When I heard the news Thursday that former South African president Nelson Mandela had died and then yesterday that Barack Obama was going to South Africa for this leader’s funeral with wife Michelle in tow, I was thinking that there was another former world leader’s funeral that he had recently missed. Breitbart reminded me of the details:
Interestingly, the Obamas did not got to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral back in April of this year. In fact, no high ranking official from the administration was sent to the Iron Lady’s funeral.
For the Iron Lady, the official United States delegation included former Secretaries of State George Schulz and James Baker III; a month earlier a sitting and former member of Congress comprised part of the delegation sent to Venezuela for the funeral of strongman Hugo Chavez. So the actual visit of the Obamas for Mandela’s service is sort of a “big f—ing deal” and will require a much larger entourage.
So why is it suddenly so important that Obama go to South Africa? The cynical will make the case that Barack is America’s luckiest president – every time something he’s botched threatens his election or his approval rating, the world comes along and gives him something to grasp. For example, the Chris Christie embrace of Obama after Superstorm Sandy blunted whatever momentum Mitt Romney had just before the 2012 election.
Now the utter failure and unpopularity of Obamacare will be broomed from the headlines for a few days, with the timing of the Obamas’ trip to South Africa coinciding nicely with the start of his annual Hawaiian Christmas holiday. This will give him almost an extra week either out of Washington or preparing for one trip or the other. All this will give his brain trust a chance to figure out new ways to blame Republicans, which will be handy because a budget battle awaits Obama’s return from Hawaii.
Among the rest of us, the reaction to Mandela’s death has run the gamut, although those in the political realm have tended to be apologists or politicized the death. Personally, it didn’t affect me one way or the other, as Mandela was a leader of another time and his country isn’t really a leader on the world stage. Nor was it completely unexpected as he had been ill for several months.
But I just found the priority Barack Obama made in attending his funeral and flying our flags at half-staff in Mandela’s honor a little puzzling, considering some of the other deaths the world has seen lately.
Moreover, we may yet see the passings of former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush – both of whom will turn 80 next year – and it will be interesting to see how they are honored by Barack Obama if this should happen during the remainder of Obama’s term.