive dictators. Afghanistan, a nation in which we are fighting a war and with which we have a close relationship, treats women like inanimate objects. If we can consider both of these nations to be our allies, surely we can try to accept relations with Mr. Chavez without endorsing his ideology or his flamboyance.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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