Newt Gingrich made the morning news circuit bashing Obama for shaking hands with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez, who has a long history of anti-American rhetoric, is no saint. Gingrich, along with others on the right, believe that this hand shake, along with other gestures, are signs of Obama’s weakness. “Frankly, this does look a lot like Jimmy Carter,” said Gingrich on Fox & Friends. “Carter tried weakness, and the world got tougher and tougher, because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators – when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead.”
Pushing ahead on what exactly? Obama has this to say in response:
Venezuela is a country whose defense budget is probably 1/600th of the United States’. They own Citgo. 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. I don’t think anybody can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.
In short, there’s no threat, so save it.
Mr. Gingrich should read a copy of Dale Carnegie's classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Our President certainly has.
- The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
- Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
- Begin in a friendly way.
- Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
- Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
- Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
- Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
- Appeal to the nobler motives.
- Dramatize your ideas.
- Throw down a challenge.
If Mr. Gingrich understood these principles, then maybe I’d respect him more. He obviously doesn’t respect my intelligence or the intelligence of the American people. Respect is earned when respect is given. It is not weakness, it’s smart. Nothing is ever accomplished when two disagreeing people stand in opposite corners with their chests puffed out. Extending graciousness could lead to civil discussions where problems are resolved. In the end, Gingrich seems like a scared little man.
John Marshall at Talking Points Memo puts it nicely:
In the course of our normal lives, few of us have much difficulty identifying habits of defensiveness or a penchant for histrionic or petulant interactions as signs of weakness, not strength. Really powerful people don't need stunts and usually signal their power by a certain graciousness and indifference in such interactions. They have nothing to prove. But American power, respect, command of public opinion -- however you want to define it -- must be in these people's minds an extremely brittle thing. They really do seem like extremely insecure people.