April 19th, 2009
03:53 PM ET
11 years ago

Senator says Obama's appearance with Chavez 'irresponsible'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/04/18/U.S.venezuela.relations/art.chavez_obama.jpg caption=" Obama's appearance with Chavez has drawn some heat."]

(CNN) - Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, told CNN Sunday it was "irresponsible" for President Obama to have been seen "laughing and joking" with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas on Friday.

"This is a person who is one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world," Ensign told CNN's John King on State of The Union. "He is a brutal dictator and human rights violations are very, very prevalent in Venezuela. And you have to be careful."

"When you're talking about the prestige of the United States and the presidency of the United States, you have to be careful who you're seen joking around with," he also said.

Chavez - whose anti-U.S. rhetoric has included calling former President George W. Bush the devil - announced Saturday he is considering naming an ambassador to the United States, signaling a potential shift in the tense relations between the two nations.

Speaking to reporters Sunday in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Obama brushed aside criticism of the appearance, saying, "It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States."

"Even with the imaginative crowd, I think that you would be hard pressed to paint a scenario where US interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela," he said.

Also appearing on CNN, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, downplayed the moment between Obama and the Venezuelan leader, saying, "all the president did was shake his hand like George Bush [did]."

"What the president is doing here at the summit of the Americas: he is reaching out to all of these countries like he did at the G20 [Summit], I think very effectively," Klobuchar also said.

In the interview with CNN, Ensign was also sharply critical of the Obama administration for releasing previously classified CIA memos outlining Bush-era interrogation techniques.

"What the president has done is he has sent a fear throughout the intelligence community that they could be prosecuted in the future," Ensign said. "And that is exactly the kind of fear that paralyzed the intelligence community prior to September 11. I think America is less safe because of the release of these memos," he said.

The memos, written by then-lawyers for the CIA and Justice Department officials, said interrogation tactics such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and slapping did not violate laws against torture when there was no intent to cause severe pain.

Filed under: Extra • President Obama • State of the Union
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Robert L

    Barry did the correct thing with Chavez. It was brilliant.

    It was not like Barry looked into Chavez's eyes and saw his soul.

    (As GW did with Vlady)

    April 19, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. Truth Be Told

    ...hmmm, so Chavez reconsiders a US ambassador after one summit meeting and a handshake w/ BO, yet Ensign figures the prez is "irresponsible"...

    ...thanks, Sen., for confirming why the GOP is no longer in power with your way of thinking...

    April 19, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  3. ray

    presitge?????????????? what a joker you are senator. you worse than a bad joke. you white morons killed the natives for america and you talk about prestige. hahahah . why dont you obstructionist on the right go jump off the brooklyn bridge?.

    April 19, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. Seattle

    If Chavez is a dictator as this republcan calls him then tell me what are the water boarding Republicans ? Humm no doubt just more of the same .

    April 19, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. abraxis

    Sen. Ensign is using the same play book as "W" and his administration did where they don't know the difference between being friendly and offering friendship.

    Ensign, do you remember the old axiom "keep your friends close, but keep your enemy closer?"

    Ensign and his ilk are too stupid to see what that means!

    April 19, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. catmom

    All we need now is for President Obama to tell us what he saw when he looked into Chaves' eyes.

    April 19, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  7. Chris

    Again I ask; Why or why does CNN dredge up all these irrelevant Republicans?

    April 19, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. Jim K

    Why should anybody care what a republican senator thinks about Barack Obama's actions? Is this news? Not to me, it isn't. The republicans have proven themselves to be a bunch of dopes. Nobody cares what they think anymore. They had their chance at government and they screwed it up in ways that will come back to haunt them for years.

    Good riddance, I say. Obama might not be "The Messiah" as Limbaugh likes to call him, but compared to the last president, he is a breath of fresh air and a welcome relief. I'll take intelligence over dark, sinister "bring-em-on" type bravado anyday.


    April 19, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. Emma, San Jose

    Truth Bomb Thrower: Your words seem to be that of an angry person who totally distorted what Obama is about. Maybe you should go live with Chavez.

    April 19, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. mightyfudge

    Typical Republicant whining. My dog doesn't like it when I clean up his poop either...

