Health care divides some Republican Senate rivals

By BILL BARROW

ATLANTA (AP) — Republicans see the 2014 midterm elections as a chance to capitalize on voter frustration with the problem-plagued health care overhaul, but the GOP first must settle a slate of Senate primaries where conservatives are arguing over the best way to oppose President Barack Obama’s signature law.

In intraparty skirmishes from Georgia to Nebraska, the GOP’s most strident candidates and activists are insisting on a no-holds-barred approach. They accuse fellow Republicans — including several incumbent senators — of being too soft in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and to the president in general.

The outcomes will help determine just how conservative the Senate Republican caucus will be during Obama’s final two years. And they could influence which party controls the chamber, with Democrats hoping that the most uncompromising Republican standard-bearers will emerge from the primaries and fare as poorly in general elections as their counterparts did in several 2012 Senate races. Republicans need to gain six seats for a majority.
Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, who wants to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, stepped into the rift recently when he seemed to scold much of his party during an interview on a conservative talk radio show.
“A lot of conservatives say, ‘Nah, just step back and let this thing fall to pieces on its own,” Kingston said. “Well, I don’t think that’s always the responsible thing to do.”

Rep. Paul Broun, one of Kingston’s rivals in a crowded primary field, pounced immediately, declaring in an Internet ad, “I don’t want to fix Obamacare, I want to get rid of it.” Conservative commentators hammered Kingston with headlines like “Kingston has surrendered on Obamacare.”

In Tennessee, state Rep. Joe Carr blasted Sen. Lamar Alexander for serving as a key GOP negotiator in the deal to end the partial government shutdown that resulted from House Republicans’ efforts to deny funding for the health care law. Alexander subsequently described himself as a “conservative problem solver,” a characterization that Carr says “typifies how out of touch he is.”

Kentucky businessman Matt Bevin is using a similar line of attack in trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as is Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his primary challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran. Carr, Bevin and McDaniel all say they’d be more like freshmen Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, tea party favorites who pushed the defunding strategy and vexed their longer-serving colleagues.

In Nebraska and Louisiana, Republican candidates who say they oppose the health care law have had to defend their past positions on health care.

National Republicans settled on Rep. Bill Cassidy as their best shot to beat Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. But retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness notes that Cassidy, as a state senator and a physician in the state’s public hospital system, pushed health care policies similar to those in the Affordable Care Act.

“He has to defend his entire record, regardless of how he’s voted in Washington,” said Maness, a GOP candidate who hopes to unseat Landrieu with tea party support.

Midland University President Ben Sasse, one of several Republicans running in Nebraska for retiring Sen. Mike Johanns’ seat, says he opposes the health care law but has had to explain previous speeches and writings in which he was less absolute, at one point calling the act “an important first step” in overhauling American health care.
“This goes right to the bigger fight between the ideologues and the pragmatists,” said Republican strategist Todd Rehm of Georgia, who isn’t affiliated with any of the eight GOP candidates for Chambliss’ seat. Candidates who want to capture the divided Republican electorate, he said, “see that you can’t compromise on any of it. … The moment you start to sound like you’re open to any compromise, you’ve sold out the ideologues.”

Indeed, Alexander, McConnell, Kingston and Cassidy all voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and for symbolic repeal proposals since then. Some in the GOP leadership say the intraparty struggle is only about tactics, not the bottom line. Carr insists that’s exactly the point.

“Their presumption is that tactics don’t matter because the outcome would be the same,” he said. “But it wouldn’t. There wasn’t a single Republican vote that passed the Affordable Care Act, whether we’re talking establishment, tea party, moderate, conservative, whatever. … So if it’s so bad — and it is — the question is why did establishment Republicans not fight to defund it?”

Leaders of national conservative groups, which have been key players in recent Senate elections, say the distinction is an important consideration as they decide endorsements.

