And yet, President Obama is ready and willing to exchange cordial smiles and friendly handshakes with the avowed enemy of the country he leads. How can this be?
The answer is suggested in a small but revealing detail in this news account: Back in 2006, Chavez commended to the rest of the world a book by American leftist Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky is revered on the left and in the academy (sadly, today, they're much the same thing). He and others like him routinely run down the United States in terms that adversaries like Chavez can appreciate.
This is the environment -- in the academy and on the left -- in which the President came of age. He's heard it all before, many times, no doubt. And even if he doesn't exactly agree with the virulent anti-Americanism of those like Chomsky, Chavez (and, for that matter, Jeremiah Wright), it certainly doesn't shock and offend him the way it should.
And that's the problem. It's easy to befriend any enemy in the world if you're willing to accept their ugly, irrational and distorted assessment of what this country is all about.