Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A little sanity at the WaPo?

Two years ago, right after returning from Venezuela, I read an obnoxious anti-Chavez column by Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post, and commented on it (the original column is no longer available on the free WaPo web site). Sanchez basically accused Chavez of being a nutjob for saying things that are both true and obvious (at least outside of wingnut America).

Fortunately, Sanchez seems to have come to her senses a bit. In today's column, she quotes assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Thomas Shannon, who was recently interviewed by the Spanish paper El Pais. Judging by the quotes, Shannon is a reasonable person, somehow slipping under the ideological radar designed to keep such riff-raff out of the administration. (Or maybe Shannon only said reasonable things because he was talking to a foreign newspaper, unaware that his comments would soon appear in the WaPo.) According to Sanchez,
[Shannon] told the newspaper that the rise of elected populist leaders with socialist inclinations should not be seen as a threat. Instead, he said, Washington ought "to show solidarity with those countries, acknowledge that form of political expression as valid and respectable, and help to create structures that channel it positively."

Shannon, a career diplomat who took office in October, said Chavez's influence in particular is exaggerated, disputing claims that the Venezuelan leader engineered the electoral triumph of Evo Morales in Bolivia. Moreover, he said, "the great challenge we face in the region is not Venezuela or Chavez but rather poverty, marginalization and the inability of some societies to provide the goods and services that people expect."

Sadly, Shannon's words were eclipsed by the more typical hyperbole.

At a Senate hearing on worldwide threats to the United States last week, John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, raised the specter of Chavez aligning himself with parts of President Bush's "axis of evil," warning that Chavez seeks "closer economic, military, and diplomatic ties with Iran and North Korea." That same day, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking at the National Press Club, harked back to the original evil axis, noting that Chavez "was elected legally -- just as Adolf Hitler."

The danger doesn't stop with Chavez. In fact, Rumsfeld said that the elections of other populist leaders in the region such as Morales "clearly are worrisome." Just a day earlier, Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., warned about the threat of "a global television network for terrorists and other enemies of freedom" created through the new alliance between the Arabic network al-Jazeera and Telesur, a Caracas-based TV network funded by Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay.
Sanchez goes on to say:
The point here is not that Chavez is a poor misunderstood Lula or that his intentions are purely noble. Rather it is that words are important and that the caricature of Chavez and of the left's progress in the region serves no one. The words of Rumsfeld, Negroponte and the like are just as ridiculous as Chavez's own when he calls President Bush "Mr. Danger" -- or, as last weekend, when he said Hitler was "a suckling baby next to Mr. Danger."

The words of Shannon, devoid of passions that make good headlines, are a far better foundation for bolstering U.S. foreign policy in the region. They don't strengthen Chavez's hand by building him up and they don't insult the people who choose Chavez for the hope he continues to represent to them.
I'm glad to see that Sanchez recognizes that the caricatures are stupid and pointless. Too bad she didn't recognize it back when she was one of the caricaturists.