Chavez to U.N.: "Reading is Fundamental!"
Strangely enough, John Bolton had the most intelligent response to Hugo Chavez's antics this afternoon in the General Assembly.
Chavez (repeatedly) referred to President Bush as "the devil," noting the residual smell of sulfar from Bush's presence the day before. While the comments received chuckles from those world leaders in attendance, the U.S. uncharacteristically took the high road by refusing to respond. Bolton acknowledged that the Venezuelan president's remarks were "insulting," but added that they "don't warrant a response." He went on say that the Bush administration would not "address this sort of comic-strip approach to internaitonal affairs."
What Bolton failed to mention was that the actual substance of Chavez's address nicely mirrored his own views about the world organization. Chavez did not limit his name-calling to Bush, but went on to label the U.N. as "worthless." Bolton must have agreed with Chavez when he described the U.N. as simply a forum for "listening to a lot of speeches" and announced that it has "no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world."
In contrast to Bolton's measured response, outrage has been expressed by some American commentators over Chavez's behavior. I understand finding his insults offensive. But all this furor contrasts starkly with the silence from these same people when Virginia Senator George Allen called a dark-skinned audience member at one his gatherings "macaca" ("monkey-boy" in French). Allen's rascism was made all the uglier by the fact that most people shrugged it off as nothing.
Is it truly the case that the words of an international loose cannon, whose rhetoric few people continue to take seriously, are scarrier to us than the racist bile of a potential candidate for President of the United States?