Here’s the typical right-wing tactic. To my post yesterday about Rat Robertson, Steve Sisson asks, am I “pro-Chavez,” the duly elected socialist president of Venezuela?

You see, if you criticize a truly wacko right-wing nut, you are considered a socialist. Perhaps Steve’s remark had to do with my saying that Venezuelans were “a little smarter” by voting for their economic interests than were American voters last year who seemed to vote against their own interests by electing Bush, who has systematically favored the rich and dismantled middle class programs, yet gets their votes. So I must be a socialist. The fact is that American-backed capitalism hasn’t work for a huge portion of the Latin America. So Venezuelans, at least, are up for trying something else.

Socialism doesn’t have much a track record, and I know too little about Chavez and his program to comment, but my guess is if he sticks to socialist principles, his regime, too, will eventually fail. Equal poverty doesn’t hold much long-term attraction.

But the long-term prospects for American-style capitalism aren’t too promising, either. At the rate we’re going, we’re all going to have to work longer than ever before, and the divide between the workers and the capitalists will continue to grow because we’ve got not a pure capitalist system but a form of corporate welfare and privilege.

But back to the bait-and-switch. Can you imagine what the outcry would be from the right if Michael Moore called for an assassination of anyone? The Venezuelan government is right to say if Bush were truly dedicated to fight terrorism, he’d have Robertson arrested. After all, we’re tracking down Muslims who call for an Islamic jihad and shipping them off to Guantanamo. But instead, the Bush administration is supporting his right to free speech and saying his remarks were simply “inappropriate.” Wearing white in winter is inappropriate; Robertson’s remarks have done damage to the U.S. relationship with an entire continent. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Robertson was simply a “private citizen.” Yeah, so are the jihadists.

I don’t think Robertson should be arrested. Besides, he does progressives more good by spouting his ignorance and hypocrisy. But we’re getting closer in this country to being just like the Taliban by suggesting that criticism of Robertson makes one a socialist, and hence, the enemy of America. The administration, of course, is making it a proposition of you’re either for us or against us. Iraqi War dissidents are defeatists who don’t want to win the war on terrorism.

Pretty pathetic. And Americans are catching on.