Bush is about to tour Latin America, and according to Dan Froomkin, has been trying to out-Chavez Chavez with faux-populist rhetoric of the kind he wouldn’t ordinarily be caught dead using here.
Just before heading off for a six-day visit to Latin America, President Bush yesterday attempted to co-opt the populist rhetoric of his hemispheric arch-nemesis, President Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela.
Speaking to the “tens of millions in our hemisphere” who “remain stuck in poverty, and shut off from the promises of the new century,” Bush said: “My message to those trabajadores y campesinos is, you have a friend in the United States of America. We care about your plight.”
But if you think Bush has a credibility problem in his own country, it’s even worse south of the border — especially when it comes to issues of social justice.
Let there be no doubt about this: Bush’s attempt to persuade Latin Americans that he is the champion of the poor — given his pro-business bent and six years of an almost exclusive focus on free trade and terrorism — is utterly doomed. Almost laughably so.
Bush leaves for Brazil on Thursday, then travels to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. Here’s the text of his speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Startlingly, it contains the phrase “social justice” fully five times.
“Social justice” and Junior Bush? You might say that’s the textbook definition of “cognitive dissidence”.
But believe it or not, it gets worse.
Bush even associated himself with the forces of revolution (albeit a slow-burning one.)
Hearkening back to two great liberators — Simon Bolivar and George Washington — Bush said “it is our mission to complete the revolution they began on our two continents. The millions across our hemisphere who every day suffer the degradations of poverty and hunger have a right to be impatient. And I’m going to make them this pledge: The goal of this great country, the goal of a country full of generous people, is an Americas where the dignity of every person is respected, where all find room at the table, and where opportunity reaches into every village and every home. By extending the blessings of liberty to the least among us, we will fulfill the destiny of this new world and set a shining example for others.”
Whatever else you can say about him, Junior doesn’t have a modesty problem. So far he has compared himself favorably to, besides Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Christ. (Who am I forgetting? I think there were a couple more.) We can now add Simon Bolivar to that august fantasy list and wonder who will be next. Charlemagne? Alexander the Great?
Of course, if you’re going to live in LaLaLand anyway, you don’t really need to stick to actual historical personages. Why not spice up the list with a few classical, mythological, or fictional heroes? Hercules, say, or Flash Gordon?
The important thing to remember in all this is that Bush has been either ignoring Latin America or actively punishing it for the past 6 years. Chavez didn’t invent the anti-Bush hostility in Latin America, he’s only been exploiting what was already there. Junior is hated in many parts of the world but, with the possible exception of Iraq, in none with as much virulence as in Central and South America. Their antipathy to Nixon – at whom they threw rocks when he visited – was a love-feast compared to the way they feel about Dubya.
Unfortunately, they may not have the opportunity to express that feeling in person. I assume Junior will be traveling in an even tighter bubble than the one that protected him when he went to Europe – that’s the trip when security forces forced whole towns to evacuate while he drove through them in a caravan of bullet-proof SUV’s. No one who isn’t an industrial magnate or political or military muckety-muck is likely even to see his face except on television. He may be making speeches about his fondness for the hoi-polloi, but that doesn’t mean he wants to mingle, for gadssake. The mob is best left admired insincerely and from a safe distance. Andrew Jackson is the one notable Pres that Junior has never compared himself to.
One is entitled to wonder why this trip now? Why do they want him out of the States at this particular juncture? He still won’t be able to duck questions about the Libby pardon or Iraq or the mess at Walter Reed. If they think they’re getting him out of the line of fire, I think they’re wrong, though I suppose it’s worth trying. Every time he opens his unscripted mouth, he puts his foot in it.
On Tuesday I think it was, Keith Olbermann, in an interview with Joseph Wilson after the Libby verdict, noted that Bush had ordered his press office to release a statement about how “sad” a day it was for the Libby family but that there was no accompanying statement expressing sorrow for the destruction of Valerie Plame’s career or the attempted destruction of Wilson. It never occurred to him that that might look, uh, unsympathetic. Or even – dare we say it? Yes, we dare – cruel, mean, and spiteful.
Whatever the reason for Bush’s flight, it’s dollars to donuts it ain’t gonna help. If he makes the mistake of appearing in public, it could easily be a major PR disaster.
Sounds like fun, don’t it?