Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Government and Wall Street: A Revolving Door with Ill Effects
It was recently announced that former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would join Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm - although Mr. Geithner had no experience whatever in the private equity field.
Writing in The New Republic, Noam Scheiber noted that
It's hard to believe that Geithner, with no investment or private sector experience, would be worth the millions he will surely earn each year if he didn't also turn heads at the highest levels of government.
The financial industry is one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington. It has always pushed for fewer controls, and has largely succeeded. Two important changes were the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, which ended the separation between commercial and investment banking, and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which legally banned the Securities and Exchange Commission from regulating over-the-counter derivatives. The main lobbyist for the 1999 law, Sanford Weill, then head of Citigroup, now admits that, "I don't think it's right anymore." Bill Clinton now says that he regrets not having tried to regulate derivatives.
These pieces of legislation, we now know, led to our financial crisis - and the eventual bailing out by taxpayers of failed banks and financial institutions. Eighteen months before the financial collapse, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a report called "Sustaining New York's and the U.S.' Global Financial Services Leadership," which warned that if Wall Street were re-regulated, the financial industry would move to London.
It is interesting to see how politically connected banks received larger bailout loans from the federal government during the 2008 financial crisis than banks that spent less on lobbying and campaign contributions. This is the conclusion of a new analysis by Professor Benjamin Blau of Utah State University. His findings were based on data from the Federal Reserve Board and published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Blau noted that it was "unlikely" that the Fed intended "to provide political favors to banks with the most political connections." But the pattern was clear. Banks that received bailout loans spent 72 times more on lobbying in the decade before the meltdown than banks that got no loans. Blau also found that 15 percent of the banks that received loans employed politically connected individuals. Only 1.5 percent of banks with politically connected employees got no loans.
In the case of Timothy Geithner, states Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a Wall Street watchdog group:
Geithner's spin through the revolving door to cash in on his "public service" will enrich himself, further erode public confidence in government, and give the finance industry more access and influence at the highest levels of government worldwide.
Josh Green of Bloomberg Businessweek writes that:
For all the criticism directed his way, Geithner was the exceedingly rare example of the idea that you can be a talented, high-level regulator and public servant and exist entirely apart from Wall Street financial interests. That won't be true any longer.
Washington, of course, is awash with lobbyists of all kinds - spending literally billions of dollars to get government to do their bidding. Companies spent about $3.5 billion annually on lobbying at the end of the last decade, a nearly 90 percent increase from 1999 after adjusting for inflation, according to political scientist Lee Drutman in his forthcoming book, The Business of America Is Lobbying.
"A growing number of companies," says Drutman, "became fully convinced that having a large-scale Washington presence was a good strategic decision."
According to recent research, lobbying pays off in a major way. Research shows that the more a company spends on influence, the lower its effective tax rate and the higher its stock returns, compared with competitors. A company called Strategas has developed an index to follow the stock performance of the 50 companies that lobbied the most last year. That index outperformed the rest of the market by 30 percent.
Lobbying, lawyers, and government contractors have fueled the extraordinary prosperity of the Washington area, while the economy in the rest of the country has stagnated. During the past decade, the Washington region - including suburban Maryland and Virginia - added 21,000 households in the nation's top 1 percent. No other metro area came close.
The Washington Post reports that:
The signs of the new Washington are everywhere - from the Tiffany & Co. store that Fairfax County development officials boast is the most profitable in the country to the new Tesla dealership in Tyson's Corner. Every morning on the Beltway, contractors, lobbyists and some of the country's highest-paid lawyers sit in the nation's worst traffic. Sports talk radio crackles . . . with the latest ads from Deltek, a firm that advises companies on "capture strategies" for winning government contracts.
