James Baker Claims Reagan Regretted Vetoing Anti-Apartheid Act

The right wing's attempt at historical revisionism continued on this Sunday's Face the Nation, where host Bob Schieffer allowed former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, James Baker, to pretend his old boss regretted vetoing the anti-apartheid act.
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The right wing's attempt at historical revisionism continued on this Sunday's Face the Nation, where host Bob Schieffer allowed former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, James Baker, to pretend his old boss regretted vetoing the anti-apartheid act.

Here is Reagan's statement following the vote by Congress to override the veto:

Statement on the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986

October 2, 1986

Today's Senate vote should not be viewed as the final chapter in America's efforts, along with our allies, to address the plight of the people of South Africa. Instead, it underscores that America -- and that means all of us -- opposes apartheid, a malevolent and archaic system totally alien to our ideals. The debate, which culminated in today's vote, was not whether or not to oppose apartheid but, instead, how best to oppose it and how best to bring freedom to that troubled country.

I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. Punitive sanctions, I believe, are not the best course of action; they hurt the very people they are intended to help. My hope is that these punitive sanctions do not lead to more violence and more repression. Our administration will, nevertheless, implement the law. It must be recognized, however, that this will not solve the serious problems that plague that country. The United States must also move forward with positive measures to encourage peaceful change and advance the cause of democracy in South Africa.

Now is the time for South Africa's Government to act with courage and good sense to avert a crisis. Moderate black leaders who are committed to democracy and oppose revolutionary violence are ready to work for peaceful change. They should not be kept waiting. It would be tragic to lose this opportunity to create a truly free society which respects the rights of the majority, the minority, and the individual. There is still time for orderly change and peaceful reform. South Africans of good will, black and white, should seize the moment.

Note: H.R. 4868, which passed over the President's veto on October 2, was assigned Public Law No. 99 - 440.

For a reminder of what the right has thought of Mandela going back to the 1960s through the 2000s, Think Progress has an overview of some of the worst from Reagan and his ilk: The Right Wing’s Campaign To Discredit And Undermine Mandela, In One Timeline

Here's Baker whitewashing the history on Face the Nation:

SCHIEFFER: We're back with former Secretary of State James Baker who is in Falfurrias, Texas this morning. Mr. Baker, thank you for joining us.You were part of the Reagan administration back when President Reagan vetoed the anti-apartheid act that Randall Robinson discussed here just a minute ago. I wanted to ask you, did Ronald Reagan ever come to regret that veto? It was overridden by the congress and sanctions were put on the South African government. But how did President Reagan feel about that as time went on?

JAMES BAKER, FRM. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I'm sure he did regret it, Bob. In fact, I'm certain that he did. It was, after all, I think the only time that a veto of his had been overwritten or was overridden, or was overridden in two terms, I believe. And so certainly he regretted it. On the other hand, once that happened and control of South Africa policy passed through the congress, President Reagan was really determined to meet with and deal with the question of -- meet with the black leaders of South Africa and deal with the problems of apartheid. And he was able to do so. You know, I had the privilege of meeting with Nelson Mandela in Namibia on the occasion of Namibian Independence Day just three short weeks after he had been released from prison. And I have to tell that you I was really amazed at the soft spokenness of this man, at the conviction of this man, at the dignity of this man. He was -- he had an enduring and endearing presence of dignity that I don't think I've ever seen on any other person. And I just have always felt that is was an extraordinarily beautiful human being who became, of course, an icon of freedom, of human rights and of reconciliation. How many people forgive their captors when they have been kept in prison for 27 years. And as Maya Angelou said to you earlier in the program, had it not been for Nelson Mandela and by the way, F.W. de Klerk, there would have been blood flowing in the streets where apartheid ended in South Africa, because of Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk apartheid ended peacefully.

SCHIEFFER: Now that was after you became secretary of state when you met with him and by that time George H.W. Bush was president. Tell me a little bit about the meeting with F.W. de Klerk.

BAKER: After I met with Mandela in Windhoek, Namibia I went to Pretoria, South Africa to meet with F.W. de Klerk, first time I had gone to South Africa as secretary of state. And as a matter of fact, during my meeting with Mandela he was not happy with the fact that we were going to meet with F.W. de Klerk, but our position was we wanted to try to work with him constructively to end apartheid. Mandela didn't want to see us do that. As it turned out, it ended up being the right thing to do. But when I met with F.W. de Klerk in Pretoria, at the end of our meeting he called me in to a room, just the two of us. And he said, Mr. Secretary, I want to tell you something, I am going to be the last white president of South Africa. That was a startling statement at the time if you think back to 1990. As it turned out, of course, that was correct.

SCHIEFFER: Why do you think it took so long for them to take Nelson Mandela off the terrorist watch list? They had to get a waiver for him to come into in the country. I think he finally wasn't taken of until 2008?

BAKER: Well, I don't know the answer to that, Bob. I really don't. I don't remember frankly all the facts regarding that. He did come -- he came, I thought, before 2008, made one visit.

SCHIEFFER: Oh, he did, but he was...

BAKER: I know this...

SCHIEFFER: They had to do a waiver to get him in to the country.

BAKER: Well, that's probably correct. I do know this, he came to my institute, the institute that was named for me at Rice University in Houston, Texas, in 1999. And just to give you a sense of the greatness of this man, a 12-year-old boy asked him after his presentation, how do you want to be remembered, Mr. Mandela, everyone talks about how you're almost a saint and Mandela said, son, he said, I'm no saint. I am not an angel, he said. In fact I am no saint unless you consider a saint to be a sinner who keeps on trying.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

BAKER: And I thought that was a wonderful encapsulation of the person.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that's a wonderful way to end this. Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. Secretary.

BAKER: Thank you, Bob.

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