William F. Buckley

The most recent initiative of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is to change Venezuela's time zone by one half-hour. Why? There is only one reasonable answer: to annoy the United States.

Why should the U.S. be annoyed by such a time change? Answer: It shouldn't be, really. We tamper with the clock every year when daylight-saving time comes around. There is argumentation still on that question. Arizona, for instance, declines to reset its clocks to conform with the rest of the country. What are the consequences of this fratricidal initiative? An out-of-stater phoning someone in Arizona needs to make adjustments, also any traveler who changing planes in Arizona.

Hugo Chavez is not entirely to be compared with the zany satraps in history who amused themselves by making sumptuary pronouncements just for the sake of it. There are certain limitations imposed by Providence. Hugo Chavez, for all his magnificence, does not have the power to postpone the arrival of the sun over Venezuela. It will continue to rise at approximately 1000 Greenwich Mean Time, but this is only because Chavez has not discovered an almanac he can redesign.

Since he finds it useful to give reasons for some of what he does, he rattled on to the effect that workingmen will, under the Chavez system, find themselves with a half-hour's extra time in the evening. To do what? On this, President Chavez was not illuminating. American farmers are accustomed to changing their clocks when the nation goes on daylight time. But they then alter their schedule to accommodate the needs of their animals and their crops.

The thing about Hugo Chavez is that he is not crazy. He just acts crazy. On the foreign-policy front, he endears himself, or seeks to do so, to every tyrant on Earth. He went to Iran and intended to visit North Korea, but there, Venezuela's National Assembly drew the line. He is abject in his praise of Fidel Castro, and unequivocal in his hatred of American institutions.

It is a pity; but we need to remind ourselves that every now and then democracy simply spits in one's face. The people who voted in 1933 for Adolf Hitler were driven by that dangerous temptation. In Latin America, the demagogue has a great natural advantage. The reason for this is that the United States represents, to the angry Latin American voter, the hothouse of hateful institutions. Hugo Chavez is head of a country of 27 million people. They are mostly poor. And with poverty there often comes pain from observing those who do not share in it.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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