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Kennedy shills for Chavez

| Friday, March 16, 2007

Former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, D-Mass., reportedly is on New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's short list for appointment to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat should she become president.

Even though he is from the Bay State, Kennedy could be named to the seat because New York has a short residency requirement. It's basically the same rule that allowed his father, Bobby Kennedy, and Mrs. Clinton a chance to run for and win their Senate seats.

If that happens, Joe Kennedy, 54, now a social activist, will require a remedial course in real politick before he walks onto the floor of the "world's greatest deliberative body."

Kennedy has been playing a strange game of political footsie with the virulently anti-American Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez, who is in the final stages of turning a once-flourishing democracy into a South American replica of Fidel Castro's Cuba.

He is willing to turn a blind eye to the repression of 26 million Venezuelans because Chavez ordered state-owned Citgo to donate millions of gallons of discounted heating oil to Kennedy's nonprofit Citizen Energy Corp. for distribution to low-income households.

Kennedy has been featured in Citgo TV ads running in 16 major markets touting the heating oil program as an example of a socially conscious corporation helping the downtrodden.

As the head of a national senior citizens organization, I have testified before Congress on the need to increase energy funding to help low-income senior citizens stay warm in the winter. Yet aiding and abetting a thug who hates America is well beyond the pale.

Kennedy's timing is less than impeccable. He ought to know that Chavez already has moved to nationalize most of Venezuela's industries and is brow-beating their owners to accept pennies-on-the-dollar compensation.

He might also be aware that Chavez routinely slaps his political enemies in jail and confiscates privately owned newspapers and TV stations that criticize him. Just this month, he persuaded his stooge-packed parliament to give him what amounts to dictatorial powers for the next 18 months.

How's that for "power to the people," Mr. Kennedy?

Citgo's "gift" of home heating oil to needy Americans at bargain-basement prices could stand a little truth-in-advertising clarification. Far from being an act of altruism, it is merely a cynical propaganda ploy.

Kennedy seems oblivious to the rapid decline of freedom in Venezuela -- a nation created in 1830 by the great South American liberator Simon Bolivar, using the United States as his model.

In addition to shilling for Citgo and Chavez on TV, Kennedy has accompanied the Venezuelan ambassador and Citgo's CEO to poor urban neighborhoods on the East Coast -- touting his buddy Hugo as a true friend of America and social justice.

Social justice apparently doesn't begin at home.

Despite its vast oil and mineral wealth, Venezuela has an annual per-capita income of about $4,800 -- 10 times less than the U.S. figure and four times below the current federal poverty line of $20,000.

If New York's junior Senate seat becomes vacant after the 2008 president election, Gov. Spitzer would be performing a great public service by appointing a new senator with a demonstrated profile of courage. Kennedy's cozying up to an oppressive dictator who provides him with discounted oil and strokes his personal vanity demonstrates both a lack of courage and judgment.

Spitzer should scratch him from the list of potential replacements for Mrs. Clinton. Both she and the voters of New York deserve someone better.

James Martin is president of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative senior citizens advocacy group.

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