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Out of Africa

Africans have received George Bush with palpable affection during his current tour of the continent. And with good reason. As James Kirchick pointed out in contentions, Bush’s record on Africa shows an unprecedented American commitment to humanitarianism. Sadly, this record of sympathy and largesse may not be matched anytime soon. Having scoured the websites of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, I’m sorry to report that among the extensive dropdown menus covering important issues there’s precious little (if any) African policy to be found.

As the very last item under the heading “Restoring America’s Standing in the World” you’ll find on Hillary’s site:

Hillary has been a forceful and consistent advocate for a more robust response to the violence in Darfur since May 2004. She has raised the issue with the Bush administration and pushed for more resources for peacekeeping efforts.

“Raising the issue” of Darfur peacekeeping is an interesting way to go about “restoring America’s standing.” She may want to try pushing the UN to live up to its revered multilateral mandate and do something about the round-the-clock slaughter, instead.

Beyond a trove of archived speeches and editorials, John McCain’s campaign website had nothing current to say on Africa.  Barack Obama, born to a Kenyan father, has a full paragraph on issues pertaining to “sportsmen” (“Barack Obama did not grow up hunting and fishing, but he recognizes the great conservation legacy of America’s hunters and anglers and has great respect for the passion that hunters and anglers have for their sport.”) but the candidate for change offers only these 20 words on Africa:

Obama will stop shuttering consulates and start opening them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world – particularly in Africa.

African policy as a detail of larger diplomatic cuddliness. Jeez.
In 2006, when Bob Geldof organized the Live 8 multimedia event for African relief, he forbade performers from bad-mouthing George W. Bush on stage. As the overheated war crimes rant has become a dependable staple of rock-and-roll theater, you can be sure that Geldof’s line-up was none too happy. However, as Geldof said of Bush and his critics: “They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American president for Africa. But it’s empirically so.”

Geldof, the only pop activist  worthy of the term (aside from Bono, who also praises Bush on this score) is once again defending Bush’s African policies. He said recently of Bush’s African agenda: “This is the triumph of American policy really. It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion.”

Who’s rising now?


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