Henrique Capriles' father smelled of elderberries!!

Earlier this week moderate Henrique Capriles Radonski won a primary election to challenge Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez for the presidency in October.  The New York Times notes that Capriles is the most popular opposition candidate in quite some time.  

This popularity seems to have caused both Chávez  and the Venezuelan state media to turn things up a notch.  The Guardian's Rory Carroll explains:

President Hugo Chávez on Thursday called the opposition's presidential candidate a "low-life pig", signalling a caustic start to Venezuela's election campaign.

The socialist leader vowed to crush Henrique Capriles in October's vote, branding him an agent of imperialism and oligarchy hiding behind a mask of moderation.

"Now we have the loser, welcome! We're going to pulverise you," he told an audience of medical students. "You have a pig's tail, a pig's ears, you snort like a pig, you're a low-life pig. You're a pig, don't try and hide it." He avoided calling Capriles by name, referring instead to "el majunche", slang for "the crappy one".

The speech, which all radio and television stations were obliged to broadcast live, followed Capriles's victory last Sunday in opposition primaries. The state governor won almost two-thirds of 3m votes cast, a higher than expected turnout which jolted the government.

Since then state media have launched multiple accusations at the wealthy 39-year-old challenger, calling him, among other things, a mendacious gay Nazi Zionist (emphasis added).

Your humble blogger cannot confirm that last claim -- it's possible that the Guardian just mashed together a long litany of insults against Chávez.  Still the hard-working staff here at FP  needs to pause for a moment and gasp in awe at the bolded insult above.  I mean, compared to "mendacious gay Nazi Zionist," calling Captiles a pig seems pretty tame.  That combination of adjectives is just so... so... contradictory that, on some da-da level of absurdism, one has to admire it.   The next thing you know, Chávez and his media cronies will accuse Capriles of being a "warthog-faced buffoon" or a "scumbag f***face d**khead" or having a father who smelled of elderberries or one of a hundred other insults.  

One would hope that Capriles and the opposition would match Chávez's level of insults, but, alas, it appears that he is taking the "high road" and decided to talk about "issues" and stuff.  So, for quality invective like this, we're going to have watch the Venezuelan state media more closely. 

I'm worried, however, that the Chávezistas might have peaked too soon with "mendacious gay Nazi Zionist."  In the interest of adding yet more priceless insults to the toolkit of over-the-top political rherotic, I therefore call upon all of my readers to help out the Venezuelan leader.  In the comments, try to suggest insults that, somehow, can top what Chávez and his allies have delivered to date. 

Daniel W. Drezner

Romney SMASH China!!

Mitt Romney's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal is devoted to China policy.  Let's take a read, shall we? 

Barack Obama is moving in precisely the wrong direction [on responding to China's rise]. The shining accomplishment of the meetings in Washington this week with Xi Jinping—China's vice president and likely future leader—was empty pomp and ceremony.

President Obama came into office as a near supplicant to Beijing, almost begging it to continue buying American debt so as to finance his profligate spending here at home. His administration demurred from raising issues of human rights for fear it would compromise agreement on the global economic crisis or even "the global climate-change crisis." Such weakness has only encouraged Chinese assertiveness and made our allies question our staying power in East Asia.

Now, three years into his term, the president has belatedly responded with a much-ballyhooed "pivot" to Asia, a phrase that may prove to be as gimmicky and vacuous as his "reset" with Russia. The supposed pivot has been oversold and carries with it an unintended consequence: It has left our allies with the worrying impression that we left the region and might do so again.

The pivot is also vastly under-resourced. Despite his big talk about bolstering our military position in Asia, President Obama's actions will inevitably weaken it. He plans to cut back on naval shipbuilding, shrink our Air Force, and slash our ground forces. Because of his policies and failed leadership, our military is facing nearly $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

This is interesting because it's the first time I've seen a GOP candidate try to respond substantively to the "pivot".  And, in my book, the criticism that Obama was too much of a supplicant to China in the first part of his term is actually a fair one.  Unfortunately, things fall apart after that. 

First, Asian allies were worried about the U.S. presence in the region because of the priority the Bush administration placed on the global war on terror, followed by the 2008 financial crisis.  Obama had little or nothing to do with it.

Second, it's important and revealing that Romney only talked about the narrow, military part of the pivot.  Left unmentioned were the diplomatic components (joining the East Asia Summit, interceding on the South China Sea, warming relations with Myanmar, tripartite between the U.S., Australia and India) as well as the economic components (ratifying the FTA with South Korea, signing the framework agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership).  This is important, because any U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has to be a full-spectrum approach, while Romney seems peculiarly obsessed with shipbuilding. 

Third, the primary message Obama has been sending to Xi has been saying that China "don't play by the rules."  Which, coincidentally enough, is exactly the same thing Romney says in the op-ed. 

In the economic arena, we must directly counter abusive Chinese practices in the areas of trade, intellectual property, and currency valuation. While I am prepared to work with Chinese leaders to ensure that our countries both benefit from trade, I will not continue an economic relationship that rewards China's cheating and penalizes American companies and workers.

Unless China changes its ways, on day one of my presidency I will designate it a currency manipulator and take appropriate counteraction. A trade war with China is the last thing I want, but I cannot tolerate our current trade surrender.  (emphasis added)

The bolded section represents the only portion of the op-ed in which Romney even hints that he might cooperate with China.  The rest of it is pretty silly.  It's ludicrous for Romney to claim he doesn't want a trade war in the same breath that he promises "day one" action against China.  No wonder conservatives are labeling Romney's China policy as "blaringly anti-trade." 

To be blunt, this China policy reads like it was composed by the Hulk.  Maybe this will work in the GOP primary, but Romney and his China advisors should know better.