With Hugo Chavez romping around New York this week, plugging Noam Chomsky and sniffing out sulfur, let’s not forget the man who in his own humble way did so much to make this visit possible — Jimmy Carter.
Recall that just a few years ago, Chavez was on the ropes in Venezuela. Elected president in 1998, he embarked on a despotic course that sparked enormous opposition. Ousted briefly in 2002 by a military coup, his return to power was met with nationwide strikes and protest. Jimmy Carter, with his Carter Center, got involved; and in August, 2004, Venezuela held a referendum on whether Chavez should remain in power. Amid serious signs of vote fraud, Chavez announced victory. Dismissing huge evidence of a stolen election, including such stuff as bizarre statistical discrepances, a failure of secure auditing procedures at the central tallying center, and more votes cast in some districts than there were voters, Carter went to bat for Chavez, certifying him as the victor.
Now we have this Carter-certified winner doing weapons deals with Russia, doing business and swapping avowals of brotherly love with Iran’s Ahmadinejad, and running for a seat on the UN Security Council.
Scratch almost any current threat to the U.S., and behind it — radiating mediation and appeasement — is a Jimmy Carter moment. It was during his presidency that the Soviet Union was emboldened to invade Afghanistan, creating the cauldron whence ultimately emerged Al Qaeda. It was during his presidency that Iran had its totalitarian Islamic revolution. It was Jimmy Carter who in 1994 went to North Korea and conceived the “Agreed Framework” nuclear freeze deal, which helped sustain and consolidate the cheating Pyongyang regime now testing missiles and presumed to have a stash of nuclear bombs. I could go on, but the news of the hour is the Hugo Chavez show — in which Carter, for his supporting role, deserves to take a bow.