NYT's Cohen: Hugo Si! Jorge No!

After the Venezuela referendum, I 'd been waiting for the first MSMer to make an invidious comparison between Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush.

Didn't take long:

"[D]emocracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America."

That's Roger Cohen writing in today's New York Times, reacting to Chavez's apparent acceptance of the referendum results that turned thumbs down on his "reforms" that would have effectively made him dictator.

The Times's "International Writer-at-Large" is careful to temper his praise of Chavez with some boilerplate criticism, calling him a "strongman" and a "menace." But, time and again, Cohen returns to his theme: that democracy is more alive and well in Venezuela than in the U.S. under President Bush.

Excerpts:

  • I salute you, Hugo Chávez.
  • And yet, there was a glum Chávez declaring in the unadorned language no totalitarian system can abide that: “The people’s decision will be upheld in respect of the basic rule of democracy: the winning option is the one that gets most votes.”
  • The United States might ponder those words — not just because of what happened in the presidential election of 2000; not just because the arithmetic of voting has proved unpalatable in Palestine; not just because of the past U.S.-abetted trampling of elected Latin American leaders in Chile and elsewhere — but because d
  • There was a directness, meaningfulness and civic responsibility about the [Venezuelan] proceedings that make the early running in the American election look pitiful. Democracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America.
  • Unperturbed, Venezuelans went ahead. And they gave a civic example from which Bush’s battered and blathering democracy can learn.
Cohen's evidence in support of his "Bush’s battered and blathering democracy"?
  • "The presidential election of 2000." -- The Supreme Court, none of whose members were appointed by George W. Bush, ended the recount in Florida. The Miami Herald and USA Today later reported that "George W. Bush would have widened his 537-vote victory to a 1,665-vote margin if the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court would have been allowed to continue."
  • "The arithmetic of voting has proved unpalatable in Palestine." And that's evidence of democracy in tatters in the US just how?
  • "Past U.S.-abetted trampling of elected Latin American leaders in Chile and elsewhere." We can debate the merits of past policy, but as Cohen himself recognizes, that happened under former presidents. So again, how does that demonstrate democracy in peril under President Bush?

Cohen complains of "blathering." He ought to know.

Note: Ace of Spades has colorful commentary on Cohen column

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.