Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What’s the Matter with Robertson?

Early today, I posted on Jesse Jackson’s justified condemnation of Pat “Take Him Out” Robertson’s suggestion that the U.S. assassinate Hugo Chavez. I said that Jackson’s forceful comments called attention to the conspicuous absence of such remarks from the Bush camp. Via Alternet, Matthew Rothschild examines the nature of Bush’s “Robertson Problem.”

He argues that Robertson’s call for assassination creates two basic problems.

1. It requires that Bush distance himself from Robertson, who represents (directly and/or indirectly) a major part of his constituency.

I’m not so sure about this. It would be smart for Bush to distance himself from Robertson’s comments, but he hasn’t been very adamant about it so far. Bush does have the option of simply ignoring Robertson’s comments, in which case he comes off looking like a partisan hack. But hey, that’s never stopped him before.

2. It makes it even more difficult for Bush to effect the overthrow of Chavez, something Rothschild argues Bush has been hoping to do all along, by galvanizing support for Chavez among Latin Americans and the general population of people who don’t believe in political assassinations. Yes, they’re still out there.

Rothschild’s second point is a good one. It’s no secret that the Bush Administration would probably like to see Chavez out of power. Rothschild provides some evidence to bolster this supposition:

Condoleezza Rice, in her confirmation hearings as Secretary of State, called him "a negative force." Echoing Henry Kissinger's infamous line about Allende in Chile ("I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people)," Rice said that "leaders who do not govern democratically, even if they are democratically elected," need to be held accountable.

CIA Director Porter testified in March that Chávez was "very clearly causing mischief for us."

Rumsfeld denounced him for planning to buy 100,000 assault rifles from Russia.
One of Rumsfeld's aides recently called Chávez "a menace."

And Roger Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, accused him of "downright subversion" in Latin America.

In June, the Bush Administration proposed to the Organization of American States a new policy that would have enabled that group to intervene militarily to "promote democracy" in Latin America. But many governments in the OAS balked at this, seeing it as a transparent threat against sovereignty in general and Venezuela, in particular.

Just last week, Rumsfeld, who doesn't have enough to do fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, took time out to go to Latin America to try to isolate Chávez. The New York Times headlined its story on this, "Rumsfeld's Tour of South America Is Directed at Stability," when it may have been more focused on the destabilization of Venezuela.
So what’s the matter with Pat Robertson? From the point of view of the Bush Administration, probably just his timing and lack of tact. As Rothschild writes, “When your crazed friends start getting in the way of your crazed policy, it's a real shame.”

--Matthew McCoy