It was also, frankly, an error by his team. They should have avoided this. I worked for three presidents. I don't think this would have happened with Reagan or with the two Bushes. They shouldn't have put President Obama in that shameful situation, because this is a very anti-American and also anti-European book," he commented in an interview with Newsmax TV.This is the translation of the translation, so there may be some slight errors. I'm most curious about "unknown", which was written as "desconocido" in the article. Maybe he actually said "unrecognized", because Galeano certainly isn't unknown.
And he added: It's an almost 30-year-old book, written by an ultra-left Latin American, a very unknown author. And now (with his gift), Chávez has put this book, I'm told, at the top of the list of sales at Amazon.
Here's Fred Kaplan, with an articulate rejection of the argument that the Obama-Chávez handshake endangers the US national security:
Reich's words in particular are a perfect reflection of the flaws to this response generally. If you think the book is wrong-headed, by all means, attack it. Show us why it is silly. Underline the stupid passages that have been proven wrong by history. But don't just say it's written by an unknown ultra-leftist and, as such, it shouldn't be read, nor should it appear within a ten-foot radius of the president. That's just silly. Obama wasn't endorsing it. He was receiving a gift. Haven't any of these people ever disliked a gift they've received?
One result of the summit, he continued, is that it's now easier for friends, like Mexico or Colombia, to work with the United States "because their neighbors and their populations see us as a force for good or at least not a force for ill."
As for less-friendly countries like Venezuela, though Obama did not say so, an unthreatening picture of America at the very least takes the wind out of Chávez, who has built power, at home and in some quarters abroad, by waving his fist at America and likening George Bush to "el diablo." And, who knows, it might maneuver Chávez more into our lane, too. "Even within this imaginative crowd," Obama said to the press corps, "I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of … having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela."And so, Obama's talk of building alliances and listening to others is not a celebration of multilateralism for its own sake. It's a hard-headed formula for advancing U.S. interests in a world where we have less leverage than we did during Cold War times to impose our will on a whim.
I've not read the book, so I'm hesitant to make a judgment, although I find the arguments against it and dependency theory in general rather convincing. Nonetheless, there's a huge difference between objecting to the book's conclusions and advocating a diplomatic row in response to its being given. Wouldn't it be a lot more sensible (and original!) for Obama to read it, and then publish an honest critique of the book in Paris Review?