Mitt Romney Swings….And Misses On Venezuela
Over the past couple of days, there has been a back and forth between President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign over the threat, if any, that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez poses to the US. It started Tuesday when President Obama was interviewed about ties between Iran and Venezuela:
Obama had been asked by Miami’s America TeVe if he was concerned about what has been a public show of solidarity between Chavez and Iran.
“The truth is that we’re always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe,” the president replied. “But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”
“We have to be vigilant,” Obama went on. “My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don’t always see.”
The hyperventilating overblown rhetoric that has resulted from hawkish neocon Republicans is of course predictable.
In a written statement, Romney assailed what he called “a stunning and shocking comment by the president.”
“It is disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill. Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country’s borders,” Romney said.
“And he is seeking to lead — together with the Castros — a destabilizing, anti-democratic, and anti-American ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ across Latin America,” the former Massachusetts governor said, accusing Obama of having “emboldened adversaries and diminished U.S. influence in every region of the world.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, often listed as a possible Romney running mate, also weighed in. And the Romney campaign released similar statements from surrogates like Republic Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Keep in mind something when we’re talking about Venezuela, we import nearly one million barrels of oil a day from that country. Those oil exports are Venezuela’s main source of revenue. For all of Chavez’s rhetoric and bluster, its probably not wise for any Venezuelan leader to anger one of his country’s biggest oil importers. An oil embargo by Venezuela against the US may result in short term economic damage to the US but it would be an economic castrophe for Venezuela.
To be clear, Hugo Chavez and his regime are not nice people. Chavez has an authoritarian streak and has horribly mismanaged the Venezuelan economy. He also has a disturbing tendency to support any authoritiarian and totalitarian regime around the world, as long as they are anti-American. However, to spin the Chavez regime as a major enemy of the United States is simply absurd. Chavez is at worst an annoying pest and the Obama administration understands that. Not all of America’s international rivals are reincarnations of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Worse of all, the overhyping of tinpot dictators like Hugo Chavez is like the story of when the boy cried wolf. When a real, serious threat to US national security emerges, the American people may not see the danger.
The Obama campaign pretty much sums up how silly Mitt Romney and his surrogates come off with this line of attack:
President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign mocked Mitt Romney late Wednesday as being “scared” of Venezuela’s anti-American President Hugo Chavez “like he’s ten feet tall,” the latest rhetorical broadside in an escalating war of words.
“Hugo Chavez has become increasingly marginalized and his influence has waned,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement. “It’s baffling that Mitt Romney is so scared of a leader like Chavez whose power is fading, while Romney continues to remain silent about how to confront al-Qaeda or how to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.”
Maybe Mitt Romney should try actually giving foreign policy some serious thought instead of regurgitating neocon talking points.