>First published on BlogCritics on 7 June 2009
In the first part of this article, I tried to explain the pitiful situation in which Venezuela now finds herself under El Presidente Chávez, some ten years after he came to power. There, I could do little more than scratch the surface; things are very bad and are getting worse daily. The power of the Venezuelan Government resides, for all practical purposes, in the hands of El Presidente. It is obvious to me that El Presidente has one goal: to solidify his power totally, and to extend it until he dies. It is conceivable that a revolution may be in the offing.
It behooves us to become familiar with the works accomplished by such heads of state as El Presidente, and to ensure that the United States does not emulate countries like Venezuela, intentionally or inadvertently.
President Obama has been in office for only a few months. Nevertheless, in his short time in the Oval Office, President Obama is arguably showing the way to a "socialist paradise" to no lesser extent than did El Presidente Chávez during his first few, relatively calm, months in office. Big things take time to accomplish.
It is not surprising that El Presidente Chávez spoke warmly with President Obama and presented him with a book about the rape of Latin America as a token of his affection at their recent meeting in Trinidad. It is somewhat surprising that President Obama later remarked that
The 2008 presidential campaign proved that American voters want the president to engage with his counterparts, whether or not they are avowed friends of the U.S.
He said it "was a nice gesture to give me a book. I'm a reader." The president added that the election was a referendum of sorts on the argument that U.S. solicitude toward foreign leaders could be seen as "weakness."
This is surprising in light of President Obama's subsequent observation that
Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those are not simply principles of the West to be hoisted on these countries, but rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity.
These "universal principles" are now completely foreign to Venezuela under El Presidente.
On a different occasion, El Presidente also
invited President Barack Obama of the United Status to join Venezuela's "socialist revolution," claiming that this was the only way to get through the world economic crisis.
In a speech in which he defended his revolutionary approach and a string of recent state takeovers or "interventions" of food industry and other companies, Chávez exclaimed: "Come on, Obama, align yourself with us on the way to socialism! Come on, it’s the only way!"
It would be unseemly for the United States, or any other free country, to detract from the glories of Venezuela by emulating her. However, some contend that the U.S. has already begun the process. The new Pravda says that the United States is already well along the path. El Presidente Chávez appears to be highly pleased
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday [2 June 2009] that he and Cuban ally Fidel Castro risk being more conservative than U.S. President Barack Obama as Washington prepares to take control of General Motors Corp.
During one of Chavez's customary lectures on the "curse" of capitalism and the bonanzas of socialism, the Venezuelan leader made reference to GM's bankruptcy filing, which is expected to give the U.S. government a 60 percent stake in the 100-year-old former symbol of American might.
"Hey, Obama has just nationalized nothing more and nothing less than General Motors. Comrade Obama! Fidel, careful or we are going to end up to his right," Chavez joked on a live television broadcast.
A joke, to be sure; but jokes generally fall flat unless they embody some element of truth.
Of course, El Presidente can be a tad mercurial. He has also referred to President Obama as an ignoramus. Nevertheless, El Presidente says that he may give President Obama a copy of Lenin's book What is to be Done? when next they meet.
The right of all citizens to vote is the bedrock of a democratic society, and position advocacy is a fundamental part of that bedrock. Citizens should not only be free to vote, they should be free — and, indeed, encouraged, to express their opinions. El Presidente Chávez has done much to enable the citizens of Venezuela to vote, and to express their opinions on how their fellow citizens should vote — provided that they support El Presidente. The recent decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to drop all charges against members of the New Black Panther Party in connection with their emphatic expressions of views at polling places in Philadelphia, while brandishing a weapon is, perhaps, part of a grand and glorious plan to encourage freedom of expression in the United States as it has been encouraged in Venezuela; or, perhaps (and I hope) it is not. In any event, great trees from little acorns grow, particularly little acorns watered and fertilized with substantial Federal grants.
To stave off draconian consequences, President Obama has effectively nationalized both General Motors and Chrysler, in ways very likely to make his supporters rather pleased with him and thereby to enhance his powers to advance his social programs. Many of his programs, such as card check legislation and other nifty stuff for unions (or, perhaps more accurately, for union bosses), help further to solidify his own bases of power; whether the nation's economy will thereby be made better or worse is a different question. GM and Chrysler had too much economic power and were, therefore, "too big to fail;" concentrating their power in the Federal Government, rather than attempting to diminish it, seems to me to have been a mistake. The Venezuelan example suggests that this sort of mistake can be quite unfortunate.
Although President Obama claims to oppose any revival of the old "fairness doctrine," it is far from clear that even more restrictive efforts to limit speech are not being made in the name of "media diversity." The Federal Communications Commission now has a panel to consider ways to increase media diversity. It is chaired by former FCC Chairman Henry Rivera, who was an outspoken proponent of the fairness doctrine. The panel has thirty-one members, including the following:
Emma Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media (Chairperson)
Raul Alarcon, Jr., Spanish Broadcasting System
Geoffrey C. Blackwell, Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc.
Maria E. Brennan, American Women in Radio and Television
Steve Hillard, Council Tree Communications
David Honig, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council
Debra Lee, BET Holdings, Inc.
Marc H. Morial, National Urban League
Karen K. Narasaki, Asian American Justice Center
Jake Oliver, Afro-American Newspapers
Andrew Schwartzman, Media Access Project
Charles Warfield, Inner City Broadcasting
James Winston, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters
The panel includes no member likely to favor the continuation of "conservative" talk radio, much disparaged by President Obama and his colleagues.
Fairness and diversity are good things; however, in my opinion, neither the old Fairness Doctrine nor prior FCC attempts to stimulate minority ownership were effective in achieving their stated and salutary purposes. I am at least modestly concerned, although (or perhaps because) it is far from clear what impact, if any, this incremental step may have on the nature of the media in the United States. I hope that the powers-that-be view Venezuela as a horrible, rather than as a good, role model.
I do not suggest that President Obama has thus far managed to change the United States into the sort of place where El Presidente Chávez would feel right at home. Nor do I suggest that President Obama clearly views El Presidente as a suitable role model. I do suggest that in the few months he has been in office, President Obama may have shown at least the beginnings of a trend in that direction, and that in light of the present situation in Venezuela, his protestations that Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are universal principles that other countries can (and perhaps should) embrace and affirm as part of their national identity, may ring a bit hollow. Venezuela conspicuously lacks the rule of law and freedom of speech; the institutions of democracy have been almost totally destroyed, and the situation there continues to deteriorate. By the time that these "universal principles" have been noticeably diminished in the United States, it will be too late to do much about it.
I don't consider El Presidente Chávez a fictitious bogeyman, to be ignored as presaging a possible future for the United States; I very much hope that that there is no such problem. Still, as a nation, we spend a lot of time agonizing over matters as to which we are impotent and as to which we have no say. Prudence suggests that we look to the past and to the present, both in the United States and elsewhere — including Venezuela, in attempting to augur the future. As to such matters, we still have at least a little to say; it should be heard.