The revolving door keeps turning - and government keeps growing and keeps serving the interests of those who so generously finance the campaigns of both Democrats and Republicans so that no matter which party is in power, the special interests will have friends to call upon. Wall Street's investment in politicians has certainly paid handsome dividends, as the bank bailout has made clear to all. It is, as a result, not too difficult to understand why a private equity firm would hire a former Treasury Secretary with no experience in the field. It is business as usual - as business is now conducted.
Will Bill de Blasio Reverse Twenty Years of Progress in New York City?
Liberals across the country are looking to Bill de Blasio, the newly elected mayor of New York City, to transform the city's government into a closely watched laboratory for populist theories of government that have never before been enacted on such a large scale.
Mr. de Blasio entered politics as an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins and was a firsthand witness to the failed policies of that left-leaning administration. The waves of crime and racial tension that plagued the Dinkins administration put Democrats in the political wilderness for 20 years. The successful tenures of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg ushered in an era of business-minded executives who made the city safe, clean, and prosperous.
Under Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg, the 20-year drop in crime is the sharpest in the nation. The liberal writer Jack Newfield once wrote that if the murders in New York go below 600 a year, there should be a ticker-tape parade for the Police Department. Last year, murders in New York fell below 340, in a city of 8 million. By contrast, Newark, with a population of 277,000 ended 2013 with more than 100 murders.
During Mayor de Blasio's inauguration on January 1, speaker after speaker saw fit to denounce outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was sitting only feet away. It started with the invocation, at which the Rev. Fred Lucas, senior pastor at the Brooklyn Community Church, called New York City a "plantation." He and other speakers freely used other slavery and racially-charged metaphors in calling for a Reconstruction and an Emancipation Proclamation. "End the civil wars and usher in a new Reconstruction era," Lucas said.
First to speak was the singer Harry Belafonte, who was seriously in error about history. He declared that, "New York alarmingly plays a tragic role in the fact that our nation has the largest prison population in the world." That is clearly the opposite of the truth.
"New York is one of the first states to significantly reduce its entire correctional population," according to a 2013 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
It reduced the number of people in prison and jail, and on probation and parole. This drop was driven exclusively by declines in New York City's correctional population.
The title of the report is "How New York City Reduced Mass Incarceration: A Model for Change?" The study found that, "New York City sending fewer people into the justice system reduced mass incarceration in the entire of state."
Mr. de Blasio proclaims himself a "progressive" and declares his commitment to "equal opportunity." Yet, as The Washington Post pointed out editorially, "Achieving this goal is not just a matter of taxing and spending but also of institutional reform - especially in education."
Here, Mayor Bloomberg earned high marks from most New Yorkers. He challenged teachers' unions and expanded school choice and accountability. He closed large neighborhood schools that were performing poorly and replaced them with hundreds of smaller schools and public charter schools. When Bloomberg became mayor in 2001, fewer than half of New York City's high school students graduated in four years. That figure is now 61 percent, even though standards are more difficult. Fourth grade reading and math scores have risen. Sadly, the new mayor seems to side with those who would bring the Bloomberg reforms to an end.
What is de Blasio thinking when he promises to limit charter schools' access to publicly owned buildings and promises a moratorium on closing low-performing schools? He also wants to end Bloomberg's A-F report cards for schools. His choice for schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, is a prominent critic of the Bloomberg reforms.
The tone set at De Blasio's inauguration was even criticized editorially by one of his strongest supporters, The New York Times. The paper lamented "backward-looking speeches both graceless and smug" and pointed, in particular, to the new public advocate:
Worst among them, but hardly alone, was the new public advocate, Letitia James, who used her moment for her own head-on attack on the 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In doing so, she made a prop of a 12-year-old girl named Dasani, who had to hold the Bible and Ms. James's hand as Ms. James called for a government "that cares more about a child going hungry than a new tax credit for a luxury development."
