Saturday, January 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: To send off Chavez, send in the clowns

This wasn't so much a funeral of a dearly-departed, tyrannical banana republic dictator, as much as it was a Moose Lodge convention of megalomaniacal despots. And then there was Jesse Jackson to provide some theological comic relief.

It was just a few short days ago that Hugo Chavez went to that oil rig in the sky, leading to some of the world's most delusional dictators arriving in Caracas to say au revoir. A good time was had by all, even Chavez, whom the Venezuelan government has decided to keep around on eternal display, as a sort of Madame Tussauds' stuffed marlin of martial law tourist attraction.

With all those fatigues and Members Only jackets in evidence, the wake might also have been mistaken for a gathering of the world's worst-dressed henchmen. So it made sense for the likes of Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Cuba's Raul Castro and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (fun guys) to show up for the services. North Korea's Kim Jong Un probably wanted to be there but was too busy making prank calls to the White House pretending to be Dennis Rodman. Then there was Jesse Jackson?

The Apprentice cast doesn't get this weird.

When your son Jesse Jr. is facing the prospect of doing a federal prison stint for treating his congressional office as if it was the Home Shopping Network, it probably isn't a very astute move for Jackson pere to deliver a sermon praising a thug who presided over a corrupt, oppressive, ballot-stuffing, incompetent government.

By this standard of governance, Chavez would have made for a crackerjack Chicago alderman, which perhaps explains Jackson's fondness for the now very tardy strongman.

If it wasn't for all that oil money, under the bumbling Chavez's tenure Venezuela would have made Haiti look like Switzerland.

Heaping praise on Hugo Chavez's reign of unbridled narcissism? This would have been a bit like eulogizing Cambodia's Pol Pot for his efforts to curb population growth.

During his post mortem air kiss to Chavez, Jackson praised the man who did more for berets than Monica Lewinsky by noting: "How do we measure a great leader? By how he treats the least of these. Hugo fed the hungry. He lifted the poor. He raised their hopes."

Chavez so admired the poor that during his time in office he made sure to create more of them. After all, slums, like power, abhor a vacuum. During his years in office Hugo Chavez appropriated private property, cracked down on press freedom, imprisoned opponents and cooked the books of the nation's constitution to remain in office.

On his watch, Chavez counted Fidel and Raul Castro, Ahmadinejad, Syria's Bashar Assad and Libya's even more late Moammar Gadhafi as his pals. And the country's murder rate quadrupled.

Nevertheless, Jesse Jackson was more than happy to praise Chavez and his abysmal human rights record as a great leader.

When CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Jackson what he was thinking by showing up to give his blessing to such an unhinged crazy man, the reverend tried to sidestep the question by noting: "Well you know democracies mature. Our first 15 presidents owned people. They owned slaves," as if conflating U.S. history with a South American dictator somehow justified his weekend at Hugo's.

Jackson couldn't even get his demagoguery straight. Of the first 15 presidents of the United States, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce never owned slaves. Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison did in fact own slaves earlier in their lives but not as president.

If you want to be picky about these things, technically James Buchanan owned some slaves, which he purchased only to free them.

Or put another way, confronted with the fact he had done a very stupid thing by embracing a dictator and misrepresenting his tawdry legacy, Jesse Jackson decided to just keep trying to change the subject by saying even more stupid and historically inaccurate gibberish until he could get off camera.

It's a mystery why Jackson allowed himself to be conned into becoming Hugo Chavez's spiritual stooge. The minister once talked about being "somebody," and he is — if being played for a canonical chump by a dead despot counts for anything. Martin Luther King has to be spinning in his grave. Hugo Chavez is certainly having a good laugh in his.

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