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The Chavez Treatment

The Wall Street Journal

April 11, 2006; Page A16 | Here's some free advice for Congressman Bill Delahunt: Apologize to William Brownfield. Mr. Delahunt is the Massachusetts Democrat who last year arranged a deal to buy 12 million gallons of discounted home heating oil from Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, supposedly to help the Bay State's poor. Mr. Brownfield, a career diplomat, is the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela. Last week his motorcade was attacked by a pro-Chavez mob after the ambassador had visited a poor Caracas neighborhood to donate baseball equipment. Mr. Chavez responded by accusing Mr. Brownfield of provoking the incident: "If you continue provoking us," the dictator warned, "go pack your bags because I'm going to throw you out of here."

Readers of these columns may recall that when Mr. Delahunt struck his oil deal with Mr. Chavez, we warned that the Congressman's free-lance diplomacy "undermines any official U.S. pressure on Mr. Chavez to behave more humanely." Mr. Delahunt's chief of staff responded huffily that the deal was just "an attempt to reduce tensions between the two countries," according to USA Today.

Mr. Delahunt is not the only Venezuelan subsidiary in Congress. Fellow Bay State Democrat Ed Markey belongs on the list, as do New York Congressman Jose Serrano and Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Lincoln Chafee, all of whom have sought or obtained preferential oil deals with Mr. Chavez. They now owe a political debt to a man who once described Saddam Hussein as his "brother."

We recognize that by arranging sweetheart capers with Mr. Chavez, Mr. Delahunt & Co. are seeking to score points with voters while sticking it to the Bush Administration. Now might be a good time for them to reconsider what their cheap politicking means for the honor and safety of our diplomats in the field.

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