The Big Apple hits back hard
Adam Lisberg / Michael Mc Auliff / John Mahoney /Michael Saul
New York Daily News
September 22, 2006
New York officials tell strongman where to go
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) expressed his 'extreme displeasure' with comments made by President Chavez of Venezuela (below).
Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's outrageous comments about President Bush brought wide condemnation from political friends and foes alike yesterday - as Chavez hinted that Bush plotted the 9/11 attacks and again called him the devil.
"You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my President," Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) scolded after Chavez's rambling, 90-minute rant at Harlem's Mount Olivet Baptist Church.
"I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president: Don't come to the United States and think because we have problems with our President that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our chief of state," Rangel said from Washington.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had few words for Chavez: "Despicable and disgusting."
And Gov. Pataki told Chavez to get out of town.
"The best thing he can do is go back to Venezuela and try to provide freedom for his people instead of what he's done here in New York," Pataki said.
But the crowd of hundreds of cheering Chavez supporters - including actor Danny Glover, City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) and celebrity Princeton Prof. Cornel West - waved Venezuelan flags and cheered as he made fun of Bush.
"I said he was a devil - yes, a devil. I think he's a devil," the Venezuelan president said in Spanish.
"Now, the most important thing is that a better world lives, and that the world rids itself of this menace," Chavez said. "Because, without a doubt, it's a menace to life and the world."
Chavez also denounced a string of U.S. military actions over the decades - and seemed to include the 9/11 attacks.
"To use arms with chemical weapons like they used in Fallujah, to kill all forms of life, to take planes filled with passengers and smash them into the towers ... the Twin Towers, that's barbarism," Chavez said - less than 9 miles from Ground Zero - as some in the audience hooted approval.
"The devil, yes, the devil," Chavez said. "Seriously."
His angry man routine came just a day after Chavez told world leaders at the UN General Assembly that the podium still smelled of sulfur from when Bush spoke there earlier.
Former President Bill Clinton said Chavez's tactics could backfire.
"It makes him look small and undermines his effectiveness," Clinton told Fox News Channel.
Yesterday, Chavez said Bush tries to walk like John Wayne - strutting onstage to demonstrate - and made fun of the drinking problem that Bush beat before running for President.
"He was an alcoholic - you have as President an alcoholic!" Chavez said. "I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. He's an alcoholic. He's a sick man, with a complex."
The appearance was arranged to launch this year's campaign to give 100 million gallons of free or low-cost Venezuelan heating oil to poor Americans.
It gave Chavez a chance to speak glowingly of friends like Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who he said is recovering well from intestinal surgery.
At times Chavez sounded as if he was giving one of Castro's famously interminable speeches - reciting agricultural statistics, digressing into the merits of drinking tea made from coca leaves and complaining that windows aren't big enough in modern buildings.
"Buildings are glass cages," he whined. "They don't have windows [that open]. Therefore you have to have the air conditioning on day and night."
Chavez also again waved a copy of a Noam Chomsky book that claims the U.S. is a terrorist state, and spoke glowingly of Americans from Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain to Harry Belafonte and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mayor Bloomberg - in California making an environmental announcement with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - said of Chavez's appearance in the city, "I wouldn't dignify this guy's comments with a response. I think the ways to handle somebody like that is just don't pay any attention to anybody that does something as inappropriate and as untrue."
The Governator agreed, saying, "I don't think he deserves a response. Period."
With Michael McAuliff in Washington, Joe Mahoney in Albany
and Michael Saul in Los Angeles