President Bush's current five-nation tour of Africa seems an appropriate occasion to laud him for doing more to benefit black people than any other leader in our history, including the so-called, "first black president," Bill Clinton.
During the Clinton administration, AIDS tore through the sub-Saharan continent, infecting an estimated 35 percent of the adults. Only a fraction had access to life-extending drugs. The rest had to simply wait and die. Despite the ballooning toll in human life and suffering in Africa, the U.S. budget for total nonmilitary aid, including the funding of AIDS prevention and literacy programs, health care, etc.- remained stuck during the Clinton years at $10 billion. Get it? Despite nice sound bites about how "Africa matters," Clinton barley lifted a finger to help the impoverished and war-torn continent.
President Bush, on the other hand, has tripled what our government previously expended on nonmilitary aid to Africa. Sadly, our civil rights leaders have steadfastly refused to praise the president's commitment to combat the African holocaust. In fact, an adviser to the Congressional Black Caucus tells me that the group convinced former South African President, Nelson Mandela, to snub Bush on his tour. The former South African president has since praised President Bush for dramatically increasing funding for AIDS research and treatment and moving "the debate from hundreds of millions of dollars to tens of billions."
This is at least somewhat surprising considering that the Congressional Black Caucus pledged "to support a comprehensive global policy aimed at ending the scourge of HIV/AIDS around the globe," in their legislative agenda for the 107th Congress. Jesse Jackson similarly observed that "The AIDS plague in Africa is the worst global threat since the bubonic plague." and acknowledged that "billions are needed." to fight the plague abroad.
Yet, these so-called leaders refuse to acknowledge the work President Bush is doing to save the lives of millions of Africans. "You would think this would be an opportunity for the African-American medical community to step up and say thank you and this is how we can make a difference," says former U.S. Ambassador, Harold Doley. "Instead there is deafening silence, and that is wrong."
The major implication is that the civil rights organizations in this country have become so partisan, so attached to the Democratic Party that they would rather be on the opposite side of the administration than support any good work that it does. This essential compromise reinforces the perception that Republicans are indifferent to the suffering of black people and that the Democrats have been somehow more sympathetic to Africa's plight.