While reporting on Obama meeting with anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas on Sunday’s CBS Evening News, fill-in anchor Jeff Glor asked political correspondent Jeff Greenfield about a potential negative reaction to the encounter: "Jeff, let's start talking about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Is there fallout from it, real or imagined?"
Greenfield discounted any criticism as simply being from Obama’s right-wing opponents: "There is fallout among those people who already regard Obama as anything from a socialist, to a fascist, to a dangerously weak president. I'm talking about people on the right. If it doesn't spread beyond that, you're going to have the same situation where about 30% of the country really regards him negatively, but the rest says ‘so far so good.’"
Glor then asked: "Alright, let's talk also domestically now about Cuba. What has changed inside this country that makes these overtures more effective now?" Greenfield responded: "Among younger Cuban-Americans in Florida, there's much less rigidity about Cuba then there was at the time when to be in anyway sympathetic to Castro, or even open to relations, was political death...We also see among conservative groups, the American Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a desire to open markets in Cuba...have made it politically palatable, domestically, for Obama to say ‘let's try something new.’"
Later, Greenfield argued: "You have left or center-left governments in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia. And the United States has been isolated. And for those countries an end to this Cuban isolation on the part of the U.S. is almost an essential." As almost an afterthought, Glor remarked: "But let's be careful to point out that things also have to change inside Cuba, as well." Greenfield agreed: " Absolutely, it is not only a repressive Marxist, Leninist state, it is also a retrostate economically...And if they don't open up both politically and economically, it's going to be very hard for Obama to say, ‘see, I got a quid pro quo here. They're moving and therefore let's start something new.’"
Prior to Glor’s discussion with Greenfield, correspondent Bill Plante issued a report that amounted to an Obama press release: "President Obama ended his meeting with Latin American leaders as he began it, reaching out to the harshest critics of the U.S...At a closing news conference, the President said he'll respect those countries who disagree with the U.S...The President criticized what he called the inflammatory rhetoric of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, but said talking to him wouldn't harm U.S. interests and that he was not concerned about how it looked back home...White House officials point proudly to the fact that there were no fights at this summit over Cuba, despite the continuing U.S. embargo."
Plante only briefly alluded to criticism of Obama’s performance at the summit: "But the criticism of the President's outreach to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has already begun back home." No critics were named or allowed to offer their objections.