It’s unfair and simplistic for the media to single out my father and smear him for being soft on apartheid because he vetoed Congress’ economic sanctions against South Africa.
My father detested apartheid and wanted to see it end. But he thought economic sanctions -- which hurt South Africa’s poorest black citizens the most -- would be counterproductive.
Andrea Mitchell doesn’t remember. But after my father’s veto of the sanctions was overridden by Congress, he said the debate wasn’t about “whether or not to oppose apartheid but, instead, how best to oppose it and how best to bring freedom to that troubled country."
Ronald Reagan did not kiss up to South Africa’s leaders, he was in their face.
One of his first moves was to send his close aide William Clark to tell Prime Minister Pieter Botha to his face how much my father abhorred apartheid.
Later my father appointed the first black ambassador to South Africa, Edward Perkins.
And in 1986 he said that as necessary step to achieving political peace in South Africa, all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, “should be released to participate in the country's political process."
Ronald Reagan called apartheid “a malevolent and archaic system totally alien to our ideals.”
Given the realities of the Cold War, and contrary to the selective memories of Andrea Mitchell and her friends, he did the best he could to help Nelson Mandela put an end to it.
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