In 1990, only days after his release from a South African prison, Nelson Mandela was a hero to blacks worldwide but a question mark for many statesmen and world leaders. Would he use his newfound popularity to take power and revenge?
One American president broke the ice and made his opinion clear. In 1990, Mandela was invited to the White House where the president of the United States stood by Mandela’s side on a stage on the South Lawn. Who was that president?
George H. W. Bush.
Only Bush, a Republican could give such a meaningful endorsement and so quickly. He had served as the vice president to Ronald Reagan who had visited the apartheid nation of South Africa as a private citizen and had many friends there. Indeed, Bush spent his life championing Black causes from the Civil Rights Act of 1968 to major contributions to the Negro College Fund.
“We don’t do it for political reasons,” Barbara Bush once told me, we were sitting next to each other at a charity event, “the media will never give us credit. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Likewise, George H. W. Bush was the first president to invite in openly gay activists to White House events. The national news narrative would have us all believe that these things happened on Bill Clinton’s watch. But hey, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good narrative. Such is the state of journalism these days.
One would get the impression from watching the news coverage of the past week, including the funeral and memorial services for Nelson Mandela, that the American president who first championed the South African leader was Bill Clinton.
All networks were alive with interviews with Clinton. They were good friends, Clinton and Mandela. Or so we were told. Clinton warmly revealed that Mandela had told him that he had forgiven his accusers and that, he, Bill Clinton had to do the same. Of course, the implication could not be missed. The accusers were equally evil and Mandela and Clinton were equally victims.
This narrative was so strong and so deliberately force fed to the American public that one of the major news networks virtually copied the interview with Clinton that their rival network had shown the previous night. It must have gagged veteran journalists to see their national news show reduced to copying a story but most of us have long ago resigned ourselves to the fact that television news has become the personal plaything of TV executives and it is increasingly obvious that they have decided Hillary Clinton should be the next president.
Of course, there are differences between Mandela’s accusers and Clinton’s. Mandela had to forgive racists who were wrong about him and who told lies. Bill Clinton had to forgive young ladies who were victims of his misogynist advances, who were right about him, and who told the truth.
It was one thing for Clinton, a Democrat who courted and depended on Black votes, to reach out to Nelson Mandela in 1994, when the controversy had passed and Mandela was the president of South Africa. And at a time when Clinton needed the association. It was something else for a Republican, who knew he would never get credit for it or even be remembered for it, to do it because it was right to do.
As a newborn follower of the Liberty Movement I have become a fierce critic of our monetary system and its exploitation of the masses, especially the poor. All, it seems, for the sake of an oligarchy who needs to see its net worth – Wall Street portfolio rise with inflation. It remains to be seen when and how the Bush administration had a role to play in all of that. And yet, I can’t help but feel that in time, when the full story of George H. W. Bush and his record will be known, he will be seen as the leader I knew and for whom I worked.
George H. W. Bush ended the Cold War, brought China into the world marketplace and briefly united the world for a single cause, a feat that Metternich would envy. And so too, his improbable record on Civil Rights will be seen accurately for what it is without the bias lens of myopic journalists who cannot be bothered by facts. And when it is seen, Bush Senior will emerge from the fog of history as a leader who acted with courage and with wisdom when it was risky to do so.