NEW YORK -- While Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Nations address was greeted with warm applause by many diplomats in the chamber, the reaction from America has been a little hotter as Americans have rallied around their own following Chavez's vitriolic public attack.
At the start of his talk Wednesday, Chavez held up a book by leftist linguist Noam Chomsky, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," and recommended it to everyone in the General Assembly, as well as to the American people.
"The people of the United States should read this," said Chavez, holding up a copy of the book, "instead of the watching Superman movies."
Spontaneously people across America poured out of their living rooms into the streets to demand an apology and a retraction from Chavez. The revulsed public began chanting: "Truth, Justice and the American Way!"
In New York security was immediately beefed up for President Chavez as police interpreted the many protest signs including the phrase "Faster than a Speeding Bullet" to be not-so-veiled assassination threats.
"I'm used to book reviewers and movie critics telling what to watch and read, but you don't tug on Superman's cape," said Bob Brickerman of Queens as he spit on the ground.
While some responded with rage, others responded with grief. "Coming this close to the anniversary of the death of Christopher Reeve, this was an incredibly insensitive thing to say," said Suzanne Longerhans of Brooklyn, as she wiped a tear from her cheek.
Beyond the American public, Chavez also may have gotten himself on the wrong side of the most powerful person in America.
"I'm a tolerant, caring, loving person, as America will testify -- but there is such a thing as going a step too far -- and Mr. Chavez has done that. When he starts hawking books, he's stepping on my turf and he'd better be ready for a catfight, 'cause I got my claws out," said an obviously annoyed Oprah Winfrey.
As of the day after the speech, "Hegemony or Survival," originally published in 2003, had jumped into the top 10 of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com. Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt, has ordered an additional paperback printing of 25,000 copies.
In his speech Chavez also referred to President George Bush as "the devil" no fewer than eight times, generating no notable public reaction except from Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said Chavez was "on the right track, but didn't go far enough, and his language was little tread worn."
"I was talking to Dick Durbin (the senior Senator from Illinois and Democratic Whip) just after the speech, and we both agree that 'Satan' and 'the devil' have been overused on Bush and have lost their punch. We both would have preferred that he call him something more original like a hillbilly Hitler," said Pelosi. "But don't get me wrong," she added, "we're happy Chavez is supporting our cause."
Copyright 2006, Douglas Salguod