Harkin on Chavez

Senator Tom Harkin talked, by phone, with a group of Iowa radio reporters on Thursday morning.

Bob Fisher, news director at KLSS/KRIB in Mason City, asked this question:  "Morning senator.  I was wondering if you could give us some reaction to Venezula’s president, Hugo Chavez’s comments about President Bush yesterday at the U.N."

Harkin’s answer: 

"Well, I didn’t see ’em all.  I just read a few exerpts that were in the paper this morning.  That’s all I know.  I thought they were incendiary comments, certainly.  Uh, he asked us to read some book.  I don’t know what book it was.  He asked us to read a book by Noam Chomsky.  I heard that but I don’t know what book it is.  Um, let me put it this way.  I can understand, I can understand the frustration and the, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush’s policies.  Bush came to office, as you may remember, saying he wanted a new, uh, what was it, humble or humility in foreign policy and reaching out to other countries?  I forget exactly how he said it.  I thought, well, that might be pretty good but what is is it’s just been a very heavy-handed, um, we’re going to do it our way and to heck with everybody else, so I can understand the frustration and the anger. I mean, I’ve sensed it myself as I’ve traveled, as I’ve met with world leaders and parliamentarians around the world.  I mean, after 9/11, think about this, after 9/11 every country in the world was on our side, including Venezula I might add.  We tend to forget that two days after 9/11 thousands, thousands of Iranians marched in a candelight procession in Tehran in support of the United States.  Every Muslim country, basically, was on our side.  Just think in five years President Bush has squandered all of that.  Just totally, totally squandered it all.  Uh, so I can understand the anger and the frustration of a lot of poor people around the world who see us, the richest country in the world, putting $350 billion now in a war, unnecessary, unnecessary, unprovoked war in Iraq and yet they can’t get clean water.  They can’t get medical care, a lack of opportunity in education in so many areas.  These are the things that America could be doing undercut people like Cesar Chavez and others and yet we’re not doing it.  If anything, George Bush is just fanning the flames of a Cesar Chavez.  Huh?  Oh, Hugo Chavez.  What did I say?  Cesar Chavez?  Hugo Chavez.  Where did I get Cesar.  Oh, my gosh, memory banks.  Farm Workers Union.  But you get what I mean."

Harkin then called on the next reporter in line for another question.

At 4:35 Thursday afternoon, the Harkin staff delivered the following statement to my email address (and everyone else on their press list, I’d guess): 

"Yesterday’s comments by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela were incendiary and unworthy of a nation’s leader.  While I understand the frustrations of many in the international community because of George W. Bush’s policies, I do not believe that gives them the right to come to our country and personally insult and attack the President of the United States.  This is especially inappropriate at a forum such as the United Nations, dedicated to civil and peaceful dialogue among nations."

Other Democrats were more forceful in their defense of Bush in the wake of Chavez’s  remarks at the U.N..  Nancy Pelosi, the US House Democratic Leader, said:  "Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar but all he is (is) an everyday thug."  Congressman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, issued a statement on Thursday, too.  This is part of what he said:  "George Bush is the President of the United States and represents the entire country.  Any demeaning public attack against him is viewed by Republicans and all Americans, as an attack on all of us."

Oh, and Steve King, the western Iowa congressman who many believe will be the Republican to challenge Harkin next time around, issued a statement, too:

"Attempting to weaken the President and our War on Terror through hateful rhetoric is nothing but a dangerous gamble and a gross grab for power.  Chavez’s remarks were so full of lunacy, even extreme liberal Nancy Pelosi denounced his speech.  At least we know what company the senator keeps.  Chavez is a thug who does not like our President because the United States liberated two countries from other thugs just like him.  At this critical junction in history, when we are defending this country against global terrorism, we must all band together as Americans.  This is not the time to defend the tyrants.  it is the time to defend Americans first.  Harkin’s statement that implies that several thousand people with candles in Tehran on Sept. 11, 2001, represented the voice of the Muslim world and now are our enemies is flatly false.  Harkin argued every Muslim country was our friend, and that would include Iraq and Afghanistan.  In Muslim cities across the world, thousands danced in the streets with joy on 9/11.  I hope he has a better understand of the real circumstances of history and geopolitics than he is using to spin the press."

The Drudge Report put up a link to the Radio Iowa story about Harkin’s remarks, and our company servers crashed but were rebooted a while later.  Harkin’s staff called the Radio Iowa newsroom several times to ask that the headline on the story be rewritten.  Radio Iowa offered the senator the opportunity to call our newsroom and add to his remarks, if he had something to add.  That invitation was not accepted.  The Harkin staff did, as mentioned above, issue a written statement late in the afternoon.  The Radio Iowa email in-box has been filled with comments from people.  All the email, so far, has been anti-Harkin. Some of its a bit raunchy, to be frank, so we aren’t going to share with the masses.  Please curb the profanity when posting to this entry. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. I woke up early this morning thankful I don’t live in Iowa. If I did, I would be embarrassed that my elected representative (Harkin) did not issue a strong rebuke to Chavez, but instead played politics with his remark. I guess it shows who he really aligns with, a leftist communist leader instead of the leader of the free world. Like it or not, President Bush is the leader of our country, and what was said at the UN by Chavez should be denounced by every peace loving, free world living person. Harkin is neither. His remarks were not only unbecoming and disingenious, but bordered on treason. I would hate to a be soldier in Iraq and hear the remarks about my commander in chief being echoed by my representative. I am glad I am not living in Iowa. Hopefully the voters in Iowa will vote this joker out of office. He clearly has other interests at heart, not our country’s.

  2. Mr. Harkin stated that thousands of Iranians marched (in Iran) in support of U.S. after the 9-11 attacks. Well, I certainly don’t remember it that way. What I do remember is seeing (on TV) mideastern women and children dancing in the streets, celebrating the attacks.

  3. Philip Greer says

    I am always amazed at just how really stupid Tom Harkins is. Why do the good people of Iowa keep this fool in office?

  4. The comments expressed so far are right on.The Dems seem to think the rest of us can only remember as far back as yesterday and try to create a new history every time they open their mouths.Chavez is nothing more than a commie thug whose only going to stay in power as long as he can get away with killing or imprisoning those who would oppose him.Watch for the next election in Venezuela,if there is one.

  5. What I find amazing is that while we talk about the lack of civility in some tinpot dictator at the United Nations, we, as the citizens of this country are the sponsors and prosecutors of a worldwide campaign which, though it was born of an honest desire to make the world safer, has by most accounts made the parts of the world we have touched less safe and far less civil.
    We have people representing us who (with a straight face) are trying to weasel out of tenets of the Geneva Conventions. We have sent innocent citizens of other countries to middle-east dungeons to be tortured. We have exercised baldfaced aggression and destroyed countries which, while conditions were not ideal, had not descended into civil war, or killed ten times as many people as died on Sep. 11.
    So, when exactly is it, then, that it becomes okay to start asking whether what we are doing actually represents the best way we can contribute to a better, more productive, peaceful future? When will it be that we can admit our understanding of another point of view without becoming the object of hatred by people who see any deviation from lockstep agreement as a lack of patriotism? Is this really who we are?