With the death of Hugo Chavez, George W. Bush loses perhaps his most effective needler. There's not really much more Chavez could have done to visibly distance himself from the values of the United States, and, more specifically, the American right — House Republicans were not shy in joining the chorus of reaction on Tuesday. Ostensibly in service of diplomacy, Chavez showed no fear in posing for photos with a rogue's gallery of world leaders.
First and foremost was Cuba's Fidel Castro, with whom Chavez shared a real friendship. When Castro became ill in 2006, Castro joined him at his bedside; when Chavez became ill with the cancer that ultimately killed him, he sought treatment in Cuba.
Castro wasn't the only controversial leader Chavez embraced. He posed for photos with Libya's Moammar Qaddafi …
… Mahmoud Ahmadinejad …
… Bashar Al-Assad …
… and Robert Mugabe.
Somehow Mubarak was left out.
Chavez wasn't passive in engaging Bush. Speaking from a podium at the U.N. in 2006, he suggested that it still smelled of sulfur following Bush's appearance the previous day.
When Bush traveled to Argentina in 2005, Chavez appeared at a massive rally in protest. In the image below, he poses with soccer star Diego Maradona, outfitted in a t-shirt calling Bush a war criminal.
Perhaps Chavez' greatest stroke was his embrace of liberal American cultural figures. He met with Sean Penn, no Bush fan himself.
When Oliver Stone premiered the movie South of the Border in Caracas, Chavez was on-hand to greet him.
Last October, Stone played Rodman to Chavez's Kim Jong-un, engaging Republican Rep. Connie Mack on Larry King Live. His tag team partner: Jesse Ventura.
George W. Bush's legacy in America is mixed, split by political party. Not so Chavez. His legacy is probably exactly what he would have wanted.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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