Not since Khrushchev took off his shoe and pounded the table has there been a U.N. General Assembly conclave to rival this one.
"(T)he devil came here yesterday. ... Right here ... talking as if he owned the world," ranted Hugo Chavez, crossing himself. "And it smells of sulfur still today." Chavez was talking about President Bush
The Venezuelan president began his address by holding up a copy of Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance." Ever since, it has soared on Amazon.com.
Chavez spoke the morning after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had opened with a prayer for an early reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, whom the Iranian president is said to believe will return in two years. He then proceeded to excoriate George W. Bush and the United States.
Earlier, Bush insulted Ahmadinejad by going over his head to tell the Iranian people the current crisis was because "your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons."
Americans may be forgiven if they felt they were watching a rerun of "The Howard Beale Show" or "The Mao Tse-tung Hour" from the 1976 Paddy Chayefsky classic, "Network."
What was transpiring, however, was a global version of the Iowa Straw Poll. The three presidents were playing to their base, using the U.N. forum to solidify their domestic constituencies and appeal to global ones.
Chavez, however, reduced himself to a comic figure. Other than those who already love him and hate America, the devil talk appeals to no one. Even in Latin America, they are tiring of him. Felipe Calderon, the PAN party candidate in Mexico, was running well behind the leftist Lopez Obrador, until his campaign began linking Obrador to Chavez. Obrador's lead vanished, and he lost, dragged down by Hugo.
Ahmadinejad used the forum to burnish his credentials as a devout Shi'ite, an Iranian nationalist, an implacable foe of Israel and the most defiant of all anti-American Muslims, standing up for Iran's right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear power.
As the General Assembly is a hostile forum, Bush used it as a foil, and to good effect, challenging an Iranian regime that is feared and loathed by Americans more than any other on earth.
Indeed, for a Republican president to be attacked on one side by an Iranian radical perceived to be a Holocaust denier, who heads up a terrorist state and wants nuclear weapons, and, on the other, by a Latin leftist dictator, is an enviable position to be in, six weeks out from an off-year election. Democrats are grinding their teeth.
But comic relief aside, a serious play is underway.