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Making too much of handshakes

What's in a handshake?

A political cheap shot, if you are a White House press secretary trying to embarrass Rick Lazio, the Republican running against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate in New York. Or, if you are a Castro hater, it's an opportunity to bash President Clinton for minding his diplomatic manners at the recent gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

In a shabby attempt to hurt Lazio with Jewish voters, the White House released to a New York tabloid a photo of the congressman shaking hands with Yasser Arafat in 1998. Lazio was part of an official U.S. delegation led by President Clinton on a visit to the Middle East to encourage the peace process. Hillary Clinton went along.

What was Lazio supposed to do? Refuse Arafat's hand, the same hand the president and first lady shook? Democrats say the photo was fair game because Republicans had criticized Hillary Clinton for hugging Suha Arafat after the wife of the Palestinian leader delivered a diatribe against Israel at a West Bank event. (For more, see the Germond-Witcover column on this page.)

Meanwhile, the anti-Castro lobby is outraged that the president shook Fidel Castro's hand during a chance encounter at the U.N. conclave. The Miami Herald editorialized that Clinton "now approaches the end of his term with another questionable legacy: In 41 years, he's the first U.S. president to shake hands with Cuba's tyrant."

Come on, everyone. It's time to shake hands and put an end to this silliness.