Venezuela’s 1999 constitution is one of President Hugo Chávez’s proudest political props. The socialist leader likes to wave a pocket-size version of the charter, written shortly after he first took office 14 years ago, as often as Chinese communists used to brandish Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. But now that the 58-year-old Chávez may be fighting for his life in a Cuban hospital after difficult cancer surgery, Venezuelans are turning to his so-called Bolivarian constitution for guidance — and what they’re finding instead is a murky map that could send the western hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation into precarious governmental limbo this year.
At the core of the confusion is one word: permanently. The constitution says Chávez, who in October won re-election to a new six-year term, is supposed to be sworn in a week from today, on Jan. 10. But his condition would appear to preclude that happening. So here’s what Article 233 says: “When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election … shall be held within 30 consecutive days.” The article defines “permanently unavailable” (falta absoluta in Spanish) as death, resignation, removal from office, certified permanent physical or mental disability or a recall. None of those — at least according to information from Vice President Nicolás Maduro, who visited Chávez in Havana this week — apply to Chávez’s current situation. What to do then?
The far left and the far right agree on many things: mainstream politics doesn’t matter, hidden forces control our destiny, and, in case you hadn’t noticed, the world is about to end.
For the spiritual left, of course, the due date is December 21, at which time various Mayan calendars may or may not have predicted a global transformation of epic proportions. (Maya elders have recently pointed out that it’s transformation, not destruction, that’s in store.) From what I can tell, with one foot in the New Age world, 2012 chatter seems to have died down somewhat. But there are still plenty of true believers.
On the religious right, the world basically ended already: on November 6, with the reelection of a Kenyan Muslim Socialist to the presidency of the United States. The degree of the tragedy depends on the degree of the extremist describing it. For Republicans, it was a rude awakening—though judging from the ways the GOP has blamed the defeat on Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie, improper voter turnout in black neighborhoods, or anything other than the reality that most Americans preferred Obama’s ideas to Romney’s, many have chosen to remain asleep. For those of a more conservative bent, it was inexplicable: doesn’t America watch The O’Reilly Factor? How could we all be so confused?
But for the hardcore, this defeat was much more than that. The “march to Socialism,” which has been plodding along, on and off, since the 1930s, is now a phalanx. But more than that: given the right’s rhetoric about the Obama administration’s “war on religion,” his reelection looks like nothing less than the anointing of the Antichrist. If I seem to exaggerate, consider the literally apocalyptic rhetoric coming out of the Rutherford Institute (one of the leaders of the right’s new movement to protect ‘religious liberty’), the National Organization for Marriage, Alan Sears, Donald Wildmon, Glenn Beck, or many of the pundits on Fox News.
“I work so hard that it is almost unfair to women.”
Speaking yesterday at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School in Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he didn’t think former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) would run for president, the Sioux City Journal reports.
As for Palin, Grassley said he doesn’t know her well, adding up that he’s had three conversations with her, with a minute each time. He said it appears Palin — who has done well as a bestselling author with two books in the last two years, a reality show from Alaska on The Learning Channel and a Fox News gig — likes making money, which makes sense because she has several children to support.
“I don’t know whether she’d make a good president …. I don’t think she will run,” Grassley said.
Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit did some mental contortions to defend Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour:
He also copped to having spent most of his time at MLK’s speech checking out girls. One thing he’s being hammered for is the “I just don’t remember it as being that bad” line, but as I read it, that wasn’t his take on the injustice of discrimination but rather how Yazoo City specifically coped with racial tensions. No violence in school desegregation, no Klan welcome in town, and a mixed audience for King’s address: Relative to other southern hot spots, I take him as saying, the town made racial progress peacefully. The other thing he’s getting hit for is whitewashing the Citizens Councils, a.k.a. the White Citizens Councils, which were essentially pro-segregationist groups for people too “respectable” for the Klan. Again, the way I read his quote was that he was describing only the Yazoo City chapter, not the overall organization (a point stressed by Barbour’s spokesman to TPM). Maybe the local CC’s mission had become less toxic by the time Barbour was a teen, or maybe he was simply naive about what the group’s true purpose was, remembering his hometown through “rose-colored glasses,” as Geraghty says. No doubt reporters are dialing up local historians as we speak to find out whether Barbour could earnestly and honestly be mistaken.
Bullfax, a website for “Market News & Analysis” and therefore obviously biased towards progressives, posted an excerpt from the book The Citizens’ Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction that documented specific counter-NAACP activities in Yazoo City during the 1950s:
Excerpt from the book Citizens’ Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction
As a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Edward H. Sebesta has scanned and provided decades worth of the Citizens Council newspapers. To be generous to Governor Barbour, who was born in 1947 and a teenager when he claims to have attended a Martin Luther King speech, I thought I would find publications from mid-1961, the latest the website has. The Citizens Council’s newspaper for July-August 1961 was filled with lovely headlines such as “Race Equality Is A ‘Scientific Hoax’” and
“The Incredible Tale Of The Darkies In Court,” along with order forms for fantastic books like Segregation - An American Custom, The South’s Just Cause, The Ugly Truth About The NAACP (the title of which corroborates the claims of the above book excerpt) and confederate cuff-links.
Why George W. Bush must be smiling
By Julian E. Zelizer, Special to CNN
December 13, 2010
Editor’s note: Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter,” published by Times Books, and editor of a book assessing former President George W. Bush’s administration, published by Princeton University Press.
Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) — Somewhere in Texas, former President George W. Bush must be smiling. When President Obama and the Republican leadership reached a deal on extending all of the Bush tax cuts, including a generous exemption for estate taxes, the current president ratified a key policy from the former administration.
While Obama ran as the candidate who would fight to overturn Bush’s record, a huge number of his policies remain in place.
This says a lot about President Bush. One of the key measures that we have to evaluate the success of a president is not simply how many of his proposals pass through Congress but also how many of his policies outlast his time in office. Many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs, including Social Security and the Wagner Act, survive into our time.
Though Harry Truman ended his term with his approval ratings in the tank, most of his key national security programs would define America’s Cold War policies through the fall of the Soviet Union decades later. Lyndon Johnson pushed a host of policies such as Medicare and federal aid to education that survived the conservative revolution.
Thus far, President Bush has been doing well on that score.
It would be a Rovian nightmare to try to get someone like Sarah elected. While she carries a certain essence of worthiness among a small group of hard Christian right Ur-conservatives, she fails through her large negatives with the rest of the populace. Frum’s piece notes the GOP concerns — but a better policy from my viewpoint would be to ignore her. She has after all had her fifteen minutes and the only reason she remains in the limelight is her populist portrayal of herself, Christians, and “normal americans” as victims. Continuing the focus merely feeds the all consuming flames of her vanity.
Matt Labash’s review of Sarah Palin’s new television show is worth reading, and not only because everything by Matt Labash is worth reading.
The review is worth reading as a marker of an important trend: the Republican establishment’s increasingly frantic search for ways to stop the Palin for President campaign.
Most of the search is happening below the surface of things. You see it in the flow of big-dollar money in every other direction but Palin’s. You catch echoes of it in the anti-Palin murmurs of Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. And even at Fox, you can watch it in the amusedly disrespectful way that Palin is treated by Bill O’Reilly.