Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why is Jesse Jackson Leading Operation Damage Control?

Even though Pat Robertson is a nut job, and even though most people probably didn’t take him seriously, and even though he apologized, sort of, somebody needed to make a public demonstration to show that the United States condemns his call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Well, reconciliation is finally underway, but apparently Bush was too swamped to spare one of his own flock for diplomatic duties. No, instead, Jesse Jackson is in Venezuela, visiting with Chavez, and making some good points.

“We must make it clear that talk of isolating Venezuela, talk of assassinating its leader, this is unacceptable, and it must be denounced roundly by our president and by our secretary of state,” Jackson told The Associated Press in an interview shortly before meeting Chavez.

“The U.S. and Venezuelan leadership must have a detente on rhetoric. That exacerbates tensions,'' Jackson told the AP. “We need to have a cooling down of divisive rhetoric.”
I should note that Jackson’s trip was planned before Robertson’s incendiary nonsense. Nonetheless, Jackson's doing the right thing by using his time in Venezuela to mend the fences Robertson kicked over.

Jesse Jackson is no stranger to arguing on the basis of morality, but his comments reflect a pragmatic understanding of the relationship between Venezuela and the US.

“The Pat Robertson statement was the threat that was heard around the world,” Jackson said. “It reinforces ancient fears because the U.S. has had a policy of eliminating leaders in this region, in Guatemala, in Chile.”

Jackson, who arrived Saturday for a visit along with members of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, cited record-high oil prices as one major reason the U.S. government should seek better relations with Venezuela, which is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the U.S. market.

“We need a good relationship with this energy problem now,” Jackson told the AP, adding that both sides should work to establish a “good-neighbor policy.”
Don’t get me wrong, I respect Jesse Jackson, and I agree with what he’s saying. But the Bush Administration is letting him steal its diplomatic thunder by not using the opportunity of Robertson’s tirade to make some headway in relations with Venezuela. By failing to issue anything more than a flaccid statement about the inappropriateness of Robertson’s comments, the White House shows the world that it’s more interested in guarding its Christian constituency than maintaining foreign relations. Business as usual I guess.

--Matthew McCoy