In this past week's Slate gabfest, Emily Bazelon, who I find utterly charming, at least on podcast, has no patience for the "pandering" of Nancy Pelosi and others who went against Hugo Chavez for his rant about Bush being the devil, the smell of sulphur, etc. She seemed to think that it made no sense for Pelosi or anyone else to condemn Chavez for voicing his criticism against Bush.
Of course, it's entirely possible that Pelosi and the others were shamelessly pandering, but I think you can be pretty harsh on Chavez, critical about Bush, and still maintain intellectual integrity.
The first thing I thought when I saw Chavez's rants was: "With enemies like that, Bush hardly needs friends." I thought it was irrelevant that he was in New York, though I did think it was relevant that he was at the United Nations. I already knew that he is in violent disagreement with Bush (to put it kindly), and he had absolutely every right to express that. But it was ridiculous and childish to cross himself and make a religious thing out of it.
So I think it's reasonable for Pelosi and others to say that Chavez's speech was what it was: childish, ineffective, and in violation of the standards one could expect from a head of state. And while they were at it, they should have chided those in the General Assembly who clapped and giggled.
And they could have done all this while also saying that Bush's policies are reprehensible, etc. The point would have been to stand up for the office of the president and the dignity of the assembly (or what little's left of it, truth be told), and also for the dignity of the state of Venezuela.
We still look at the picture of Khruschev going nuts in the same assembly and have to smile - if there was ever a time we did not fear the Soviet Union, was when their leader said he was going to "bury us," and illustrated the point by banging his shoe.