Even Pelosi and the Boston Globe knows Chavez is a thug. Yet, when Joe Kennedy and Bill Delahunt needed to boost oil reserves for low income families, with all the people willing and able to provide charity - they entered into an agreement with Chavez.
I always thought that the rumors about Jack Kennedy, the mafia, Marilyn Monroe, Bobby cleaning out her house before the coroner - were nuts. But, as difficult as it is to entertain, the rumors were probably more than tabloid trash.
``The devil came here yesterday," said Chávez, exaggeratedly crossing himself at the podium where President Bush had appeared the day before. ``It still smells of sulfur today." He brandished a book by the far-left extremist Noam Chomsky, suggested that Bush needs psychiatric help, called him ``the devil" a few more times (as well as ``liar," ``tyrant," and ``world dictator"), and described America as ``imperialist," ``fascist," and ``genocidal." And Chávez kept it up on Thursday, mocking Bush as an ``alcoholic" and a ``sick man."
Sounds like the too-ashamed-to-come-out-of-the-closet Eric McFadden doesn't it?
Chávez may come across as a blustering loudmouth but his potential for troublemaking is no joke. He is a shrewd strategic thinker who hungers for glory and sees a showdown with the United States as his ticket into the history books. Accordingly, he denounces the American ``empire" at every opportunity and goes out of his way to cultivate relationships with America's enemies.
He made a point, for example, of visiting Saddam Hussein when the Iraqi dictator was under international sanctions, and he has cozied up to Iran's theocrats and Moammar Khadafy of Libya. He is an avid protégé of Fidel Castro, and has in turn served as mentor and patron to other anti-yanqui Latin American presidents, such as Argentina's Néstor Kirchner and Bolivia's Evo Morales . According to Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation, Chávez has armed, financed, and provided safe haven to members of FARC, the Colombian narcoterrorists.
But Chávez, who went to prison in 1992 after trying to overthrow Venezuela's democratic government, has more in mind than striking obnoxious poses. As Franklin Foer noted in The Atlantic last spring, Chávez ``speaks incessantly about the coming military confrontation with the gringos." He has ordered his armed forces to study the Iraqi insurgency and prepare to mount a similar resistance if Venezuela is invaded. ``He has begun organizing citizen militias, purchased 100,000 new Kalashnikovs, and assigned books on asymmetric warfare to his top brass." When Foer asked Nicolas Maduro, now Venezuela's foreign minister, what Chávez foresees in US-Venezuelan relations, he answered: ``Conflict, in all likelihood war, is the future."
A crazy idea? Maybe, but Chávez is no fool. The one-time prison inmate successfully ran for president in 1998, and in just eight years has managed to transform Venezuela's political system from a stable social democracy into an increasingly authoritarian state in which every lever of state power is controlled by the president.
Chávez pushed through a new constitution that eliminated the Venezuelan Senate and made it easier to pass legislation in the remaining one-chamber National Assembly. Congressional oversight of the military was ended, along with the rule requiring presidents to step down after one term.
He has taken control of the agency that certifies election results and of the huge state-owned oil company, the source of most government revenue. He secured a new law empowering the government to supervise the media, and another authorizing the arrest of any citizen showing ``disrespect" to government officials. He got the Supreme Court enlarged from 20 to 32 justices, then packed the new slots with loyal supporters.
And repression is worsening. The State Department's latest human rights report on Venezuela lists numerous abuses, including the torture and killing of criminal suspects, and attacks on political opponents, labor unions, religious organizations, and human rights groups.
As night descends on Venezuela, thuggish rulers everywhere are finding Chávez a kindred spirit. There was indeed an odor of sulfur at the UN last week, but it didn't come from President Bush.