Good Riddance, Venizelos, We Knew You Too Well



It’s almost impossible to overstate how much of a bloated opinion PASOK Anti-Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos has of himself, even as he is taking the party toward the dustbin of history. Three years ago, PASOK won the elections with 44 percent of the vote, putting its then-leader George Papandreou, a two-time loser in previous polls, in office after he told Greeks that, “The money is there.”

It wasn’t, of course, so Papandreou had to quit after 2 ½ years of ceaseless protests, strikes and riots against the austerity measures he imposed on the orders of  the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) of international lenders after he said he would never ask them for money.

He has moved on to Harvard to teach a failed government course, in which he is the resident expert, and bringing with him George Papaconstantinou, who was his finance minister before being replaced by Venizelos. Just what Harvard needs, a tag team of ineptitude.

It didn’t take Venizelos long to double income and property taxes and tax the poor. He even tried to make sure people who couldn’t pay, because the government had also cut salaries, raised taxes and slashed pensions, would have their lights turned off, before a rebellion against that idea squashed his move toward Caligula-like power.

Lusting for office even more than did Papandreou – the man he failed to unseat before the 2009 elections – Venizelos didn’t care whose body he stepped on or over to gain control of the party that Papandreou’s father, Andreas, helped create 31 years before with the idea to hire everyone who supported him, setting in motion the Rube Goldberg contraption that has brought about Greece’s demise.

Venizelos conveniently forgets that it was the cradle-to-grave cushy free ride public job giveaway that PASOK and New Democracy perpetrated for decades that created the crisis and is trying to cover his party’s dirty tracks. You can’t hire hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes and balance the budget, and neither party offered incentives for the kind of Foreign Direct Investment that would have made Greece competitive.

Never mind that PASOK was founded on the alleged basis of genuine Socialism that was really disguised as a mechanism to gain and keep political power. Andreas’ son betrayed that by dismantling its foundation and principles. Now Venizelos is hell-bent on doing the same, hoping that one day Greeks whose lives he destroyed will forget or forgive and put him in the Prime Minister’s seat. He’d prefer God’s throne, but Hillary Clinton already has dibs on that.

Under Venizelos, PASOK has fallen to 5.5 percent of the vote, less than half the miserable showing in this year’s elections, in which it fell behind the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA,) and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, a man Venizelos can’t abide but who now has eclipsed him.

PASOK – like the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party used to be before it gained 18 seats in the Parliament and rose into third place, replacing the Socialists in the political pecking order – is now an irrelevant fringe party, a joke really. Venizelos would have no power at all except that he jumped at the chance to be a partner in the New Democracy Bankers Administration of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras because Venizelos couldn’t live without seeing his name in the media.

MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS

And now it’s difficult to overestimate how much he has failed his party, his country, and himself. When he was given a list of 1,991 Greeks with $1.95 billion in deposits in the Geneva, Switzerland branch of HSBC when he was finance minister, Venizelos put it on a memory stick, put it in his pocket and didn’t bother to check if any were tax evaders at a time when he wanted workers, pensioners and the poor to pay the price for Greece receiving $325 billion in two bailouts that still haven’t halted its fall.

His feeble excuse was that it was part of a larger list on a stolen CD and that he couldn’t use it in court. His French counterpart at the time, Christine Lagarde – who has gone on to head the IMF – said it was perfectly okay to use as a weapon against tax evasion and that other countries had done so. You’d think that Venizelos, a former professor of Constitutional Law, might have figured that out himself, but lawyers are among the chief tax cheats in Greece, violating their oaths as officers of the court.

You can’t apply the law even-handedly when you’re trying to protect your party, your friends, politicians and the rich, especially when you have so much insufferable arrogance that you can’t really understand that people are suffering. Venizelos can’t see that because none of them are in the 5-Star hotels where he stays, the expensive restaurants where he dines, or the marbled circles of power where he walks around and pretends he’s Greece’s King.

Greece is too small for him. He belongs in the pre-Bastille days before the French Revolution, although the idea of him wearing one of those white wigs is a bit much, even if his gargantuan ego could fill the Halls of Versailles. He’s the undisputed leader, however, of Greece’s Unenlightenment Period because he likes to keep people in the dark, especially about his own shadowy movements, all of which are designed to enhance him with complete disregard for anything except self-aggrandizement.

In a desperate bid to avoid being cast aside as the unimportant dinosaur he is, Venizelos has tried to re-invent himself as a shameless populist, pretending to be a Man of the People and oppose the austerity measures he proposed, sensing that the end is near. He has called a congress of his party for February to determine its fate, although a rebellious faction has already emerged and wants him to stop supporting austerity, and the list of defectors is growing.

Venizelos can’t see that the time of people like him is over and that he will never be Prime Minister. He is really a callous, heartless, soulless person who could care less if people drop dead in front of the Parliament, although they would make speed bumps to slow his limousine. He should not look to the Greek people to assoil him after what he’s done. If there’s any justice, (there isn’t, of course) PASOK will fall below the 3 percent threshold needed to gain seats in Parliament in the next elections and just disappear, although he will blame its demise on someone else.

He thinks himself the cleverest man in the room, the Prince of Poneeros, but he’s really just the Humpty Dumpty of Hubris, and false pride comes before an especially big fall. When his comes, no one will be able to put him – nor the party he finished off – back together again.  He will be forgotten, and not even a memory stick will bring him back.