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Democratic Party Foils: Hugo Chavez 2006, Sister Souljah 1992

09/23/2006 12:39 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez used his U.N. appearance and New York visit to bash President Bush and the U.S. earlier this week, I couldn't help but note that a large contingent of Democrats got on Chavez' case about his comments.

Comments, ironically, that some of them would probably agree with behind closed doors. Calling Bush a "cowboy," attacking the U.S. for hegemony-type agendas, criticizing U.S. economic and regulatory policy for placing the cost of winter heating bills beyond the reach of families that are to be the ultimate recipients of donations given by Chavez during a public appearance in Harlem during his visit.

And yes, behind closed doors, I'm sure at least a few Democrats have likened Bush to a type of devil.

I think some of those words and actions have merit. But I am a blogger, not a politician running for office.

In any case, few Democrats seem to have the balls to publicly say that Chavez's points have any validity.

Why? Because we are in an election season. Being tough on Chavez- whose head-of-state friends include a Hezbollah-funding Holocaust doubter and a man still villified by significant numbers of voters in a state where a party change in one or two House seats could bring the chamber back to Democratic control-well, that makes for strategically horrible realpolitik.

This is yet another political cycle where the Republicans will, once again, argue that "we've kept you safe from terrorists," and although the Democrats say they will do so as well, to do anything but bash Chavez harder than the next guy... the GOP spin machine would surely assert some Democrats are "defending" Hugo Chavez.

My goodness, even highly vocal Administration and Iraq War critic Charlie Rangel expressed outrage the other day at Chavez "coming to my country, my district," and dissing "my President."

What a perfect foil blasting Chavez is for a party who wants to duck those "soft on terrorism" barbs coming from the Republican partisans and their fright-wing talk show allies.

The fact that Chavez just possibly may have a point or two, and may be saying things that at least some Dems privately, partially, agree with, well that doesn't matter.

Now to Sister Souljah. Remember her?

In the 1992 Presidential campaign, a polarized nation who remembered the Rodney King riots earlier that very year was intimidated by the impassioned rhetoric of African-American author, poet and performer Sister Souljah.

This was also an election cycle in which the Republicans tried to frame the Democrats as "soft on crime."

Soft on crime was lamentably understood by many racists and non-racists alike as "lets the blacks get away with murder." You know, lenient judges, prisoner-pardoning Democratic governors, gangs gone amok, foul-mouthing rappers who tossed around "MF" bombs, etc.

But one Democratic Governor running for President bashed Sister Souljah more than once. His name, of course, was Bill Clinton.

And as with Chavez's rhetoric, the possibility that Sister Souljah's argumentation contained at least a moderate amount of debatable assertions was never publicly expressed. Not even by those Democratic politicians who had personal experience with the type of racism she described- and would vouch for its ugly, continued presence.

Get the similarity?

1992: GOP calls Dems "soft on crime," so here comes the perfect "no-we're not" foil: Sister Souljah.
2006: GOP calls Dems "soft on terrorism," so along comes the perfect "no-we're not" foil: Hugo Chavez.