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Behind The Mic With Joe Mathieu: Selfie, Handshake Overshadow Real News

By Joe Mathieu, WBZ NewsRadio 1030
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BOSTON (CBS) – Everyone seems to have an opinion about President Obama’s behavior Tuesday at the Nelson Mandela memorial in South Africa.

The amount of time that’s that’s been spent on this story is quite remarkable so how about a little perspective.

First the selfie.

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a selfie picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt next to First Lady Michelle Obama during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela on December 10, 2013. (Photo credit ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a selfie picture with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt next to First Lady Michelle Obama during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela on December 10, 2013. (Photo credit ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

People say it was disrespectful when the president mugged for the camera with the Prime Ministers of Britain and Denmark .

After all you wouldn’t do that at a funeral, right?

But this wasn’t a funeral.

It was a day-long memorial in a massive soccer stadium that once hosted the World Cup. People were singing and dancing, celebrating the life of a great man. And I’m guessing Nelson Mandela would have loved the shot.

But that doesn’t make for good optics. And I’m sure the president and the other two world leaders could have found a better place to take a picture.

And how about the handshake. Critics saw it as an international incident. The president should have given Raul Castro a piece of his mind instead of his hand, they say. Others saw it as a step in the right direction.

That’s likely how Mandela would have seen it. After all, he forgave and embraced the very men who held him captive.

And it’s interesting to note the lack of outrage when our presidents – including this one – meet with the leaders of China and Russia, which also have terrible human rights records that impact many more people.

But I would argue the real offense is that a selfie and a handshake are the only things people seemed to care about as the world memorialized a truly great man.

Indeed, this may be more a commentary on the news media than the president.

Because we’re talking about this instead of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Or for that matter a critically important bipartisan budget deal in Congress. Or the first woman named CEO at General Motors.

Both of those things happened Tuesday too.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz

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