Dasani was profiled in a series of articles in The Times illustrating the plight of homeless families. Editorially, The Times declared:
Ms. James turned her into Exhibit A of an Inauguration Day prosecution: The People vs. Mayor Bloomberg. So did the pastor whose invocation likened New York to a "plantation," and Harry Belafonte who strangely laid the problem of America's crowded prisons at the feet of the former mayor, an utterly bogus claim, while saying Mr. Bloomberg shared responsibility for the nation's "deeply Dickensian justice system." . . . Mr. Bloomberg had his mistakes and failures, but he was not a cartoon Gilded Age villain. He deserved better than pointless and tacky harangues from speakers eager to parrot Mr. de Blasio's campaign theme.
The only gracious voice on the scene was that of former President Bill Clinton, who administered the oath of office. Clinton thanked Bloomberg, who took over the city in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and had to deal with the recession that hit the country in 2008, for leaving New York stronger than he found it. When he followed, de Blasio also gave a nod to the former mayor, but by then the negative and hostile tone had been set.
Why did Bill Clinton administer the oaths of office to New York's mayor and bring Hillary with him? De Blasio has, it seems, become a beacon to those in the Democratic Party's progressive wing, who have often been disappointed by President Obama. Other than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the party's left wing sees few political leaders willing to promote their agenda. With the Clintons on hand, the de Blasio inauguration has added significance and seems to be an effort to position a potential Clinton presidential race further to the left.
Politico reported that de Blasio will buttress the coming presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. It noted de Blasio's ties to the Clintons and argued that the new mayor will shore up her liberal credibility. "As church people say, he can 'witness' for them," says Democratic strategist and former adviser to Bill Clinton, James Carville. "He can talk about her, how she stands up for people. It could be very, very helpful."
Under Michael Bloomberg, New York City thrived. It became safe and prosperous. He turned the $6 billion deficit he found upon taking office into a $3 billion surplus. The problems of inequality upon which de Blasio based much of his campaign are real, but are not unique to New York, nor were they the result of city policies. Statistics show even greater inequality in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. (where Michael Bloomberg never served as mayor). New York City has not had a liberal Democratic mayor for 20 years. When he served in the Dinkins administration, de Blasio saw a different, dangerous, degraded city. He will be of little use to Hillary Clinton or anyone else if he turns his back on 20 years of real progress in New York. Let's hope he will abandon the divisive rhetoric of his campaign and continue to move the city forward as his most recent predecessors have done.
Government's Recent Performance Bolsters Skepticism About Its Role in Society
Government's performance in recent days has been dismal. This is hardly new. One of the reasons for President Obama's election, after all, was dismay with President George W. Bush's eight years in office. During that period we went to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist, taxpayers bailed out failing banks on Wall Street, Medicare was expanded with an unfunded drug benefit, and government deficits reached all-time highs. Things, we were told, couldn't get worse.
Somehow, the current administration seems to be doing its best to show that things can continue on a dangerous downhill spiral. The Affordable Care Act, hailed as President Obama's landmark achievement, is in a shambles. Not only does its website not work, but promises made by the president that Americans would be able to keep their policies, have been shown to be untrue.
In mid-November, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Obama with the lowest approval rating of his presidency. Only 39 percent approved of his performance. Fifty four percent disapproved. These numbers are similar to those of a Pew survey that showed the president's job approval at 41 percent with 53 percent disapproving.
Public disillusionment with government goes far beyond healthcare. We now know that the surveillance program of the National Security Agency appears to be out of control. Even liberal defenders of the administration find it difficult not to express their criticism. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, for example, wrote of
. . . the NSA's apparent goal of knowing everything. The agency collects information as massively and indiscriminately as possible on the theory that if you assemble a database of all the world's communications, the few you seek - those involving terrorists - will be in there somewhere. This is . . . a massive invasion of privacy. . . . While NSA analysts were sifting billions of phone records, they were unaware that one of their own contract analysts, some guy named Snowden, was about to spill all the precious beans.
