In his generally disappointing September 25 address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama trotted out a number of fundamental American principles. He called for a world able to “live with liberty, dignity, justice and opportunity,” and defended “universal values.” He urged an end to “the politics of division” and envisioned “the triumph of liberty over tyranny.”
In many respects, the President’s speech reiterates key points of President George W. Bush’s often derided 2005 inaugural speech calling for “ending tyranny in our world.”
Ironically, President Obama delivered his appeal in the same spot where, in September 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made his infamous “yesterday, the devil [George W. Bush] came here… and it smells of sulfur” speech.
Six years later, Venezuela under Chavez remains a vector for anti-Americanism, an ally of the forces of Islamic extremism President Obama vigorously sought to challenge, and a nation on the wrong political and economic track. Chavez, moreover, has demonstrated a proven capacity to undermine democracy and throttle liberty via the ballot box.
On October 7, Chavez aims to dominate the presidential elections and draw Venezuela further down a path that will curb liberty, abridge individual rights, and throttle economic freedom. Elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, neo-authoritarians chip away at freedom of speech, while in Castro-controlled Cuba, human “liberty, dignity, justice and opportunity” are denied.
Meanwhile, Chavez has warmly endorsed Obama as U.S. President.
One hopes that the principles and values President Obama defended in New York will guide the Administration’s actions in responding to the threats to democracy closer to home.