It may have just seemed like an awkward moment. At the end of their historic press conference, Cuban leader Raul Castro grabbed President Obama’s wrist and raised it high into the air, to which Obama responded by smiling sheepishly and letting his hand hang down like a dead fish.
Miscommunication? Poor social skills? Not so, says White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
According to Earnest, Obama’s decision to let his fingers go limp was clever geopolitics. While Castro was going for a triumphant we-are-the-champions-style fist raising, Obama could not afford to look more supportive of the Cuban regime than he really is. The solution: floppy handshake.
“President Castro had in mind a rather iconic photo with President Obama and his arms raised together,” Earnest said. “I think President Obama believed that that would imply a whole lot more agreement on some priorities than actually exists.”
Whereas a hand dangling awkwardly from Castro’s grip implies a careful balance between improved U.S.-Cuba relations and staying true to American values. Or something.