THE LATEST MANUFACTURED OUTRAGE…. Having milked the Department of Homeland Security’s report on potentially violent radicals for all it’s worth, Republicans have a new manufactured outrage to play with.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, told CNN Sunday it was “irresponsible” for President Obama to been seen “laughing and joking” with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas on Friday.

“This is a person who is one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world,” Ensign told CNN’s John King on State of The Union. “He is a brutal dictator and human rights violations are very, very prevalent in Venezuela. And you have to be careful.”

“When you’re talking about the prestige of the United States and the presidency of the United States, you have to be careful who you’re seen joking around with,” he also said.

I see. The U.S. president was photographed shaking hands with a foreign head of state, and an international gathering of hemispheric heads of state.

Quick, someone draw up articles before this monster strikes again.

Chances are, President Obama would like to improve relations with our adversaries, and shook Hugo Chavez’s hand out of a sense of international diplomacy. The efforts appear to possibly be paying dividends — Venezuela indicated yesterday that it is considering naming an ambassador to the United States.

To be sure, Chavez is an odious figure. But he’s also the twice-elected head of state of a large South American country with 30 million people. GOP rhetoric notwithstanding, there’s no downside to improving our relations with the country’s leadership.

This may be difficult for Ensign to understand, but sometimes, U.S. presidents meet foreign leaders we’re not fond of. Once in a while, U.S. presidents even negotiate with foreign leaders who are clearly our adversaries — Kennedy talked to Khrushchev, Nixon talked to Mao, Reagan talked to Gorbachev.

Are we to believe it’s scandalous for Obama to simply shake hands — not negotiate, not strike any deals, not come to any agreements, just press the flesh — with the Venezuelan president? That a simple handshake undermines the “prestige of the United States”?

Please. Even for John Ensign, this is foolish.

Post Script: By the way, I seem to recall a tradition in which elected U.S. officials refrained from attacking the U.S. presidents while they represented the country overseas. It’s safe to assume Republicans no longer believe in that tradition?

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.