Hugo Chavez says 'I'd vote for Obama'
Hugo Chavez has made anti-Americanism a cornerstone of his leftist policies - a fact one can't ignore when seeking to explain why, during a television interview on Sunday, Chavez endorsed President Obama for a second term.
"I hope this doesn't harm Obama, but if I was from the United States, I'd vote for Obama," declared Venezuela's firebrand and socialist president, now locked in a close reelection battle again opposition challenger Henrique Capriles. Calling Obama "a good guy," Chavez also opined that if Obama were a Venezuelan, he would vote for him too.
All in all, it was a remarkable endorsement given that soon after Chavez took office 14 years ago - during Bill Clinton's second term - he started to rail against Yankee imperialism; cozied up to Cuba's Fidel Castro and various Middle Eastern strongmen; and praised Venezuelan-born terrorist Carlos the Jackal as a "worthy heir of the greatest [leftist] struggles."
How come Chavez considers himself a kindred spirit with Obama? It no doubt has much to do with the similar world views both share. Chavez, for example, believes that America is responsible for all the world's ills - and so in his mind this justifies his efforts to build anti-American and anti-Western alliances. It would not be enough for him to merely concentrate on Venezuela's soaring poverty, crime and endemic corruption - for all these things are for him related to the poisonous world order for which America is the No. 1 villain. One of Chavez's favorite books is the paranoid anti-American and anti-European screed "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" - a book he presented to Obama at a Summit of Americas conference in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Obama, for his part, has tacitly embraced significant aspects of Chavez's anti-American world view - reflected in his deep bows to foreign leaders; his demonization of Wall Street and financially successful Americans (the "1 percenters"); and in his Middle East apology tour. Above all, Obama seems to believe America is a declining power and must maintain a lower-profile in the world; this for him is the best way to avoid international conflicts and create a peaceful world.
When Obama was elected, Chavez briefly toned down his anti-American broadsides and insults, saying: "I am ready to negotiate with the black man in the White House." (It sounds a lot funnier when said in Spanish.) Since then, however, Chavez has tossed occasional barbs at Obama, though he hasn't demonized him to the extent he did Bush.
Ultimately, it would be a mistake to take Chavez at his word when he sings Obama's praises. He may believe what he's saying on a certain level. But ultimately, Chavez and his leftist soul-mates hate the United States for what it is - not for what it does.
But don't expect Obama to understand that; he'll see Chavez's endorsement as evidence that he's doing something right -- rather than reflecting an embarrassing truism: "Show me your friends, and I'll tell you who you are."