Populist? Demagogue? Liberator? Dictator? Opinions differ wildly about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez but one thing is sure: the man can sell books. Last week he presented President Obama with a copy of the book, Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano, published by Monthly Review Press. The record does not show that Obama said, "Why, thank you, Hugo, just what I wanted; how did you know?" And the White House was noncommittal as to when Obama would get around to perusing his new gift, noting that the First Reader had a lot of books to get through.
However, interest in the book among the reading public rose instantly when word of Chavez' gift got out. In one of the most widely watched indicators of such things, Open Veins shot up on Amazon's bestseller list from somewhere around 55,000 all the way to number 2. As to the effect it's had on Monthly Review Press, a small operation that's an offshoot of the venerable leftist "Monthly Review" magazine, the press has been somewhat reluctant to say. Perhaps there's a bit of unease there: after all, many of their publications have attacked capitalism, and now they find themselves caught up in the middle of it.
So if Open Veins made it to number 2 on Amazon's list, what remained at number 1? A book from practically the other end of the political spectrum: Liberty and Tyranny, by the conservative talk show host Mark Levin. Welcome to America.