A sterling example of the maxim, no good deed goes unpunished.
Former President George W. Bush was booed when he appeared on the video monitor at today’s memorial for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to the White House pool report, which cited local press outlets.
Meanwhile, when the images President Obama and Michelle popped up, there was a 30-second “deafening roar,” the pooler wrote.
How sad. Bush has done a far greater amount for South Africa than Obama. But Obama is much better at crafting his public image and saying the right things.
Bush personally saved the lives of millions of South Africans with his President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, ensuring AIDS drugs are available to South Africa’s impoverished masses.
From a Washington Post piece describing how Bush’s achievements were haunting Obama’s June trip to South Africa:
In South Africa, the success ( of PEPFAR) was extraordinary. AIDS killed roughly 2.3 million in South Africa — once one of the worst-affected countries in the world — and orphaned about a million children there, according to the United Nations. Today, rates of infection have fallen to 30 percent, and nearly 2 million people are on antiretroviral drugs.
Meanwhile, Obama has cut PEPFAR funding and generally been his customary inattentive self. From the same Post piece:
AIDS advocates on Sunday said that Obama administration budget cuts that have slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from PEPFAR threaten to turn back years of progress in the fight against the AIDS epidemic. Last year, the administration unveiled a budget that reduces AIDS funding globally by roughly $214 million, the first time an American president has reduced the U.S. commitment to fighting the epidemic since it broke out in the 1980s during the Reagan administration.
“Knowing that Africa has many challenges, with fighting AIDS being one of the biggest challenges, we were really expecting President Obama to continue where President Bush had left off,” said Hilary Thulare, country director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group that works in 26 countries providing medical care to people with AIDS. “But it’s been a disappointment. Obama is retreating on AIDS and, by this, retreating on Africa.”
Thulare said she wished Obama was as inspired by Mandela when it came to fighting AIDS.
I’m sure those desperately in need of AIDS drugs in South Africa would be happy to hear that Mandela’s saga “woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself,” as Obama said today.
Meanwhile, Obama today delivered his speech, shared some stirring words, accepted his applause, and went home. I imagine most of those awestruck by Obama and contemptuous of his predecessor are HIV-negative.
Bush is still heavily involved in Africa, turning his focus last year to cervical and breast cancer and traveling repeatedly to the continent.
I assume he knows that even as he was booed in Johannesburg, God was cheering, and millions of South Africans who would be dead are going about their lives.