“I would say that any candidate who is a vocal opponent of that (defunding) strategy would certainly cause us hesitation,” said Easton Randall of FreedomWorks political action committee. “The burden is on them to explain what they would do differently to achieve a goal we all claim to share.”

So far, FreedomWorks has endorsed McDaniel over Cochran in Mississippi and Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn over Sasse. The group is watching several other races.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, split with FreedomWorks in Nebraska, siding with Sasse. But the fund endorsed Maness in Louisiana, Bevin in Kentucky and McDaniel in Mississippi, among others. DeMint now runs the Heritage Foundation, whose political arm also is monitoring several other races.

Those groups’ recent record is mixed. Democrats are hoping for a repeat of 2010 and 2012 races where the far right groups backed less-viable candidates who lost general elections in Colorado, Nevada, Delaware and Indiana. But the same groups also helped elect Lee, Cruz and Marco Rubio in the presidential swing state of Florida.
At FreedomWorks, PAC treasurer and policy chief Dean Clancy dismissed any notion that his efforts would hurt the party.

“Republicans make a mistake when they try to waffle on these issues or sound like Democrat-lite,” he said

Advertisements

GOP struggle widens as Boehner rebukes hard right

By CHARLES BABINGTON

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican establishment’s much-anticipated pushback against the tea party wing is underway. House Speaker John Boehner made that clear Thursday, when he renewed his denunciation of groups that try to defeat GOP incumbents they consider too willing to compromise with Democrats.

Some Republican loyalists wonder what took so long. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently took steps to help mainstream Republicans in party primaries, but Boehner’s high-profile outburst will move the effort to the GOP’s front burners.

Cheering him on are mainstream Republicans who angrily watched for three years as hard-right groups exercised remarkable clout in the party, the Congress and elections. Tea party-backed nominees helped the GOP win control of the House in 2010, but they also lost several Senate races seen as winnable, keeping the Senate in Democratic hands.

This past summer, uncompromising House Republicans forced a partial government shutdown that damaged the party’s image, just as Boehner warned it would.

Many Republicans also feel conservative activists pushed presidential nominee Mitt Romney so far to the right on immigration and other issues that it eased President Barack Obama’s path to re-election last year.

“The establishment has no choice at this point,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who has criticized the tea party’s growing influence. “So they’re taking them on.”

“To follow these groups is a downward spiral,” Davis said.

Those groups will fight back hard, Davis warned, and it’s not clear which faction will prevail in next year’s midterm elections and beyond. “They’re dug in pretty hard,” he said.

For a second straight day, Boehner criticized groups such as Heritage Action, the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. These Washington-based organizations vary on priorities and tactics. But all have sharply rebuked Republican leaders on key issues. And they have aided insurgent Republican challengers who vow never to compromise with Democrats, even if it means shutting down the government or defaulting on the federal debt.

Critics say the groups chiefly want to raise money by constantly inflaming political activists.

“They’re misleading their followers,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters at the Capitol. “I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.”

The issue at hand was a bipartisan budget plan that makes modest changes in spending levels. It is meant to avert another government shutdown and budget crisis in the near future.

But Boehner’s remarks appeared aimed more broadly at tea partyers who say true conservatives never compromise, and at groups that try to oust established Republicans seeking re-election.

House actions under his speakership, Boehner said, “have not violated any conservative principle, not once.” He then dismissed the activist groups, saying, “I don’t care what they do.”

Some Republicans fear an all-out struggle between the establishment and the tea party wings, saying both factions’ money and energy are crucial to winning elections. But others say tea party excesses leave little choice.

Even after tea party-backed nominees fumbled away likely GOP Senate victories in Delaware, Indiana and elsewhere, the groups continue to target prominent Republican veterans. They include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is seeking a sixth six-year term.

“We can only take so much from these guys that are out there on the ledge,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said. He faces a tea party-backed challenger in his bid for a ninth House term. The Chamber of Commerce, which traditionally has done little in Republican primaries, is airing ads for Simpson.