    April 19, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  11. right

    and the u.s. didn't try to pick this guy off a few years back... literally...

    so chavez was wise to the coup and assaination plot and had his guys in secret passages throughtout the presidential palace...

    where do we get off we can just walk the world and strongarm every country deemed "in our national interest"?...

    the whol issue with iran has it's roots in installing the shah back in '53... like it's OK when WE install the brutal dictator... but god forbid... another country with plentiful natural resources WE don't CONTROL... tries to control their own destiny...

    April 19, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  12. jclayton2010

    Does anyone remember the Carter Administration? He was a love the world, be a world citizen? Remember the hostages in Iran? Carter diplomacy.. Please give us our people back.. No? Ok... sorry to bother you... Remember Carters speech of the "American fabric" being in jeopardy? If we don’t have a strong military and the will to exercise it, we are in big trouble.. Keep and eye on North Korea that nut job will be knocking on our door soon.. Will anyone answer? I hope Obama and his cast of losers are able to get a backbone before he cuts spending for that as well… Of course we may never know the real story since the news media drank the koolaid and is no longer capable of digging for the truth and reporting it..

    April 19, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  13. Uncle Sam

    More stupid statements from thr repugs – different day, same b.s.

    April 19, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. Shawn

    Obviously, Chavez is just a product of Bush's irrational, paranoid and abusive foreign policy. He's certainly no threat to the USA, and Americans voted to turn the page.

    Right-wingers need to drop the goofy and hysterical Bogeymanism over every little political figure in the world with whom we don't have a great relationship. What has it accomplished? Nothing - except isolating, weakening and demeaning us as a nation and strengthening the people we don't like. Don't be dumb.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh great, here go the "ist" people. Just wish they could all agree on which it is: communist, marxist, or socialist. He can't be all three.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  16. Patsy Madison, TN

    And George Bush's way was a success. He was the most hated man in the world. I am proud of our new president, he knows that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  17. Squigman

    Just another example of why, in future elections, the republicans should not be considered as leaders. The last time the republicans were in power they tried their best to turn the entire world against the American people. Now, after being deposed of power they have done nothing constructive, and can even be looked upon as cryers and whiners. I'm glad the next four years can be considered republican free. Keep your mouths shut, and try to learn. That's the best advice I can give anyone who considers themselves republicans.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. neil

    After what this nut has and continues to say about the US obama must be scared to stand up to him, shame

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  19. Jim

    I was concerned early on about Obama's creeping socialism. Nothing creeping about it....it is galloping socialism. Taking over banks, dictating who will or will not run GM, and on and on. But this is the top. Buddy, buddy with Chavez.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  20. Mike Syracuse, NY

    @Sam, Hitler was democratically elected too. Chavez has made changes to Venezuelan law to remain in power and has curtailed the free press. Do some research about the guy Obama is cozing up to. Of course after Ayes and Wright, why should we be surprised?

    @Expat American, there were no lives lost at Abu Grab or GITMO. Too bad you are more concerned with terrorist lives than those of US citizens. Good you are an expat. Please don't come back.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  21. A.S.

    It is one thing for Obama to seek new means of addressing old problems. But it is quite another thing to have his picture taken with that anti-American, Chavez. This big smile for Chavez, the embarassing, extra-deep bow to the Saudi King..... Obama is making a fool of himself.

    April 19, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. Andres

    I stopped reading after I got to the part where the speaker was identified as a Republican. Basically, I have gotten numb to the whining from the Right about everything. If Obama wears brown shoes instead of black shoes, some Republican will claim that this decision is irresponsible and makes the US less safe, and that brown shoes will lead us to Communism/Facism/Socialism.

    April 19, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  23. Nathan

    Was it okay for Nixon to hug Mao Zedong? Why was that a necessary diplomatic move, but Obama talking to someone who hated our country makes him evil and irresponsible? It's because Obama is a Democrat and Nixon was a Republican.

    April 19, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  24. Todd

    Hmmm...the Republicans seem to want us to continue spouting hate and rhetoric, while Obama is actually taking steps to reach out to encourage change through cooperation. Sorry John, the people that think like you are obsolete. I'm glad Obama is working with the rest of the world, instead of trying to wall them off. Anyone who thinks progress can be achieved through saber rattling and hateful dialogue needs to get the hell out of the government, and the sooner the better.

    April 19, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. Had It

    Hey – Pres. Obama didn't point a 6-gun at him like W would have.

    Pres. Obama is not stupid. All the analysis by pundits does no good. They cannot read minds.

    April 19, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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