President Bush owes Hugo Chavez a thank-you note. The Venezuelan president's goofy performance at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday made Bush look like Winston Churchill.
Waving a Noam Chomsky book about America's quest for global dominance, Chavez railed against Bush: "Yesterday the devil came here," he said, referring to Bush's address to the U.N. "Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of."
Then he made the sign of the cross, looked heavenward and put his hands together as if to pray. I think we can fairly conclude that the weird have officially gone pro.
Chavez would be a hoot if he weren't so dangerous. As the leader of America's fourth-largest foreign oil supplier, he has undeserved power, both in the world and over the U.S. When he's feeling grumpy, he threatens to cut us off. Wouldn't we love not to have to entertain his mood shifts?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she wouldn't dignify Chavez's remarks with a response, while Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, said: "It's hard to see it (Chavez's rant) as helpful."
But it was helpful, if only to allow the rest of the world - and especially napping Americans - to see what we have before us. Chavez is not alone in the assorted nut bowl. One of his pals is Bolivian President Evo Morales, who came to the U.N. waving a coca leaf, saying: "Does this look like a drug to you?"
Both are buddies of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who recently hosted the 118 nations of the Nonaligned Movement - a gathering of anti-yanquis, including Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that should have sent chills down American spines.
How many dots do we need before we notice the gathering storm?
Ahmadinejad, who has promised to wipe Israel off the map, complained to the group that the world shouldn't have to live under the nuclear threat of the U.S. Better, presumably, that the world should live under the nuclear threat of Iran?
In an accord that sparks cognitive dissonance among the sane, the nonaligned nations agreed. Their final declaration supported Ahmadinejad's position while urging that Tehran cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Feeling safer yet?
Even a stopped watch is right twice a day, and Chavez was right about one thing. He said U.S. consumerism was "madness" and that Americans are wasteful with oil and energy. Consuming less, he said, should be an environmental policy.
Correcto. Conservation also should be part of our foreign policy. Thugs like Chavez have power because of only one thing - oil. Logically, our best weapon against our enemies is to neutralize them by eliminating our dependence on their oil. Not soon-ish, but now.
Even Bush, whose power base back in Texas is dripping in black gold, has said we need to wean ourselves from oil, but he has stopped short of making that goal a national mandate. He hasn't asked Americans to sacrifice or goaded industry to immediate action.
The war on terror has required much of men and women on the ground, but little of the rest of us who continue to gorge and guzzle. I plead guilty, but have begun doing what little I can - not because I'm virtuous, but because I don't want Chavez to have a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Recently, we traded an SUV for a hybrid (Toyota Prius) that gets up to 60 miles per gallon. Many other automakers are creating hybrids, but they need to be cheaper and the incentives to buy greater.
Meanwhile, there are dozens of ways to conserve individually, which, though seemingly small, have a cumulative effect. For a quick primer on how to reduce oil dependence, pick up Laurie David's new booklet: "The Solution is You!" David is a global warming activist but her book could be a guide to thwarting terrorism. So the planet benefits, too. What a deal.
Through leadership, incentives and legislation, we could begin to sketch a new road map to peace. It might cost us a little upfront. It might even inconvenience us a bit. But in return, we get to ignore the bleatings of Third World despots, while defusing the power of jihad.
We can say the devil made us do it.
Kathleen Parker is a nationally syndicated columnist. E-mail her at email@example.com.
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