December 8, 2013

This Week has managed to accomplish something even I never thought possible: trivializing a great man -- Nelson Mandela -- in order to toss a petty smackdown on President Obama. And yet, there it is:

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Bill, let me begin with you. We ended that piece on the relationship between President Obama and President Mandela. Of course they share something very, very important. But they are also very different in important ways as politicians.

BILL KELLER, NEW YORK TIMES: They are. It's -- was noteworthy in that earlier segment that the president that Mandela felt closest to was Bill Clinton because they have more in common than Mandela and Obama.

And one of the things that Mandela had was a joy in the robust give and take of politics, the schmoozing, the deal making, the stage craft, the theater absolutely, you know, whereas Obama is more cerebral and doesn't seem to enjoy going up and shaking hands and doing favors.

There are a lot of reasons why Clinton may have been closer to Mandela. Maybe schmoozing is one, but I can think of others. If you want to boil it down to optics alone, a friendship between the two would have furthered both of their goals for setting an example of racial reconciliation and respect.

Clinton was not Bush or Reagan and represented possibilities for open doors and opportunity here in the US. They were both younger, and Mandela was still a public figure who traveled and regularly interacted with heads of state.

But beyond that, if there is a different relationship between Obama and Clinton it's more likely the product of the times and Mandela's age than any schmoozing ability. These 'tributes' do no one any favors when they use a moment in history to score a cheap political hit.

They're useless and should just stop pretending they're serious.

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