Left-Wing Thugs in Latin America "Inspired" By Obama, Times Applauds

Bleech! Monday's story from the Latin America summit meeting in Trinidad by Alexei Barrioneuvo and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Hemisphere's Leaders Signal Fresh Start With U.S.," channeled the fawning of Latin America's left-wing leaders over the palate-cleansing presence of President Obama, as he apologized (and apologized some more) for past American behavior:

Leaders from the Western Hemisphere, inspired by a new American president, closed a two-day summit meeting proclaiming a new dawn for relations in the region, which had been marked by bitter disagreements in recent years with the United States. The antagonism seemed to melt away, replaced by a palpable enthusiasm for a new openness from the United States and hopes of improved relations for Washington withVenezuelaand Cuba, which emerged as a core issue here.

The newfound togetherness was a turning point for the region, leaders here said, at a time when the ability to work together could prove critical to weathering the global economic crisis, which threatens to reverse gains the region has made in alleviating poverty in the past several years.

"There was a spirit of good will that went way beyond the wildest dreams of any one of us," Patrick Manning, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said Sunday.

At least the Times noticed some of Obama's critics at home, who found the image of a U.S. president being friendly to left-wing thugocrats like Hugo Chavez too much to take:

Some of that good will went too far forPresident Obama's critics in Washington, where seemingly friendly images of him with PresidentHugo Chávezof Venezuela and Mr. Obama's overtures to Cuba drew criticism from Republican lawmakers.

SenatorJohn Ensign, Republican of Nevada, said on CNN that it was "irresponsible for the president" to be seen laughing and joking with "one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world," referring to Mr. Chávez.

And SenatorLindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pointed to Cuba's estimated 200 political prisoners. "Release the prisoners and we'll talk to you," he said of the Cuban government on Fox News Sunday, adding, "Put up or shut up."

Mr. Obama defended his overtures at a news conference on Sunday, saying the handshakes and the polite conversation he shared with Mr. Chávez here were hardly "endangering the strategic interests of the United States."