The chamber also helped defeat a tea party-backed candidate in a special House primary in Alabama last month.

Conservative activists say Boehner and others will regret their moves. Groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth have tens of thousands of followers, said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who has often feuded with Boehner.

“For any Republican to ignore them is dangerous to them electorally,” Huelskamp told reporters. Tea party activists were crucial to the Republicans’ breakthrough victories in 2010, he said. If party elders say, “We don’t need you anymore,” he said, millions of conservatives may sit out future elections.

Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said his group won’t back down. When Boehner writes off the dozens of House members who won’t compromise on tax and spending issues, it means “he’s going to rely heavily on Democrats” to pass legislation, Holler said. That’s bad for conservative principles, he said, and bad for GOP cohesion in elections.

Boehner’s allies say the alternative is worse. When Boehner tries to placate the staunchest conservatives in his caucus, they say, the results are a government shutdown, a major loss on the “fiscal cliff” deal a year ago and other Republican embarrassments.

Sixty-two House Republicans voted against the Boehner-backed budget deal Thursday, requiring dozens of Democratic votes to pass it.

Steve LaTourette, a Boehner friend and former GOP House member from Ohio, said he is heartened by the stepped-up actions by Boehner, the Chamber and others frustrated by tea party tactics. He warned, however, that mainstream Republicans won’t tame the tea party faction without huge amounts of effort and money.

The intraparty struggle, LaTourette said, “is a script that’s yet to be written.”

Rep. Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican who embraces the tea party label, notes that American voters will have a big say in the outcome. He gets along fine with Boehner, Marchant said, but he opposed the leadership-backed budget deal.

“I’m just getting no input from back home that they have any interest in doing this,” Marchant said.

Why imperialism mourns Mandela

By Bill Van Auken

The death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 has touched off a worldwide exercise in official mourning that is virtually without precedent.

No doubt working people in South Africa and internationally pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice demonstrated by the African National Congress leader—as well as thousands of others who lost their lives and freedom—during his long years of illegality, persecution and imprisonment under the hated Apartheid regime.

Capitalist governments and the corporate-controlled media the world over, however, have rushed to offer condolences for their own reasons. These include heads of states that supported South Africa’s apartheid rule and aided in the capture and imprisonment of Mandela as a “terrorist” half a century ago.

Barack Obama, who presides over the horrors of Guantanamo and a US prison system that holds over 1.5 million behind bars, issued a statement in which he declared himself “one of the countless millions who drew inspiration” from the man who spent 27 years on Robben Island.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the standard-bearer of the right-wing Tory Party, ordered the flag flown at half-mast outside 10 Downing Street and proclaimed Mandela “a towering figure in our time, a legend in life and now in death—a true global hero.”

Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, who ordered flags in New York City lowered, and Bill Gates felt compelled to issue their own statements.

What is noteworthy in the sanctimonious blather served up by the media on the occasion of Mandela’s death is the way in which a man whose life is inextricably bound up with the history and politics of South Africa is turned into an entirely apolitical icon, a plaster saint embodying, in the words of Obama, “being guided not by hate, but by love.”

What is it that the capitalist oligarchs in country after country really mourn in the death of Mandela? It is clearly not his will to resist an oppressive system—that is something they are all prepared to punish with imprisonment or drone missile assassination.

Rather, the answer is to be found in the present social and political crisis gripping South Africa, as well as the historic role played by Mandela in preserving capitalist interests in the country under the most explosive conditions.

It is significant that on the day before Mandela’s death, South Africa’s Institute for Justice and Reconciliation issued an annual report showing that those surveyed felt overwhelmingly that class inequality represented the paramount issue in South African society, with twice as many (27.9 percent) citing class as opposed to race (14.6 percent) as the “greatest impediment to national reconciliation.”

Two decades after the ending of the legal racial oppression of Apartheid, the class question has come to the fore in South Africa, embodied in the heroic mass struggles of the miners and other sections of the working class that have come into direct conflict with the African National Congress.

