Mandela, whose struggle against white supremacy in South Africa inspired
people all over the world, says he was rebuffed in an attempt to call
George W. Bush, whose life of entitlement stands in marked contrast to
Mandelas personal sacrifice.
Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent more
than two decades in prison, said Bush was not available when the former
South African president called to discuss the Bush administrations
threats to mount a unilateral invasion of Iraq. Unable to reach Bush, who
has spent the last month on vacation and raising money for Republican
candidates, Mandela said he spoke with Bushs father, former President
George H.W. Bush, about his sons behavior. Mandela says the younger
Bush is introducing chaos in international affairs. [AP, Sept. 3,
Blowing off Mandela is just the latest example of
George W. Bushs unwillingness or inability to engage the rest
of the world in a discussion about his administrations international
agenda. Rather than hearing out the near unanimity of opposition to his
go-it-alone foreign policy or articulating a defense of his doctrine of
unilateral invasions, Bush has chosen to avoid spirited debate and to duck
In his recent stage-managed public appearances, Bush
has repeated shopworn applause lines about hunting down terrorists and
punishing corrupt corporate executives. He avoids news conferences with
reporters and shuns traditional state dinners that involve diplomatic
chitchat with world leaders. Instead of the strain of these conversations
with foreigners, Bush opts for informal meals and small talk with old
friends before turning in at an early hour.
More than a year and a half into his presidency, Bush
seems less -- not more -- engaged about the domestic and international
issues pressing in upon the country. One of the few recent interviews in
which he seems to have cared about the topic under discussion was his
commentary about his exercise regimen with a running magazine.
As the summer has drawn to a close, Mr. Bush has
nurtured silences that even Calvin Coolidge would envy, wrote New York
Times correspondent David E. Sanger in a White House Memo column.
Ensconced on his ranch last week, he kept reporters and bay and let
Vice President Dick Cheney do all the talking about the administrations
thinking on Iraq. [NYT, Sept. 3, 2002]
Sangers column also noted that Bush avoided
questions about criticism of his Iraq policy from veterans of his
fathers administration, including former national security adviser
Brent Scowcroft and former secretaries of state James A. Baker and
Lawrence Eagleburger. "If we are so clear in our own minds that this
is a real danger, why can't we convince our NATO allies of that
fact?" asked Eagleburger on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Bush has skipped questions, too, about the ballooning
federal budget deficits and the stern court rulings against his policy of
secret detention of terrorism suspects. Associates describe him as almost
petulant about these reversals and his responsibilities as president.
This hasnt been the most pleasant summer on
Bushs ranch, said one confidant, who added that Bush doesnt sound
like a man eager to get back to work on the contentious issues that he
faces on Capitol Hill and with U.S. allies.
This is a president who doesnt like policy
issues and fissures in his own team being aired in public, said one
senior official. [NYT, Sept. 3, 2002]
Bush is facing widespread opposition, too, from
longtime U.S. allies over his repudiation of measures to address global
warming. But the focus of concern among the allies is Bushs flouting of
international law in his assertion of a unilateral right to overthrow any
government that he judges to be a threat.
Mandelas lecture was echoed by other heads of
state attending the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, while Bush
stayed close to home.
We are really appalled by any country, whether a
superpower or a small country, that goes outside the U.N. and attacks
independent countries, said Mandela in a reference to Bushs threats
to invade Iraq. No country should be allowed to take the law into their
What they are saying is introducing chaos in international
affairs, and we condemn that in the strongest terms. [AP, Sept. 3,
Lacking both rhetorical skills and intellectual
firepower, Bush has shied from the debate, falling back on a mix of
slogans and silence. One result has been an unprecedented spread of
anti-Americanism around the globe from Asia to Latin America to the Middle
East to Europe.
Still, even as the world turns against the United
States and the long-anticipated U.S. economic recovery sputters, Bush has
shown no retreat from his personal certainty that he should possess the
unlimited power to wage a semi-religious crusade against evil in
which he acts as judge and jury. He just doesn't want to discuss it.