In our view, Walsh clowns the world: Last week, Ted Cruz said some nice things about Nelson Mandela.
Needless to say, Joan Walsh was offended.
As usual, Walsh cast herself in the role of brave outspoken defender of all things good and decent, as opposed to the conduct of Those People.
This is the way that piece began. As it turned out, Joan had been offended since at least July:
WALSH (12/6/13): I tried to honor Nelson Mandela on the day of his death, and love my political enemies. But the whitewashing of Mandela’s legacy, as well as the role of the United States in supporting both apartheid and Mandela’s long imprisonment, has to be rebutted.If Cruz had been in Congress back then, he would have been very young. Walsh felt sure she knew what he would have said, despite his tender years.
It began on Mandela’s 95th birthday in July, when House Speaker John Boehner had the audacity to declare in a tribute, “At times it can almost feel like we are talking about an old friend.”
It got much worse when Sen. Ted Cruz announced Thursday night: “Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.”
But Cruz’s political heroes opposed Mandela as a terrorist and a communist, and there’s little doubt the red-baiting Texas senator would have done the same had he been in Congress back then.
Yesterday, Cruz attended the Mandela memorial. When Raoul Castro spoke, the Texas solon walked out.
Needless to say, Walsh was offended. Unlike in the good old compliant days, it seems to be part of the brand:
WALSH (12/11/13): OK, Sen. Ted Cruz showed me: I accused him of hypocrisy for his Nelson Mandela praise last week—praise that horrified his racist wingnut Facebook fans—and he followed up by attending Mandela’s memorial service this week.Cruz couldn’t get into the “What Would Mandela Do?” spirit, Joan complained, even as she chose to eschew the “What Would Mandela Do?” spirit. (Salon’s headline writer honored that spirit by using this click-bait headline on the contents page: “Cruz gets even more repulsive.”)
That’s nice. But far from getting into the “What Would Mandela Do?” spirit of the day, he made headlines by walking out on the speech by Cuban President Raul Castro...
Of course, Cruz couldn’t pull off his walkout with quiet dignity. ABC News broke the story, and its headline reads “Cruz says he walked out of Mandela service when Raul Castro spoke.” Get that? It appears Cruz wasn’t spotted walking out, he announced it, with a hectoring statement from his spokeswoman to ABC: “Sen. Cruz very much hopes that Castro learns the lessons of Nelson Mandela. For decades, Castro has wrongly imprisoned and tortured countless innocents. Just as Mandela was released after 27 years in prison, Castro should finally release his political prisoners. He should hold free elections, and once and for all, set the Cuban people free.”
I can very much promise you that Ted Cruz has not learned the lessons of Nelson Mandela.
Might we summarize? Walsh knows everything! She knows what Cruz would have said back then. She knows what he’s thinking now.
For ourselves, we think it’s fairly likely that Cruz actually hasn’t “learned the lessons of Nelson Mandela.” At the same time, we think it’s obvious that Walsh has no plan to try, despite the one heroic day when she “tried to honor Nelson Mandela...and love my political enemies.”
This Sunday, we were struck by a different approach to these matters by Ta-Nehisi Coates. To read his post, click here.
Coates quoted a statement by Newt Gingrich concerning Mandela’s career. Coates made a point of noting the fact that Gingrich always supported Mandela, even when it put him in the minority within the GOP.
Here’s part of what Gingrich wrote last week, the part which was quoted by Coates. Gingrich wrote this as a direct challenge to conservative critics of Mandela:
GINGRICH (12/6/13): Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.Again, Coates made a point of noting that this was Gingrich’s position all along. We thought Coates’ presentation was interesting and informative. Hugely, we appreciated his lack of snark.
After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.
As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny. We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army’s dictatorial assault on our freedom.
Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote and the Continental Congress adopted that “all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Doesn’t this apply to Nelson Mandela and his people?
Some conservatives say, ah, but he was a communist.
Actually Mandela was raised in a Methodist school, was a devout Christian, turned to communism in desperation only after South Africa was taken over by an extraordinarily racist government determined to eliminate all rights for blacks.
I would ask of his critics: where were some of these conservatives as allies against tyranny? Where were the masses of conservatives opposing Apartheid? In a desperate struggle against an overpowering government, you accept the allies you have just as Washington was grateful for a French monarchy helping him defeat the British.
For ourselves, we think Gingrich is such a fallen, compromised figure that it’s no longer worth discussing what he “really” believes or what he may have really believed at some earlier time.
We can’t say we’re real high on Cruz either, though we wouldn’t presume to tell you what he would have said as a senator in 1980, when he was only 9.
(Beyond that, his family comes from Cuba; Walsh’s family does not. Maybe Joan could remember that the next time she goes on about the horrible way “her people” were treated in the 1860s.)
Back to Coates:
What a treat, to read a piece by a person of the left who doesn’t feel the need to posture in the way Walsh persistently does! This brings us to Rachel Maddow’s closing segment last night.
In her segment, Rachel read unfortunate comments from World Net Daily, then pleasured us by talking about the Republicans who failed to support Mandela back when. She didn’t mention what Gingrich said this past week, or what he said in real time.
Even Walsh had managed to say, in her first piece, that Gingrich supported Mandela in real time. Last night, Rachel didn’t assault the pleasure centers of our brains by making us hear about that.
In our view, Rachel has been throwing a lot of sweet hay to the herd this week. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the way she opened her program this Monday.
What would Nelson Mandela have done? We don’t know, but history suggests he might have mentioned Gingrich.
In the history of the last century, the giants tried to tamp down The Hate. Others may seem to stoke it for profit.
Maddow's finish: As she finished her segment, Maddow applauded her own brave commitment to telling the truth:
MADDOW (12/10/13): Even though it may seem now that opposing Nelson Mandela, something that couldn’t have happened in this country, it did. And it didn’t go away. When Nelson Mandela came to the U.S. in 1994 to deliver a joint address to Congress, one Republican congressman from California called the invitation to Mandela a national disgrace. And Jesse Helms, the one who filibustered the bill that called for Nelson Mandela’s release, Jesse Helms turned his back on Nelson Mandela and his visit to the U.S. Capitol.Query: In what world has that history “been mostly lost down the memory hole?” Uncomprehending minds want to know.
That history has been mostly lost down the memory hole, but on days like this an uncomfortable thing to remember. But it is the truth.
Now it’s time for The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
In our world, Gingrich is a profoundly fallen figure. But the things he said back then are part of history too.
Be careful what you wish for: Did Helms really “turn his back on Mandela” in 1994? Possibly during his joint address to the Congress?
It's certainly possible! Using Nexis, we find no report in real time of such an event. Maddow’s blog links to a claim which was published some seven years later.