Former President George W. Bush, as the American left gleefully observed, was booed by some in the audience at the memorial for Nelson Mandela at the First National Bank in Soweto, Johannesburg on Tuesday. President Barack Obama, in contrast, received a standing ovation–in which, Twitchy notes, Bush joined enthusiastically.
Set aside for the moment the fact that Bush has always comported himself with poise and character regarding his successor–a respect that has rarely been reciprocated by Democrats, before or since. (When he arrived in the White House in January 2001, he found that the Clinton staff had removed the “W” from all the keyboards.)
The real puzzle is why an audience of South Africans would boo a man who had done more for Africa than all other U.S. presidents combined–including Clinton, Carter and Obama, all present. Bush’s program to provide HIV/Aids medicines saved hundreds of thousands of lives–over the objections of South Africa’s ruling party.
The Iraq War–vigorously opposed by South Africans–may explain some of the hostility. But the Libya War was also a sore point, and yet Obama is still treated as a hero. The fact is that the hostility towards Bush doesn’t come from any particular place or for any reason–and it is not particular to Bush. It affects all Republicans.
Most South Africans, like many Europeans, treat Republicans as proxies for every political evil: greed, bigotry, war–you name it. That is dogma within South Africa’s ruling party but holds true even for white South Africans, who are often quietly envious of the success of the U.S., and who disdain the patriotism of Republican leaders.
The boos that greeted the best U.S. president Africa has ever had are the product of jealousy and indoctrination, not an objective measure of Bush’s merit relative to Obama. (Indeed, in many places, the U.S. is less popular under Obama.) The boos are a discredit to South Africa–and to those in the U.S. who applauded them.