Left: Senator John McCain, courtesy of Mosnews.com
(Toledo, OH) I find John McCain intriguing as a possible 2008 presidential candidate; he is outspoken, charismatic, and projects himself seemingly above much of the partisan political fray that is Washington.
And yet, perhaps his willingness to say what is on his mind may end up being his undoing.
"We've got to get quickly on a track to energy independence from foreign oil and that means, among other things, going back to nuclear power," Senator McCain said on Fox News Sunday. "We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy, and our very lives, have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela."
"Wackos in Venezuela."
Now, Senator McCain might disagree with the leftist politics of such people of Hugo Chavez, and that is understandable. It should be noted, however, that popular elections put Mr. Chavez into power, and he has also survived a US-backed referedum to have him removed from power.
Chavez is a socialist, but he is far from a "wacko." He is a shrewd politician who has endeared himself to many of the South American nation's poor, and has figured out that gaining greater control over the nation's oil reserves is an excellent way to improve the standard of living among the country's most impoverished citizens.
Is this good economic policy? Perhaps not. Is Chavez insane for undertaking such a course of action? Definitely not.
McCain's comments only serve to worsen relations between Venezuela and the US. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel responded in kind, telling McCain that he can "go to hell" for his remarks.
"Maybe he has got nothing to do over there in the United States," said Rangel, adding that the US has "so many problems, 40 million poor people, 30 million drug users, and an American senator is paying attention to us."
While I share McCain's enthusiasm for energy independence, I believe his words only increased the tension between the governments of Venezuela and the United States, and the Senator needs to choose his rhetoric more carefully.