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Out Of Africa: Can Obama Live Up To The Bush Africa Legacy?

As President Obama makes his way to Africa with some forceful policy goals Reuters is asking if Obama is Africa's savior. Umm, no. That would be George W. Bush. But given the five second attention spans that occupy the skulls of the Obama Media it is perhaps a good idea to examine some facts about the United States' relationship with Africa in the 21st century.

There's an old saying in political campaigns that those who give early make the real difference. The meaning is obvious: a politician's real friends are the ones who show up first and give when outcomes and returns are not so certain. The same can be said for presidential legacies. Presidential history is replete with legacy building executives who, as their final days in office wound down, turned their attention to causes that didn't previously yield the the immediate political dividends that the front page paid.

It takes an uncommon combination of political courage and foresight for a President to tackle early in his first term a foreign policy matter that doesn't speak directly to the national security interests of the American people. Therein lies the significance, often buried among the noise of the Bush administration's ubiquitous critics during the past eight years, of George Bush's considerable efforts to aid Africa. And most notable were those offering the praise.

The Huffington Post claimed that George W. Bush's enduring legacy may be Africa. Bob Geldof (the guy who told Barack Obama he was going to make him President long before anyone had heard of him) said this of Bush:

"There are no votes in helping the poor of Africa, but Bush did it anyway."

Well known Africa activist Bono urged Bush to keep his promises to Africa in 2003. In 2007 Bono was...

...singing the praises of the American president for his announcement today that he would propose spending an additional $30 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa, doubling the U.S. commitment.

George W. Bush cemented his legacy to Africa in 2003. As the Boston Globe noted:

Bush's enduring legacy in Africa rests on humanitarian and economic, not political, foundations. More than anything else it has been the revolution in the US government's development assistance that is responsible for Bush's popularity.

The Bush administration doubled foreign aid worldwide over the past eight years, the largest increase since the Truman administration....

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said of Bush:

Mr. Bush's "legacy will be that of saving hundreds of thousands of mothers' and children's lives from malaria, preventing new HIV infections and giving hope to those infected through care and treatment, and helping millions of young men and women get education." Perhaps most importantly, he adds, Mr. Bush leaves "the legacy of assisting African nations and people [in building] capacity for their own growth and development."

Campaigning for office and leading in office are two very different things, as voters are coming to understand. We will soon see if Barack Obama can both talk the talk and walk the walk as George W Bush did with Africa policy.


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Comments (19)

I am... hopeful... that Oba... (Below threshold)

I am... hopeful... that Obama will continue the momentum of programs that Bush got rolling.

But I'm afraid that Obama will figure that a good speech and a photo op will suffice, and divert the funds elsewhere...

JL nailed it. Obama knows ... (Below threshold)

JL nailed it. Obama knows that talk is cheap. He's shown that often enough already.

Is that 30 billion part of ... (Below threshold)
JC Hammer:

Is that 30 billion part of Obama's budget?

Thank you Hugh for that wal... (Below threshold)

Thank you Hugh for that walk down memory lane. You reminded me of the heart of George Bush a man who, in my view, quietly and without fanfare, did those things that a good and decent man of power with great wealth at his command does whether anyone is paying attention or not. He has the undying gratitude of millions whose praises have never been noticed by those who for their own very weird reasons just continued on pretending that their view of who he was had so much as a speck of truth to it at all.

While the bile and hatred based on lies and political expediency flew through the air and filled the headlines, Mr.Bush continued doing good that few chose to note, but which I always thought were among the reasons that he would eventually be remembered as a fine president.

The history of aid to Afric... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

The history of aid to Africa is that it props up corrupt governments that keep the people down. Local farmers can't compete with foreign aid food that floods the local market, and without local agriculture there's little demand for the related seed supply, agrochemicals, farm machinery, wholesale and distribution, processing, marketing, and retail sales businesses that go along with it. The natural course of development for most nations is from an agrarian society to an industrial society, but this has been stunted and distorted in most of Africa by well meaning, yet often misguided foreign aid.

Modern drugs and food aid have greatly reduced the death rate of children in much of Africa, but without education and economic development women still have as many children as they did when 3 out of 5 babies would die in the first 5 years of life. The result is a growth in population to the point that local agriculture can't support it when there's an off year. The population then becomes dependent on foreign food aid and the situation just gets worse over time. For a sustainable society to have an infant mortality rate of western Europe it also has to have a birth rate of western Europe. One without the other just sets up the next disaster.

