Compare/Contrast: TOTUS in Ghana – Big Dawg and GW in Ghana…

In 1998 United States president Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton made a six-nation tour of Africa, the most extensive visit to Africa ever undertaken by a sitting U.S. president. At his first stop, in Ghana, Clinton was greeted by a crowd hundreds of thousands strong. Here, draped in a traditional Ghanaian kente cloth, President Clinton, center, waves to the crowd, accompanied by the first lady, far right, and Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings left.

In 1998 United States president Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton made a six-nation tour of Africa, the most extensive visit to Africa ever undertaken by a sitting U.S. president. At his first stop, in Ghana, Clinton was greeted by a crowd hundreds of thousands strong. Here, draped in a traditional Ghanaian kente cloth, President Clinton, center, waves to the crowd, accompanied by the first lady, far right, and Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings left.

When Big Dawg and GW Bush went to Ghana they spoke to tens of thousands of the people, directly, as they gathered in the square. In the case of Big Dawg’s visit there was panic over a stampede, and Big Dawg literally saved a woman from being crushed by pulling her up. His hands were so scratched his staff and Secret Service were terrified for him. Crowds were wild about Bill and wild about GW Bush also. Both these presidents did a tremendous amount for Africa and the people knew they cared.

February 20, 2008 – President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush greet Ghanaian tribal chiefs and members of tribes, in Accra, Ghana. President Bush met with 30 tribal chiefs during his visit to the International Trade Fair Center. (White House photo by Shealah Craighead.)

February 20, 2008 – President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush greet Ghanaian tribal chiefs and members of tribes, in Accra, Ghana. President Bush met with 30 tribal chiefs during his visit to the International Trade Fair Center. (White House photo by Shealah Craighead.)

Click the link to view he embedded video of the Big Dawg visit at Politico, here is the write up by Gerstein:

It might seem like a moment just too good for the White House to pass up – America’s first black president, on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, looking out over a sea of jubilant faces, delivering a message of friendship and hope.

Yet President Barack Obama, who would command a monumental audience nearly anywhere he spoke on the continent where he traces his ancestry, is not scheduled to deliver a speech to the general public when he visits Ghana next week.

The White House said it preferred a smaller event at Ghana’s parliament to herald the nation’s democratic traditions. But some suspect the reason has its roots in an event that holds a storied place in White House lore – President Bill Clinton’s 1998 speech to a massive crowd in the sweltering heat of Accra, Ghana, where Obama will visit as well.

For Clinton, the first stop on a 12-day, six-country African journey was a chance to bask in the adulation far from Washington (MiM here-yada yada Monica).

Whatever the number, the overheated, overcrowded, overwhelming event left some in Clinton’s party worried that he’d been shot, and a doctor concerned that he could contract HIV from frantic interaction with the crowd. And it took a threatening turn at the end, as a red-faced, shouting Clinton implored the crowd, “Get back! Back off!” as it threatened to crush a woman near the front of the stage.

“The crowd was so large that it began surging towards the stage. Suddenly, a woman in the front of the crowd began to get trampled,” recalled Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security

adviser at the time. “Clinton jumped up and put his arm down over the side and grabbed her. The Secret Service thought he’d been shot and freaked out.”

“He saved her life,” Berger said. “It was a kind of tumultuous scene.”

Clinton’s White House physician Dr. Connie Mariano said she started out that day worried about the heat, but wound up concerned about HIV.

“It was steamy, and hot, and miserable,” Mariano recalled. “[Ghana’s president General Jerry] Rawlings put a ceremonial robe over [Clinton’s] dark business suit and I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to pass out,’” she said.

Mariano said the feverish crowd and the scuffle over people being crushed at the front left the president nicked up.

“He got scratches. His hands were cut because people’s nails were scratching him because they wanted to hold him,” she said. “Realize how many HIV-positive people there were there. … It was an extremely frightening experience.”

As the crowd surged forward, police wielding rubber truncheons slammed them down on the hands of people holding onto the barricades. The front-line people would jump back, only to be pushed forward, grab the barricades, and have their hands whacked again. Reporters offering bottled water to parched Ghanaians nearly triggered a stampede.

“I just remember the mass of flesh. There was like a gazillion people, more than I had ever seen in my life,” said Ann Scales, who covered the event for The Boston Globe.

We have seen quite a lot of footage of TOTUS travels abroad, and tens of thousands amassed in Berlin to see him. But for some reason when he went to Ghana the crowds were small and he was behind bullet proof barriers and did not address the massive crowds that Big Dawg and GW spoke to.

So as the American media proudly proclaims this a historic visit, (and in the sense that our previous Presidents who went there were not of African descent this is so), let’s take a moment and give a shout out to GW Bush and the Big Dawg who went to see the people (not to be seen and drop off a big check).

AP of all places!:
(more…)

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July 12, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . Politics. Comments off.

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