Statements by top Democrats chastising clownish Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for his outrageous attacks on President Bush-whom he called variously "the devil," an "ex-alcoholic," and a "sick" and "very dangerous" man-were necessary and appropriate and deserve praise. Whatever his complaints about U.S. policy in the world, Chavez was way out of line, especially in making some of the comments during his address to the United Nations General Assembly. Still, there may be some broader lessons in this otherwise insignificant drama on the margins of the annual UN meeting.
Charles Rangel, New York's senior House Democrat, had perhaps the most interesting response to Chavez, who continued his bizarre grandstanding in Harlem, a portion of Rangel's district. Rangel said the following:
"I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president: Don't come to the United States and think, because we have problems with our president, that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our chief of state."
He was more concise in a second comment: "You don't come into my country; you don't come into my congressional district and you don't condemn my president." And likewise on his web site: "George Bush is the President of the United States and represents the entire country. Any demeaning public attack against him is viewed by Republicans and Democrats, and all Americans, as an attack on all of us."
He's right, of course-but how many members of Congress would apply the same criteria when they travel abroad?Essay