It seems that almost every day we learn of some government program that is not working - or has gone awry. In mid-November - to cite one recent report - a federal report concluded that there is no evidence that airport checkpoint personnel have any basis for judgment when they scan a line for suspicious passengers. In a report to a House subcommittee, the Government Accountability Office says there is no evidence it's effective for Transportation Security Administration officials to scan crowds for signs someone might be a terrorist. The GAO report recommends that Congress stop funding for the program - which has cost $878 million thus far.
In recent years, many Americans have forgotten the Founding Fathers' view that power is a corrupting force. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison declared:
It may be a reflection of human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
The deliberations of those who created the American Republic are instructive. Among the works carefully studied by the founders was Polybius' historical analysis of Roman character and the Roman Constitution, written about the middle of the 2nd century B.C. That system incorporated both checks and balances upon political power and provided for separation of political functions. The Roman Constitution, said Polybius, was not formed upon abstractions but developed out of the circumstances of the time of troubles in which the people of Rome found themselves.
This was the "mixed government" praised by Aristotle, but which Aristotle had thought almost impossible to maintain on a grand scale. The Roman experience, writes Russell Kirk in The Roots of American Order, was
. . . mentioned repeatedly in the constitutional debates in Philadelphia. The consequences of Roman centralization had their part in discouraging schemes for a central, rather than a federal government in America - quite as the Greek disunity had a part in the arguments against a mere loose confederation. . . . And in the 18th century climate of rationalism, American knowledge of the effects of Rome's religious and ethical decline upon the social order did something to secure American attachment to the free exercise of religion. . . . Rome's example of decadence was a cautionary lesson. . . . But also Rome's legacy of law was part of the American inheritance.
A more direct influence upon the Founders was the history of England and, in turn, their own history of self-government in the colonies. The Common Law, which evolved over centuries, was, Kirk points out:
. . . the foundation of order . . . also it was the foundation of freedom. The high claim of the commentators on the common law was this: no man, not even the king, was above or beyond the law.
Activist government - involved in every aspect of people's lives - was the opposite of what the Founding Fathers had in mind. At the beginning of his Administration, Thomas Jefferson wrote a friend that:
. . . the path we have to pursue is so quiet that we have nothing scarcely to propose to our Legislature. A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in happiness.
In recent years, whether those in power were Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, the power of government has increased, as has the percentage of the gross national product disposed of by the state. The deficit has skyrocketed. Those out of power often speak of cutting government. Once in office, however, they do precisely the opposite. Both of our political parties are far removed from the fear and suspicion of power that the Founding Fathers shared.
Shortly before his death, Russell Kirk, whose book The Conservative Mind was one of the most influential of our time, noted that, "As an instrument of order, the Constitution would be more successful than any other written device in the history of mankind." He warned, however, that:
One of the more pressing perils of our time is that people may be cut off from their roots in culture and community. . . . Moral and social order, or a vast part of it, may be destroyed by a few years of violence or a few decades of contemptuous neglect. Then hope is lost for many generations; for order is a kind of organic growth, developing slowly over many centuries.
Today's Washington would be no surprise to the Founding Fathers. Human nature being what it is, they expected it. The only thing that might surprise them is the faith that some Americans still place in government power. Now that skepticism is growing, the Framers may feel that freedom is a bit more secure. Skepticism of power, after all, is something they made sure to bequeath to future generations of Americans.
When It Comes to Intelligence: How Much Government Is Enough?
In the 1970s, a U.S. Senate committee found widespread abuses at the NSA, the CIA, and other agencies, including programs to spy on Americans. An NSA program called Project Shamrock, for example, had persuaded three major American telegraph companies to hand over a record of most of their traffic. By the time the program ended, in 1975, the NSA had collected information on 75,000 citizens. This information was shared with the CIA, which was conducting its own domestic intelligence program, Operation Chaos.
In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which forbade the intelligence agencies to spy on anyone in the U.S. unless they had probable cause to believe that the person was "a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power." The law established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and, in 1976, Congress created the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The NSA and other intelligence agencies are instructed to keep the committee, as well as a similar one in the House, "fully and currently informed."