It's one thing to pledge billions of dollars in aid, but to make it work requires far more attention to details than world leaders are willing to give.

Now Wizbang write... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Now Wizbang writers and commenters are extolling Bush for his understanding and empathy on Africa, the very same writers who breathtakingly champion Palin and Fox news - Carl Carl Cameron: 'Palin didn't understand that Africa was a continent', BILL O'REILLY:" "but she could be tutored?".
Is that not cognitive dissonance, or for some reason they just don't like Obama, but wished for a empty conservative slate like Palin to represent the US.

Try to stay on topic in thi... (Below threshold)

Try to stay on topic in this thread Steve. There several Palin posts for you to comment on.

Well Crickmore, Obama does ... (Below threshold)

Well Crickmore, Obama does not even know how many States there are in the U.S.A. and He was supposedly born here ( wheres the birth certificate? ) and talk about an empty slate non qualified affirmative action president. Thats Obama.

Crickmore, it is often hard... (Below threshold)

Crickmore, it is often hard to tell when you are being dishonest, gullible or dense. Perhaps it's best to assume all three.

From your own source, the Huffington Post


The Africa bit was a hoax, and has long since been debunked.

I suppose you can't trust t... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

I suppose you can't trust the integrity of Fox news and or McCain campaign aides.. Cameron: "I was told by McCain campaign aides that Palin didn't understand that Africa....blah, blah"; no real surprise there, if Palin didn't say that about Africa, given the source(s) and the reporter.

As for Bush and Africa, the subject of the post..Most commentators like this one, give him an overall B, on the results of African policy legacies. Good for him! (on this score).

I guess you can trust David... (Below threshold)

I guess you can trust David Shuster, MSNBC or the New Republic either, Crickmore.

Just man up and admit you were either wrong or being deceptive.

I surely hope Obama doesn't... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

I surely hope Obama doesn't follow Bush's example. Bush tripled aid to African despots.

This is money down the tubes and straight to Swiss bank accounts. Anyone who believes the average African benefits in any way should contact my Nigerian friends for a wonderful investment opportunity.

But Obama will probably pour billions to his fellow despots, because like Clinton he wants to have 400 million 8 years after he leaves office.

What a crock. Too bad Bush never put his hand in his own pocket to help out these poor Africans. Politicians who demonstrate their generosity with your tax money are frauds and beneath contempt.

SCCIwizzy.. In my original ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

SCCIwizzy.. In my original comment, I didn't say whether she originally said, or didn't remark that Africa was a country. I was just reporting what two senior FOX newspeple believed. I only remembered that her denial wasn't a blanket denial. Yes, it would appear she probably didn't say that, after further research.

While we are on fact-checking about US politicians vis a vis Africa..i.e Obama's birthplace in Kenya or Hawaii? which someone is this thread has brought up..See ">http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/born_in_the_usa.html"> fact-check.

Here is the correct above m... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Here is the correct above mentioned link.

"Too bad Bush never put his... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"Too bad Bush never put his hand in his own pocket to help out these poor Africans. Politicians who demonstrate their generosity with your tax money are frauds and beneath contempt."

Heck, has Obama put his hand in his own pocket to help out his very own brother, one of those poor Africans?
Think we'd hear more about this if Bush had a brother living in abject poverty on the other side of the world?

Weak Crickmore, weak.... (Below threshold)

Weak Crickmore, weak.
You were trying to sandbag. But you can't even be adult enough to admit it.

As for Obama's birth place... that is an even weaker attempt to change the topic. Nobody but you, boyo, mentioned Kenya.

I know you're in an unfamiliar position, out in the open without Lee to ban anyone that bothers to bring facts to the table, but you could try a little harder.

SCSIwuzzy, I direct you to... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

SCSIwuzzy, I direct you to post 8 at 10:16 am by 914..(where's the birth certificate?) Kenya is the usual alternative site given by right wing conservative conspricacy theoristsfor Obama's birthplace.

But curious that none of the rich news organiztions can do the detective/ leg work to find someone to vouch for Obama's mother either giving birth/delivering or not delivering Obama in August 1961 in Honolulu. It seems to me it would be a difficult event to hide.

I was never in favor of banning commentators or requiring preregistration at my old site.

Crickmore, This is n... (Below threshold)

This is not about Palin.
And maybe you should read the transcript.

And maybe you should also read this.
Written by a ex-pat South African.
And the blame belongs on giving aid to Africa
through several generations, not just one

<a href="http://www.repubbl... (Below threshold)

based on this photo of donkey viewing obama was checking that tail out. yes, he's human






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