George W. Bush isn’t a man to gloat. If we were, his message to Africans, as he visits the continent at the same time as President Obama, would be: “Miss me yet?”
The answer, according to the Washington Post, is a resounding “yes.” Consider this passage from the Post’s story “Bush AIDS policies shadow Obama in Africa”:
[A]cross this continent, many Africans wish Obama was more like Bush in his social and health policies, particularly in the fight against HIV/AIDS — one of the former president’s signature foreign policy aid programs. Bush poured billions of dollars into the effort to combat the spread of the disease that once threatened to consume a generation of young Africans, and as Obama has spent two days touring South Africa, the shadow of his predecessor has trailed him.
For once, Obama even felt compelled to praise Bush. And, reportedly, he’s considering a joint appearance in Tanzania with his predecessor.
Obama’s words have carried him far in America. But on matters of life and death, actions speak much louder than even Obama’s words. In South Africa, Bush’s actions helped reduce the HIV infection rate by 30 percent and put nearly 2 million people on antiretroviral drugs.
Obama, by contrast, produced a budget last year that reduces AIDS funding globally by roughly $214 million, the first time an American president has reduced the U.S. commitment to fighting the epidemic. He has proposed additional cuts for 2014.
Hillary Thulare of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation summarized the situation this way:
Knowing that Africa has many challenges, with fighting AIDS being one of the biggest challenges, we were really expecting President Obama to continue where President Bush had left off. But it’s been a disappointment. Obama is retreating on AIDS and, by this, retreating on Africa.
So, yes, they miss Bush in Africa. And all of Obama’s efforts to bask in the glory of Nelson Mandela won’t change this.