These eruptions found their sharpest expression in the August 16, 2012 massacre of 34 striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana, a mass killing whose bloody images recalled the worst episodes of Apartheid repression at Sharpeville and Soweto. This time, however, the bloodletting was orchestrated by the ANC government and its allies in the official trade union federation, COSATU.

South Africa today ranks as the most socially unequal country on the face of the planet. The gap between wealth and poverty and the number of poor South Africans are both greater than they were when Mandela walked out of prison in 1990. Fully 60 percent of the country’s income goes to the top 10 percent, while the bottom 50 percent lives below the poverty line, collectively receiving less than 8 percent of total earnings. At least 20 million are jobless, including over half of the younger workers.

Meanwhile, under the mantle of programs like “Black Economic Empowerment,” a thin layer of black ex-ANC leaders, trade union officials and small businessmen has become very rich from incorporation onto boards of directors, acquisitions of stock, and contracts with the government. It is under these conditions that ANC governments that have followed Mandela’s, first under Thabo Mbeki and now Jacob Zuma, have come to be seen as the corrupt representatives of a wealthy ruling establishment.

Mandela, who played a less and less active role in the country’s political life, nevertheless served as a facade for the ANC, which traded on his history of sacrifice and his image of humble dignity to hide its own corrupt self-dealing. Behind the facade, of course, Mandela and his family raked in millions, with his children and grandchildren active in some 200 private companies.

The New York Times published an article Friday under the worried headline, “Mandela’s Death Leaves South Africa Without Its Moral Center.” Clearly, there are fears that the passing of Mandela will serve to strip the ANC of what little credibility it has left, opening the way to intensified class struggle.

Concern among capitalist governments and corporate oligarchs over the implications of Mandela’s passing for the current crisis in South Africa is bound up with gratitude for services rendered by the ex-president and ANC leader. In the mid-1980s, when the South African ruling class began its negotiations with Mandela and the ANC on ending Apartheid, the country was in deep economic crisis and teetering on the brink of civil war. The government felt compelled to impose a state of emergency, having lost control of the black working class townships.

The international and South African mining corporations, banks and other firms, together with the most conscious elements within the Apartheid regime, recognized that the ANC—and Mandela in particular—were the only ones capable of quelling a revolutionary upheaval. It was for that purpose he was released from prison 23 years ago.

Utilizing the prestige it had acquired through its association with armed struggle and its socialistic rhetoric, the ANC worked to contain the mass uprising that it neither controlled nor desired and subordinate it to a negotiated settlement that preserved the wealth and property of the international corporations and the country’s white capitalist rulers.

Before taking office, Mandela and the ANC ditched large parts of the movement’s program, particularly those planks relating to public ownership of the banks, mines and major industries. They signed a secret letter of intent with the International Monetary Fund pledging to implement free market policies, including drastic budget cuts, high interest rates and the scrapping of all barriers to the penetration of international capital.

In doing so, Mandela realized a vision he had enunciated nearly four decades earlier, when he wrote that enacting the ANC’s program would mean: “For the first time in the history of this country, the non-European bourgeoisie will have the opportunity to own in their own name and right mills and factories, and trade and private enterprise will boom and flourish as never before.”

However, this “flourishing,” which boosted the profits of the transnational mining firms and banks while creating a layer of black multi-millionaires, has been paid for through the intensified exploitation of South African workers.

The ignominious path trod by the ANC was not unique. During the same period, virtually every one of the so-called national liberation movements, from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sandinistas, pursued similar policies, making their peace with imperialism and pursuing wealth and privilege for a narrow layer.

In this context, the death of Mandela underscores the fact that there exists no way forward for the working class in South Africa—and for that matter, worldwide—outside of the class struggle and socialist revolution.

