Give President Bush some credit. He once referred to Africa as a “country,” but at least he took the time recently to visit Africa and determine the truth. “Africa is definitely not a country,” he said, upon his return. “It’s at least five countries. And Liberia, too.”
Bush’s trip lasted five days, the longest time a Republican president has ever spent away from white people. But Bush didn’t seem to mind, enjoying the cheers that greeted him at every stop. “Wait till I tell Dad!” he said to his wife, Laura. “He never thought I’d be popular among black people. I wonder if we need to distribute more absentee ballots.”
Bush stopped in Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria, spending just enough time in each country to give a speech, visit an AIDS clinic, and answer questions about uranium. “I still believe that Saddam Hussein bought uranium from Africa,” Bush said. “That’s why I’m here — to see if we can buy some, too.”
In Senegal, Bush toured an island where slaves were once bought and sold. While he didn’t issue a formal apology for slavery, he acknowledged that America had committed a great injustice to the slaves and was trying hard to repay their descendents by gradually increasing minimum wage.
Arriving in South Africa, Bush took a little longer than usual to disembark, while President Thabo Mbeki waited to greet him. A reporter spotted Bush sitting beside an African man on the plane, repeating the name “Mbeki” over and over.
When they finally met, Bush and Mbeki discussed what to do about the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe and reached an agreement, rather quickly, to do nothing. Noting that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had been in power only 23 years, Mbeki said, “We need to give him a chance to turn things around.”
Almost everywhere Bush went, he found reminders of how popular his predecessor was. In Uganda, he visited a hotel that featured the Clinton Imperial Suite; in Nigeria, his motorcade cruised down Bill Clinton Highway; and in South Africa, he passed the brightly-colored Bubba’s Strip Club.
But having pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa, Bush received his share of adulation. Nothing touched him more than the honor he received in Botswana when President Festus Mogae took him to see a primitive tribe near the Kalahari Desert. “Today, you are going to receive the greatest honor,” Mogae told an excited Bush. “From now on, all these people have agreed to be called Bushmen.”
Bush was so moved that he hugged Mogae and promised to keep his $15 billion pledge within the $5 to $10 billion range. Explaining that America was already spending billions in Iraq, Bush said he would try to convince Congress that “AIDS is almost as dangerous as Saddam Hussein.”
Bush later toured Mokolodi Nature Reserve and saw cheetahs, warthogs, rhinos and elephants. Two of the elephants decided to entertain the most powerful man in the world by performing an act that’s not usually seen at a circus, an act known scientifically as “the wild thing.”
The president whispered something to the first lady and she slapped him on the leg. What he said is still being debated, but according to a spokesman, it was merely a comment on the size of the male elephant’s ears.
Democrats have called for an investigation.