As a result of material leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we now know a great deal more about how government intelligence agencies are actually working. The provision of the 2001 Patriot Act that allowed for the collection of American phone records was publicly described as analogous to a grand jury subpoena by the Department of Justice, suggesting individual secret warrants. Secret interpretations, however, told a different story. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate oversight committee, said:
Tell me if you've ever seen a grand jury subpoena that allowed the government, on an ongoing basis, to collect the records of millions of Americans.
Intelligence officials have not hesitated to lie to the American people and their elected representatives, even under oath, about what they have been doing. In March, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, was asked by Sen. Wyden, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions of Americans?" He replied, "No sir, it does not."
David Keene, editorial page editor at The Washington Times, notes that:
He could not have attempted such an answer after the Snowden revelations, but at the time, Mr. Clapper may well have thought he'd gotten away with keeping what his minions were up to from the Senate committee charged with overseeing our intelligence operations. Mr. Clapper himself is a career military man. . . . He is, no doubt, a patriot as his defenders claim, but his disregard for the niceties of the law and the Constitution reveal him as a man who should not be in the position of power he now occupies.
In early December, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called for Clapper's resignation and insisted that he be prosecuted for perjury. Mr. Sensenbrenner has been outraged by the manner in which the NSA and the Obama administration have expanded the meaning of language in the USA Patriot Act, which he drafted. A former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he points out that oversight of activities of the executive branch is a core mission of Congress and that lying to a congressional committee is illegal.
What the Snowden material revealed was a massive, secret national security state - spending $52.6 billion a year, with more than 30,000 employees at the NSA alone. There is, of course, clearly a need for government intelligence. Electronic intelligence was traditionally focused on foreign governments. But those who attacked us at the World Trade Center were private individuals, born abroad and living in the U.S. The NSA shifted its focus and turned inward.
In the years since 9/11, the subjects of NSA collection grew to include patterns within entire populations, including data that can literally retrace the steps of individuals years before they became subjects. The challenge, explained one NSA document, was to "master global networks and handle previously unimagined volumes of raw data for both passive and active collection."
Since 2006 the U.S. government has gathered and stored transaction records of phone calls made in the U.S. For a time, the government collected similar metadata on Internet traffic as well. It harvested and stored hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts on services like Yahoo and Facebook. A program called Dishfire collected text messages from around the world and a database called Tracfin captured credit-card transactions.
While some have made Edward Snowden a hero for revealing the extent of government surveillance programs, the fact is that he himself has violated the law and may have harmed our efforts to combat the very real terrorist threat we face. Matthew Olson, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, points out that, "We have seen, in response to the Snowden leaks, al-Qaeda and affiliated groups seeking to change their tactics."
Still, in the name of protecting national security, we may lose far more than we gain if government agencies are permitted to invade the privacy of millions of Americans - and lie to our elected representatives in the Congress about what they are doing. When electronic surveillance began, with the telegraph and radio, the only way to record an intercept was by writing it down. Now, new technologies permit wholesale copying, sorting and storage of billions of records a day.
In 2010 the House and Senate, without debate, passed a one-year extension of the expiring Patriot Act. Rep. Sensenbrenner, author of the original Patriot Act, wrote in The Los Angeles Times that he and a majority of his colleagues did not know how the law was being used before they voted to endorse it. In 2011, the Patriot Act was extended again, this time until 2015. Sen. Wyden, speaking in the Senate, declared:
I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry. "Did you know what this law actually permits?" "Why didn't you know before you voted on it?"
In an article in The New Yorker asking "Why won't the president rein in the intelligence community?" Ryan Lizza writes that:
The history of the intelligence community. . . reveals a willingness to violate the spirit and the letter of the law, even with oversight. What's more, the benefits of the domestic surveillance programs remain unclear.
