Opinion and Analysis: Media Watch
Review of Newspaper Editorials on Pat Robertson’s Call for Assassination
Editorial Boards and Opinion-givers around the nation continued on Friday, August 26, to focus on the foot in Pat Robertson’s mouth, after calling for the assassination, and later the kidnapping, of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
In the Washington Post Opinion section, Eugene Robinson writes, ‘“I thought the bumper-sticker slogan was "Jesus Is My Co-Pilot," not "Jesus Is My Hit Man."’ He describes Chavez as “a character out of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical-realist novels,” whose talk show, "Hello, President!" he describes as “a unique exercise in stream-of-presidential-consciousness.” Given the current oil prices, and current global energy needs “Chavez could sing a lullaby in Farsi on his television show and still be a major player.”
The Post’s Marcela Sanchez, who often uses her column “Desde Washington” to critique Chavez, now thinks that Chavez “a calming influence” on the region. “He is the Robin Hood who supports the poor with the money of the rich, and he is the ideologue who pushes an anti-imperialist, socialist agenda,” she says, which makes it difficult to deal with the Venezuelan leader on a cut and dry level. On US foreign policy towardsm Venezuela? “Washington serves up decidedly old and desiccated solutions that smell of long-failed anti-Castro strategies…. This kind of one-dimensional thinking blinds U.S. policymakers to the fact that Chavez's influence in Latin America is not all pernicious and, no matter how much it is hated, may be presenting solutions to Latin America's real problems in ways that Washington is not.”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette calls Venezuelan President “an aspiring Fidel Castro,” and “Venezuela's tinpot Caesar” who “represents a serious threat, first to Venezuela's precarious democracy, and then to whatever neighboring states he can undermine.” According to the Little Rock’s Editorial Board, “no one should underestimate Hugo Chavez's ambition, which is as obvious as his demagoguery.”
The Alberquerque Jornal (New Mexico) calls Robertson’s denial of the call for assassination “weasel-worded,” and advises the following: “Robertson's viewers ought to unholster their remotes, point them at the 700 Club show host and do unto him figuratively what he suggested doing literally to Venezuela's president.” They also state that Robertson, “in strengthening Chavez's influence throughout Latin America - and eroding that of the U.S.” has done “real damage.”
The Detroit Free Press has this to say on the Bush administration’s failure to chastise Robertson: “The Bush administration response to the outrageous remarks from one of its key supporters was tepid: "Inappropriate." "Not the policy of the United States government." "We don't share his views." How about condemning those views as antithetical to freedom, democracy and the rule of law – all that stuff we're supposed to export?”
West Virginia’s Intelligencer doesn’t seem to care much for President Chavez, calling him a “Castro-ite dictator,” and was at some level, rather pleased with Robertson’s call. “Ironically,” says the Editorial, “Robertson - or perhaps his critics by calling attention to his remarks - has done a service by calling attention to a real threat to American interests in our own hemisphere. The Chavez government is cozy with Fidel Castro, and like Castro during the 1970s and early 1980s, Chavez is working to spread his particular form of despotism throughout the region, in the process threatening to destabilize hard-won gains for democratic governance in Central and South America.” The Editorial urges the Bush administration to contain Chavez and foster a democratic opposition in the country.
In a piece that appeared in last week’s Independent (UK), Johann Hari writes, “A Salsa revolution is spreading out from the slums of Venezuela, and it is the first in Latin America to be both totally democratic and slowly, startlingly effective….. A classroom, a hospital, a barrio: these might sound like unlikely locations for a social revolution. In Europe, we take it for granted that our governments should provide these services for the poor. But on a continent which has had neoliberalism undemocratically forced down its throat for decades, it has taken a Salsa revolution – the loud, proud call from the barrios of Venezuela - to produce social democracy.”
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