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“If you thought America would quickly regain the world’s love, admiration and - most important - its willingness to follow the U.S. lead once Barack Obama came to power, the news is disappointing,” Frida Ghitis writes in the Miami Herald.

“A useful guide to what has transpired comes from Venezuela’s president and his most peculiar sulfurometer. Hugo Chavez, it seems, can smell the Devil, especially when the Prince of Darkness takes up residence in the body of an American president.

“Watching Chavez’s devil-spotting shows that efforts to turn America’s foes into friends will, in many cases, prove utterly useless. There is an important lesson there for everyone, including the resident of the White House,” the columnist said.

“Chavez’s first supernatural sighting came at the United Nations in 2006, when the Venezuelan leader took the podium after President Bush gave a speech and announced in the solemn chamber that he could smell sulfur still hanging in the air from Bush’s presence.

“The air cleared up nicely after the 2008 elections. ‘It doesn’t smell of sulfur. It’s gone,’ declared Chavez last September, scanning the grand hall of the U.N. General Assembly. ‘It smells of something else,’ he added approvingly. ‘It smells of hope.’ The Chavez nasal gauge confirmed expectations that America’s standing in the world was changing.

“But hold the celebration. All is not well. On Dec. 18, Chavez revealed the new air-quality measurements during a speech in Copenhagen’s U.N. Climate Change Conference. The Venezuelan’s turn at the microphone came only moments after Obama, so the airborne particles tickled his sensitive nose. ‘It smells likes sulfur here,’ he said, blaming the problem, shockingly, on Obama. The ‘Nobel War Prize’ winner he called him.

“In summary: Devil, Hope and now Devil again. America still personifies what is wrong with the world.”

CLASS WARFARE

“There is class warfare going on in this country - but it’s not against the established rich. It’s against those who are trying to become wealthy,” Victor Davis Hanson writes at National Review.com.

President Obama has declared that those who make over $200,000 will pay higher income taxes. Caps on payroll taxes are supposed to come off as well for the upper class. Envisioned estate taxes will take 45 percent of individual inheritances valued over $3.5 million. Many states have also hiked their income taxes on the upper brackets,” Mr. Hanson said.

“Again, most of those targeted are not the already rich - a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates - but millions of the wannabe rich. They may have achieved larger-than-average annual incomes, but they’re not the multimillionaire speculators on Wall Street who nearly wrecked the American economy in search of huge bonuses and payoffs. Most are instead professionals and small-business owners who take enormous risks in hopes of being well-off and passing their wealth on to their children.

“Oddly, much of the populist rhetoric about the need to gouge the newly affluent is voiced by the entrenched wealthy, who don’t have to care how high taxes go, given their own vast fortunes.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.