During his eulogy for South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, President Obama may have promoted his own political positions by connecting them to Mandela's achievements. Christian leaders denounced him for possibly turning the solemn remembrance of a great man into a political plug.
"Again, the president seeks to divide rather than unite — even a eulogy of a foreign leader is used to promote his agenda; it's all about him and he turns everything into a campaign speech," Janice Crouse, senior fellow at Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, told The Christian Post in an interview on Wednesday. "No wonder Americans are weary of everything and everybody in Washington — with this president, it's all politics, all the time," Crouse quipped.
Obama's speech began focused on Mandela, discussing his achievements and how the great South African leader wanted to be remembered. But toward the end, he strayed from historical remembrance to hot-button political issues. "There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality," Obama declared.
"Again, the president uses 'us against them' rhetoric; if anyone resists his policies regarding poverty and inequality they are against racial reconciliation," Crouse argued. She interpreted his words as an insult to all who oppose Obama's agenda, equating them with the supporters of apartheid. "Mr. Obama is saying that anyone who disagrees with his policies are obstructionists, if not bigots," she concluded.
Ken Blackwell, senior fellow for family empowerment at the Family Research Council, declined to comment on Obama's intention. "But I will say that if past experience is any indication, he will call upon the spirit of Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, or Margaret Thatcher if it would help his agenda," Blackwell alleged.
Blackwell responded to Obama's comment that "around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love," a clear reference to the struggle for gay rights. If the president was saying those people deserve respect due to their human dignity, Blackwell argued, then no one should disagree.
"If in fact he said that to drive a public policy agenda regarding same-sex marriage, however, that's foolhardy," Blackwell said. It's foolhardy because it degrades the memory of a great man, the FRC scholar explained.
"Our human conscience is not a grant from government, it is a gift from God," Blackwell argued. "What Mandela's example proved is that no matter how repressive a regime might have been, it could not separate him from that God-given property of individual conscience, responsible only to a creator and not to any government."
Blackwell warned Obama not to miss out on this central lesson. "In that regard, I would hope the president would see the folly in his effort to replace God in the public square with an ever expansive government," the scholar declared.
David French, senior counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, also smelled a rat. "There is much mischief," in the conclusion to Obama's tribute, French wrote on National Review online. He warned of "a tendency in our politics to tie our own efforts and crusades to the acknowledged greatness of past leaders and their causes."
French pointed out Obama's declaration that his policies, compared to those of Mandela, are merely "modest reforms" which his opponents "passionately resist." Calling for humility, he asked "can't we acknowledge the accomplishments of the past without presuming that we stand in the shoes of the greats as we fight over incredibly complex and difficult economic and cultural challenges?"
"Nelson Mandela was a great man," French concluded. "Politicians should exercise great caution before tying any of their meager efforts to his legacy."