How African journeys may frame Presidents Obama and Bush in history

The halo over Barack Obama’s head has almost disappeared while a faint image of one seems to be emerging over his predecessor. Photo: AP

New York, July 2, 2013  — What a difference half a decade makes—the halo over Barack Obama’s head has almost disappeared while a faint image of one seems to be emerging over his predecessor, for monumental, almost unsung contributions to the African continent.

When U-2’s Bono recently heaped praise upon “to the manor born” George W. Bush for his towering record of accomplishment fighting AIDS in Africa, “man of the people” Barack H. Obama should have known his excellent family adventure in Africa might prove rough.

Near the equator deep inside the African continent, new voices are telling the most powerful man on earth that sowing discord to attain political power is a combustible recipe courting disaster at every sinuous turn.

In Kenya’s Saturday Nation, Ahmednasr Abdullahi just flayed the President—in so doing, he disproved the popular theme that criticizing Barack Obama on his record is inherently racist or biased.

Considering President Obama’s actual accomplishments since 2008, other critics are starting to pile on.

Who thought in 2009 that an amiable prepster prone to malapropism might ever do more for Africa than a nuanced, professorial man who earned his Nobel Peace Prize in advance? The truth is that geo-politics and macroeconomics on the African continent are topics best addressed by humble, experienced, and engaged professionals, not by flighty, flyover slogan-readers.


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The Danger of Debasing Your Currency and Chasing Phantoms

President Obama is not the first son of Africa to squander a vast fortune and de-stabilize the entire world economy over ensuing decades. That honor falls to a 14th century Emperor called Mansa Musa whose phenomenal exploits while traveling from Mali to Mecca and back are described by Muslim scholars.

Musa amassed a considerable fortune centuries before any modern titan did.

On the outbound leg of his pilgrimage, Musa’s generosity literally knew no bounds—he handed out gold like candy and in so doing depressed the value of the yellow metal everywhere it traded.

By the time Musa arrived in Cairo, he had spent all the resources he brought along for his history-making journey. There, in the ancient capital of Egypt, Musa borrowed as much money as he could against the promise of future output from his mines.

History seems to be repeating herself in Africa with some important differences—President Obama has no gold mines; America’s debts are already excessively high; and we seem to have run out of solvent moneylenders.

In a gesture arguably politic but detached from fair understanding of economic history, President Obama just heaped praise upon the founder of Modern Tanzania, Julius Nyerere whose economic track record is undeniably tragic.

Perhaps Alan Greenspan knew his African history when he wrote this passage in his seminal essay “Gold and Economic Freedom” back in 1966:

“The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way fro the owners of wealth to protect themselves. This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights”.

Evidently, President Obama has not troubled much to savor lessons learned in African history.

Encountering Humility in the Shadow of the Pyramids

Egypt has become a cauldron of fear and instability following dangerous meddling of the inexpert and unschooled crew that shapes America’s foreign policy on President Obama’s watch.

The “Obama Doctrine”(that Barack Obama ultimately decides which governments are legitimate) was never likely to work. In the despair and disaster now coming to 84 million Egyptians crowded into tired cities, we shall learn just how dangerous it actually is to let dilettantes take “3 A.M. phone calls”, if we care to listen to reports from non-U.S. sources.

The greater game of re-ordering nations on the African continent and in the Middle East is not one for a disconnected dabbler. As we see so vividly now in Egypt, and as Ed Klein warned presciently in The Amateur, President Obama “leads” a team of bunglers who seem to be burying America’s best interests in the hot sands and shifting loyalties of a volatile region that is set to explode.

Even if we forgive Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for his benign assessment in 2011 of The Muslim Brotherhood, we must connect dots among longtime supporters of President Obama, senior advisors to the Obama Administration, the Morsi Administration and jihadists who murdered four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

Having almost absolved the Obama Administration of guilt concerning the power transition inside Libya, we need penetrating, informed answers regarding the evolving plan for Syria.

Until recently, America’s mainstream press has given President Obama a virtual free pass concerning foreign policy misconduct that would have torpedoed a Republican President months ago.

Creating Room on the Pedestal that Honors “Greatness”

To put it charitably, George W. Bush is a reticent man. Asked in 2000 to evaluate his own immediate predecessor, he characterized Bill Clinton as follows:

”Our current president embodied the potential of a generation. So many talents. So much charm. Such great skill. But in the end, to what end? So much promise, to no great purpose.”

Competence actually matters—in modern times, competence is not demonstrated in floury words but, instead, in concrete accomplishments that truly enhance a nation’s economic security and safety.

Almost 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned of dangers that have actually risen under both of America’s most recent Presidents:

“…banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies, and…the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity…is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

If he holds on to his luck, President Obama may find his tenure captured by one tart description: “he came, he saw, he squandered”.

If his luck drains away, how long until clarion calls mount urging removal of Barack Obama as leader of the Free World, when regimes fall on the African continent, in the Middle East, and in Europe?


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Charles Ortel

Charles Ortel became a lapsed member of the silent majority in August 2007 when he began alerting the public to dangers posed by structural changes in the global economy. Since then, Charles has appeared in the print, radio and television media with increasing frequency. Brass Tacks will attempt to offer non-partisan perspective on factors contributing to the unresolved, burgeoning crisis and discuss potential solutions. Graduated from Horace Mann School, Yale College and Harvard Business School, Charles tries to learn each day.  

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