In Sen. Wyden's view, the continued revelations about what government agencies are really doing are helping build momentum for changing the law:
We pick up more support as more and more of this comes out. After a decade, we think this is the best opportunity for reform that we're going to have, and we're not going to let it go by.
A coalition of conservatives and liberals, including Wyden, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the extension of the Patriot Act. They lost this time, but they were asking the right questions about the limits of government power in a free society. Government, it seems clear, has exceeded such limits - under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
History shows us that those who seek to expand power and diminish freedom usually have a variety of good reasons to set forth for their purposes, in this case "national security." In the case of Olmstead vs. United States (1927), Justice Louis Brandeis warned that:
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachments of men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
Today's "beneficent" reason to limit our freedom is "national security." It may be called "The Patriot Act," but the real act of patriotism may be, finally, to limit its scope and authority.
Reconciliation Rather Than Revenge, Assessing the Legacy of Nelson Mandela
The death of Nelson Mandela has taken from us an extraordinary leader, one who embraced reconciliation rather than revenge, and provided his country with an opportunity to move forward without the bloodshed and strife that has characterized other parts of the African continent.
He used the power of forgiveness and reconciliation to heal deep wounds and usher in an era of peace after decades of racial conflict. On a continent with leaders who remain in power for life, Mandela became a role model, stepping down from the presidency after one term.
Apartheid was formally initiated in South Africa in 1948. In his memoir, Mandela recalls that:
I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.
Through the 1940s and early 1950s, Mandela organized and agitated on behalf of the African National Congress (ANC). Initially inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's teachings, Mandela was committed to nonviolent resistance. He practiced law and by 1952 he had become president of the ANC's largest branch, in the Transvaal. He was arrested for the first time in 1952 while organizing an ANC defiance campaign. A court decreed that he could not be in the presence of more than two people at a time. Such repression drove him underground. In 1961, Mandela and others in the ANC formed an armed wing, arguing that all forms of non-violent protest had by then become illegal. This group, Spear of the Nation, carried out an underground campaign of sabotage.
In 1963, Mandela and his colleagues were charged with treason, but when the case went to trial, the charges were changed to sabotage and conspiracy. They were convicted and expected to be hanged. At sentencing, in the last public statement he would make until 1990, he said:
During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have described the cherished ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Instead of death, he was sentenced to Robben Island prison where he would spend 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment confined to a tiny cell and forced to do hard labor in the prison quarry. As unrest against apartheid grew in South Africa, and around the world, in 1982 Mandela was transferred to the Pollamoor Prison on the mainland near Cape Town. A few years later, a series of secret talks took place between Mandela and President P. W. Botha, who offered to release Mandela if he renounced violence. Mandela would not.
South Africa's government began tentative talks with the ANC in exile, led by Oliver Tambo, Mandela's old law partner. These talks led to Mandela's release in 1990. South African President F. W. de Klerk and the National Party thought in 1990 that Mandela could be freed and that a formula could be negotiated that would leave the white minority with a veto power over black rule. But Mandela's release set in motion a chain of events that would lead to free and fair elections and majority rule four years later.
Mandela rejected those in the black community who wanted revenge for the years of apartheid and, instead, called for reconciliation and the creation of a democratic, multi-racial society. He allowed white civil servants and soldiers to stay in their jobs. In 1996, Parliament approved a new national constitution, including a bill of rights guaranteeing protections that most South Africans had never imagined.
That same year, Mandela launched the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Rather than trials, as at Nuremburg after World War II, Mandela's government fostered truth telling and amnesty. Killers who confessed would not be prosecuted. It insured that the seeds of more racial hatred would not be planted.
Mandela sought to bridge the divide between blacks and whites. When South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, he encouraged blacks to support the Springboks, the national rugby team from which blacks were largely alienated and were viewed by many as a symbol of white rule. When the Springboks won a final over New Zealand, Mandela wore a Springbok shirt and presented the trophy to the team captain. This gesture was widely seen as a major step toward racial reconciliation.
