Failing governments in Caracas and Washington DC

Juan Guaido, a 35-year-old engineer and president of Venezuela's National Assembly (something like Congress/Parliament) has declared himself president. The US isn't saying much so far, which is smart. The current president, Nicolas Maduro, was put in place by former dictator Hugo Chavez before Chavez's death. Guaido is not a conservative, but his party is considered center-left rather than far-left, and Maduro -- who was a bus driver before becoming president -- is as bad a leader as this hemisphere has seen in a long, long time. Venezuela is suffering. 

The bottom line in most of these situations is that the winner will be whomever the military wants to be the winner. 

It's difficult to imagine how a country could have more than a few dozen people who would support someone like Maduro. But you're talking about a country with many uneducated and poor people who buy into almost any socialist "blame the rich" or "blame America" argument. It's a much more extreme version of those who support AOC and Bernie Sanders. The only difference is that so far the people who have these terrible ideas have not been put in charge in the United States. So far.

Let's keep an eye on what happens in Venezuela. Nobody, or at least almost nobody, deserves a government as bad as that of Nicolas Maduro.

If I were a betting man, I'd bet that Guaido ends up in charge but not until at least a few dozen people are dead. And I wouldn't bet a lot on that guess because Maduro still probably commands a governmental structure which was built over many years by his predecessor. I'm not in a position to guess how loyal they are to Maduro, but you'd have to think it's much less loyal than they were to Chavez.

 

In the meantime, here in the US, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has informed President Donald Trump that he is not invited to give the State of the Union speech, scheduled for next Tuesday, in the House of Representatives chamber. The administration is now trying to determine whether there is another suitable location in our nation's capitol or whether Trump should give the speech somewhere else in the country. Either offers interesting optics.

I'm shocked by the ham-handedness of Pelosi's return as Speaker so far. Literally nobody believes that she actually believes that a border wall is immoral. And then to try to cancel the State of the Union speech is beyond outrageous. Only the furthest left and most anti-Trump of her party could support such a move. 

Trump began the shutdown in the worst way possible: by taking the blame in advance. But Pelosi has mishandled the situation so badly that I expect public opinion polls to show people beginning to shift at least some of the blame to her. Canceling the SOTU invitation is so petty and pointless that it actually boosts Trump. Additionally, Trump is the worst president I've ever seen at delivering scripted and substantive speeches. I get the sense that he doesn't practice the speeches much in advance so his timing when he's reading is off. And he never gets the emotion right in his tone of voice. So if I were the Dems, I'd think that having him do SOTU the usual way is much better (for the Dems) than offering him an out, to deliver it as more of a campaign-style event, which is where he shines. 

Obviously what's going on in Venezuela is much more dire and extreme than what's going on in the United States, but compared to baseline expectations of the two countries the politics are similarly dysfunctional.

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