The U.S. government pretends he is invisible, and the American people refuse to see him. Most of us don't see the threat he represents to U.S. interests. He keeps telling us he is powerful and dangerous, but because he acts like a clown, we just keep ignoring him.
It's driving Hugo Chavez crazy! After all, the president of oil-rich Venezuela is a narcissistic psychopath who craves world attention. He sees the Bush administration paying so much attention to our other enemies, and he can't understand why he doesn't get some notice himself. He is the Rodney Dangerfield of Latin America; he gets no respect!
On the Spanish-language TV networks in the United States, almost every newscast has a report about Chavez and his antics. He just has to be in the news! It seems as if he is addicted to making headlines, even though many news reports describe him as a buffoon. In Venezuela, where he is close to gaining complete control of the airwaves, he reportedly spends about 40 hours per week on television.
Unfortunately, in order to keep making headlines, Chavez needs to keep raising the volume of his anti-American rhetoric, which was escalated recently to include direct threats against the U.S. economy and national security.
It is Chavez's own desperate need for attention that is making him a threat to world peace and stability. Ignoring him further could be costly.
His latest diatribe came at the OPEC summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, only days after the king of Spain told him to "shut up" during another summit in Chile, Chavez threatened that if the U.S. took military action against Iran or Venezuela, the price of a barrel of oil will go to $200. He has formed a strong alliance with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he was warning us that if Venezuela and Iran cut off their oil supply, Americans will be slaughtered at the gas pump.
Will this be the wake-up call Americans need? Now that he is vowing to hurt us in our wallets, are we going to pay attention to his escalating threats? How long are we going to ignore the enemy in our backyard?
I know this is what Chavez wants, what his narcissism needs, but we may have no choice but to pay attention to the threat he represents.
Ignoring him will not make him go away. In fact, on more than one occasion, when his opposition in Venezuela has chosen not to fight him, he has made tremendous strides toward consolidating his regime and escalating his war of words with the United States.
Instead of King Juan Carlos of Spain, it should have been President Bush who asked Chavez, "Why don't you shut up?" And it should have happened a long time ago!
It's one of the first lessons we learn in the schoolyard: The only way to deal with a bully is to become a bigger bully.
For saying what so many people have wanted to say to Chavez, King Juan Carlos has gained tremendous popularity around the world. Mugs, T-shirts, Web sites and even a ring tone with the king's outburst — "Porque no te callas?" (Why don't you shut up?) — have become instantly popular in Europe and Venezuela. The phrase has become the punch line of many jokes and the chorus line of many songs and YouTube videos.
Perhaps this is all happening because Chavez acts like a fictitious dictator in a Woody Allen movie. And so, when he says he hates us and he wants to hurt us, we don't take him seriously. In fact, many American leftists ("useful fools") find him cute.
Chavez may look like a stereotypical character, better fit for a Mel Brooks parody than for real life, but he represents a real threat to the people of the United States. He may be a clown, but his extreme need for attention makes him dangerous.
It's time to stop laughing.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.