On the day of his inauguration, May 10, 1994, Mandela stood at the podium near South Africa's last apartheid-era president, F. W. de Klerk. A year earlier, they had shared the Nobel Prize for what the Nobel committee called "their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundation for a new, democratic South Africa."
It is important to remember the leadership of President de Klerk. Many white South Africans did not want to give up power and move toward a multi-racial, democratic society. They had power and military strength on their side. An apartheid regime could more than likely have been maintained for some time, at great cost. But de Klerk and the majority of white South Africans decided to take a chance on freedom. Without such partners, Mandela's legacy might not have become what it is.
Paul Taylor, The Washington Post's correspondent in South Africa from 1992 to 1995, notes that:
Mandela's main partner, President Frederik W. de Klerk, was a shrewd Afrikaner who had the foresight to understand that the grotesque apartheid system he once championed was destroying his country, and he had the fortitude to stick with his surrender-without-a-fight strategy through four arduous years of start-and-stop negotiations, even as the deal grew less attractive for the white minority that had put him in power.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, this writer was a frequent visitor to South Africa and was a regular contributor to a group of Afrikaans-language newspapers, including Die Burger in Cape Town and Beeld in Johannesburg. I had the opportunity to meet with South Africans of all races and to travel widely in the country.
I remember many late night conversations with my Afrikaner friends, in particular, in which I heard the same question many times:
We know apartheid is wrong and immoral. The question is, how can we bring it to an end without becoming a one-party dictatorship as have the other countries in Africa which emerged from colonial rule?
The refrain was often heard in those days of "one man, one vote, one time" with regard to newly independent African countries.
In the end, it became possible to move away from apartheid and become a multi-racial democracy because whites of good will, a majority of white South Africans, but with a significant minority resisting such changes, found a partner with whom to move forward in a positive direction in Nelson Mandela. Without Mandela, it is difficult to see how South Africa could have progressed in the positive way it has thus far.
There is, however, concern that South Africa, in the years since Mandela left office, has not been fulfilling the promise of those years. Racial and economic inequalities remain great and many black residents still lack basic necessities such as electricity, proper housing, and clean water. Education and healthcare remain poor.
There is growing disillusionment with the ruling ANC. Today, the party and its leadership are facing allegations of corruption and of ignoring the needs of impoverished blacks, the constituency that Mandela fought to emancipate and empower.
The Economist reports that while race relations are improving and extremist groups, both white and black, have faded away:
. . . in many other respects, the ANC is floundering. Corruption is pervasive, with a permissive tone set at the top. President Jacob Zuma was previously tainted by an arms-deal scandal, though charges against him were dropped on technicalities. More recently he has been lambasted for the taxpayers' fortune spent on glorifying his rural homestead. An official report on the matter has been declared top secret. Just as big a blot on the ANC record is unemployment. Thirty-seven percent of working-age people . . . are jobless. . . . Black-empowerment schemes to redress apartheid's injustices have been widely abused to enrich ANC-linked people. Mr. Zuma's relatives and pals have hugely benefited. . . . The rate of rape is horrifying. Public hospitals are so bad that people say you go there to die, not to recover.
Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid veteran, has set up her own party out of frustration with the ANC. She says that public education is worse than it was under apartheid. Through corruption and incompetence, she reports, tens of thousands of textbooks go missing every year.
William Gumede, an analyst who has written extensively about Nelson Mandela, declares that:
In all of the great liberation movements there is the problem of producing great leaders to take over. But in this case, there has really been a failure to pass the torch.
What the future holds for South Africa, or for any of us for that matter, cannot be known. The future will unfold in ways none of us ever imagined, What we can know, however, is that Nelson Mandela provided a rare example of magnanimity and good will, and tried to set his much suffering country on a path of achieving dignity and freedom for all of its residents. Now it is up to them. In our troubled world, this is no small accomplishment. *