• It is easy to look at Hugo Chavez and make him a character. To hear his comments at the U.N. today comparing President Bush to the devil, and make him a nut. It is easy, because it is true.

    He is a character. And he is a nut. But here's what makes this nut dangerous. Oil. He's got a lot of it. He has the one thing Fidel Castro never did — currency. And he is using it.

    To buy influence. To buy weapons. To buy power. To even buy off "us" — with plans to personally deliver millions of dollars worth of cheap oil to Harlem tomorrow.

    He relishes the spotlight and he pays dearly to stay in that spotlight. And before you dismiss what Chavez says, hear the reaction he gets. Applause, even laughs, at the United Nations. And a better than even shot his country gets a seat on the Security Council at the United Nations.

    He is crazy. But he is not stupid. We may laugh at his antics just like we laughed at Nikita Kruschev banging his shoe on a table in the very same hall more than 40 autumns ago. Only Nikita had bombs.

    Hugo has today's equivalent — money. So rich. So dangerous. So close.

    I just wonder sometimes whether we're the ones being so stupid.

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