What Gingrich Got Right About Mandela

Not necessarily friends, but certainly not enemies.

When Nelson Mandela crossed over from revolutionary to statesman, most of the world cheered.   Most, but not all.   For many American conservatives both in life and in death Mandela remained nothing more than an old “communist” and “terrorist” as they damned him with both faint praise and withering contempt.

Conservatives are not inherently racist. Neither are Republicans. However, too often conservatives and Republicans side with racists whether it be a president cravenly supporting the apartheid regime in Africa or rallying to defend a Louisiana redneck’s moronic views about gays and Blacks and so the image becomes the reality.

I don’t like Newt Gingrich. Not even a bit. I think he’s a race-baiter, a pompous and insufferable egotist and a major contributor to the current political dysfunction in Washington, but even a bad man can do a good thing.

I  have to respect Gingrich for having the guts to set the record straight on Mandela despite the howling of his conservative cohorts who attempted to demonize the legendary Lion of South Africa.

What Would YOU Have Done?

Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.

After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.

As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny. We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army’s dictatorial assault on our freedom.

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

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Thomas Jefferson wrote and the Continental Congress adopted that “all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Doesn’t this apply to Nelson Mandela and his people?

Some conservatives say, ah, but he was a communist.

Actually Mandela was raised in a Methodist school, was a devout Christian, turned to communism in desperation only after South Africa was taken over by an extraordinarily racist government determined to eliminate all rights for blacks.

I would ask of his critics: where were some of these conservatives as allies against tyranny? Where were the masses of conservatives opposing Apartheid? In a desperate struggle against an overpowering government, you accept the allies you have just as Washington was grateful for a French monarchy helping him defeat the British.

Finally, if you had been imprisoned for 27 years, 18 of them in a cell eight foot by seven-foot, how do you think you would have emerged? Would you have been angry? Would you have been bitter?

Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison as an astonishingly wise, patient, and compassionate person.

He called for reconciliation among the races. He invited his prison guard to sit in the front row at his inauguration as President. In effect he said to the entire country, “If I can forgive the man who imprisoned me, surely you can forgive your neighbors.”

Far from behaving like a communist, President Mandela reassured businesses that they could invest in South Africa and grow in South Africa. He had learned that jobs come from job creators.

I was very privileged to be able to meet with President Mandela and present the Congressional Medal of Freedom. As much as any person in our lifetime he had earned our respect and our recognition.

Before you criticize him, ask yourself, what would you have done in his circumstances?

There is an expectation that the oppressed are expected to be non-violent in the face of violent oppression.   This tactic worked for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but it was not going to work for Mandela in light of the vicious determination of the Afrikaner government to keep the Black majority of South Africa controlled body, mind and soul.

Gingrich is a student of history and as such knows not all revolutions succeed without taking up the gun and the bomb.  Mandela led a social revolution and became a statesman.   Gingrich led a political revolution and found common ground with Mandela in a rare example of statesmanship.

Gingrich didn’t have to call out his fellow conservatives for their classless attacks on Mandela, but I’m impressed he did.   Tomorrow I can go back to despising the ground he walks on.

A future president pays his respects to a past one.

A future president pays his respects to a past one.

Fox News Slimes Mandela: “A Great Man…But A Communist.”

A Black man with a clenched fist scares the hell out of the Fox News nation.

The universe has a uncanny knack for adding perspective whenever popularity gets confused with significance.   Paul Walker was popular.  Nelson Mandela was significant.

Fox News should not be counted in the ranks of admirers of the revolutionary lion turned honored statesman.

Cynics say there’s little difference in cable news, but sometimes the differences are obvious and stark. While CNN and MSNBC honored Nelson Mandela by turning over their evening programming to covering his life and times, Fox News stayed on message by largely relegating Mandela’s passage to the news crawl and pounding away with their anti-Obamacare propaganda.

The media gossip site, Mediaite went deep into CNN, MSNBC and Fox’s coverage (or lack of) of Mandela’s passage and the clear loser lagging behind the field was the “news” network led by hardcore right-wingers Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

Hardly a surprise considering everything Mandela stood for are the very things Fox News is against.

I flipped the television from Rachel Maddow interviewing Ron Dellums to Megan Kelly chatting with amiably with a medal-winning soldier.  While Lawrence O’Donnell was discussing how Mandela dismantled apartheid, turn over to Sean Hannity and there’s the ugly mug of RNC chairman Reince Preibus banging on the Affordable Care Act yet again.

Wherever Mandela is now, odds are he’s not watching Fox News.

In fairness, Bill O’Reilly did mention Mandela’s passing.  Mostly to remind Fox viewers the father of the modern-day South Africa was “a communist.”

“He was a communist, this man. He was a communist, all right? But he was a great man! What he did for his people was stunning!… He was a great man! But he was a communist!”

O’Reilly’s guest, Rick Santorum, was a bit more gracious than his obnoxious host, but even while he praised Mandela,  the failed presidential candidate compared Mandela’s fight against apartheid to the right-wing’s war against Obamacare.

With his success writing historical/fantasy novels like Killing Lincoln, it might be hoped O’Reilly would know while it is true Mandela’s African National Congress  was supported by the Soviet Union,  the United States was a supportive ally of South Africa’s Afrikaner government even as it ruthlessly crushed Black protest against the evil of apartheid.   Ronald Reagan called the racist regime, ” “a country that has stood by us in every war we’ve ever fought, a country that, strategically, is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.”

Reagan was more concerned about propping up a gang of White supremacists brutally putting their foot of the necks of millions of Black people than their freedom and sided with a bigoted minority over the oppressed majority.  Mandela opposed hypocrites like Reagan who demanded the Soviets  “tear down this wall” so East Germans could be free while telling Black Africans they should suck it up and suffer.   Liberation movements are best loved by American conservatives when their interests coincide with their own.

O’Reilly is a clown in the Fox News media circus.

If Nelson Mandela was a Communist,  Ronald Reagan was a bigot.  Bill O’Reilly is just a clown looking for a circus.

When President Obama leads the U.S. delegation to the memorial service for his African counterpart,  depending on their health, he may likely be joined by former presidents Carter, Clinton and both Bushes.   Not too shabby for a former “communist,” but don’t hold your breath waiting for O’Reilly to acknowledge that or for his employers to offer anything more than tepid praise for a man they clearly despised.

The approach of Fox to covering Mandela seems to be offer tepid praise while openly hoping he’s really dead this time.

Fox News.  It’s graceless.  It’s classless.  It’s tasteless.  But mostly it’s just racist.