Jewish World Review March 8, 2013/ 26 Adar, 5773
Chavez's cheering section
By Rich Lowry
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Let us pause and reflect. The left’s favorite self-aggrandizing thug has shed this mortal coil. Hugo Chávez, R.I.P.
All the country’s least reflective and most reflexive ideologues of the left immediately issued warm farewells — Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and, of course, the nation’s 39th president, Jimmy Carter.
Carter praised Chávez for his commitment “to bring profound changes to his country,” which by installing himself as the effective president for life, he certainly did. Carter noted his “formidable communications skills,” a quality that is not unusual in successful populist demagogues. In the gentle tone of someone who regrets that his good friend sometimes cheats at bridge, Carter allowed that he did not agree “with all of the methods followed by his government.”
Such is the appeal of the socialist caudillo that ThinkProgress had to take a break from blogging about the latest Republican idiocy, real or imagined, to warn off its allies with a piece titled, “Why Democrats Shouldn’t Eulogize Hugo Chávez.”
It didn’t get to New York Rep. José Serrano in time. He rushed to praise Chávez: “He understood democracy and basic human desires for a dignified life.” As a technical matter, Serrano is right: Chávez understood democracy exceedingly well, if by that you mean he understood how to exploit its forms while hollowing out its institutions to entrench himself in power in perpetuity.
He displaced a corrupt, conscienceless oligarchy when he took power in 1999, and replaced it with his own corrupt, conscienceless rule. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch detailed how “the accumulation of power in the executive and the erosion of human rights protections have allowed the Chávez government to intimidate, censor, and prosecute critics and perceived opponents in a wide range of cases involving the judiciary, the media, and civil society.”
Chávez got his first political break in a failed military coup and never lost his taste for militarizing politics. Fidel Castro was his mentor, and he propped up the Castro regime with Venezuela’s ample oil. He funded guerrillas warring against the democratically elected government of Colombia. He praised every heinous dictator around the planet as a brother-in-arms. He was hell on the plutocrats, and also on the Jews. “Don’t let yourselves be poisoned by those wandering Jews,” he warned his countrymen, in a sentiment worthy of the 15th century.
All of this should make Chávez an unsympathetic figure for everyone in America. Not so, sadly. For some, all is forgiven if you hate the rich with a white-hot passion and talk the language of populist redistribution, while wrapping your program in a bow of rancid, paranoid anti-Americanism. Then, every allowance will be made for your thuggery. Everyone will obsess about your colorful and charming personality. And praise you when you’re gone.
Chávez’s American admirers apparently consider his program SCHIP with teeth. They must envy that while we endlessly debate ending “tax breaks for oil companies” in the U.S., Chávez gets to run a state-owned oil company and nationalize other industries besides. They must rue that someone here in the U.S. who speaks the truth about the noxiousness of American power merely gets a tenure-track position, while down in Venezuela he gets to run a country by decree. Life just isn’t fair.
During Chávez’s time in office — blessed by high oil prices — poverty did indeed fall in Venezuela. But it fell in other countries in the region as well, according to The Economist, thanks to a commodity boom. In fact, the magazine writes, “Venezuela comes towards the bottom of just about every league table for good governance or economic competitiveness.” It is crime-ridden, wracked by inflation and beset by a shortage of goods. If nothing else, the fact that the country’s infrastructure is crumbling should convince the left to think twice about Chávez’s legacy.
While running his country into the ground, Chávez spoke of “21st-century socialism.” There was nothing wrong with 21st-century socialism that more 21st-century socialism couldn’t solve, evidently. Greg Grandin of New York University wrote in The Nation upon Chávez’s death “that the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.”
The night of his death, Rachel Maddow had Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on her program to discuss Chávez. She asked Robinson in a voice heavy with sarcasm whether Hugo Chávez was really “the monster” he was made out to be. Robinson explained that Chávez bonded with the poor and had lots of popular support. Maddow very gently prodded Robinson to address criticisms of Chávez for not advancing freedom, “even as he did advance economic populist aims.”
Unable to muster any of the denunciatory venom he lavishes on Republicans once or twice a week, Robinson issued forth with a strangely tortured construction, “he was not what we would call a lover of democracy as we would like to see it practiced.” Eric Cantor must wonder why Robinson doesn’t similarly mute his criticisms of him. Robinson noted that Chávez gerrymandered electoral districts, but, hey, “that happens elsewhere as well.” All in all, he was … “a man of contradictions.” You know, like Disraeli or Gladstone.
Goodbye, Hugo Chávez. All your friends who got to admire your authoritarian savvy and gross economic mismanagement from a safe distance will miss you very much.
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