A new party must be built, founded on the Theory of Permanent Revolution elaborated by Leon Trotsky, which established that in countries like South Africa, the national bourgeoisie, dependent upon imperialism and fearful of revolution from below, is incapable of resolving the fundamental democratic and social tasks facing the masses. This can be achieved only by the working class taking power into its own hands and overthrowing capitalism, as part of the international struggle to put an end to imperialism and establish world socialism.

Source: Click Here

 

The man who taught Mandela to be a soldier

By Penny Dale BBC
Africa, Addis Ababa

In July 1962, Col Fekadu Wakene taught South African political activist Nelson Mandela the tricks of guerrilla warfare – including how to plant explosives before slipping quietly away into the night. Mr Mandela was in Ethiopia, learning how to be the commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe – the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). The group had announced its arrival at the end of 1961 by blowing-up electricity pylons in various places in South Africa. Then on 11 January 1962, Mr Mandela had secretly, and illegally, slipped out of South Africa. His mission was to meet as many African political leaders as possible and garner assistance for the ANC, including money and training for its military wing. And to be moulded into a soldier himself. During this trip, he visited Ethiopia twice and left a deep impression on those who met him during his stay in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

‘Made others laugh’ 

“Nelson Mandela was a very strong and resilient student, and he took instruction well and was really very likeable,” Col Fekadu said. “You couldn’t help but love him.” Col Fekadu was a corporal when he trained Mr Mandela. He was a member of a specialist police force – the riot battalion – based in the suburbs of Kolfe, in barracks which are still used today. He remembers a “happy, cheerful person” who “concentrated on the task in hand”. “He was polite, always happy and you never saw him lose his temper,” he said. “He laughed easily and made others laugh as well.” Col Fekadu says he was responsible for training Mr Mandela in sabotage and demolitions and how to stage hit-and-run attacks. The day’s theory lessons were put into practice during night-time exercises. Mr Mandela was a good student, hardworking and physically strong – but sometimes too robust and too enthusiastic for his own good, the colonel recalls. “Physically he was very strong and well-built. But sometimes during the training he would get ahead of himself.

“And while his intentions were good, that could also be dangerous, and sometimes we had to restrain him a bit for safety reasons.” Col Fekadu had been told to train Mr Mandela by his commanding officer, General Tadesse Birru, the assistant police commissioner who had played a key role in crushing an attempt at the end of 1960 to overthrow Emperor Haile Selassie. He was later executed by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Back in 1962, Col Fekadu did not realise the significance of the South African politician he had been instructed to turn into a soldier. “All we knew was that he was our guest from abroad and that he would spend some time with us,” he said. “Everything was kept very secret. We were kept in the dark.” Mr Mandela was in Ethiopia at the invitation of the emperor, an ardent supporter of Africa’s decolonisation and African unity. At the time, Ethiopia had one of the strongest armed forces on the continent. Its troops were part of the UN peacekeeping operation during the Congo crisis in 1960 and a decade earlier Ethiopian soldiers had fought in the Korean war. And the emperor had invited many other African liberation struggle fighters to be trained on Ethiopian soil. As well as learning how to commit acts of sabotage, Mr Mandela’s military training also included briefings on military science, how to run an army and how to use a gun. He was also taken on long treks carrying his knapsack, rifle and ammunition. This was one of Mr Mandela’s favourite activities during his military training, and he writes about it with affection in his Long Walk to Freedom autobiography: “During these marches I got a sense of the landscape, which was very beautiful… people used wooden ploughs and lived on a very simple diet supplemented by home-brewed beer. Their existence was similar to the life in rural South Africa.”

‘Talkative’

Mr Mandela’s presence in Addis Ababa was supposed to be top secret. But physically he stood out. He was much taller and broader than most of the police cadets. And, as well as going on fatigue marches through the countryside, he would exercise out in the open in the grounds of the barracks. One person who took a particular interest in the tall stranger in his midst was Tesfaye Abebe, who was working in Kolfe as the head of the battalion’s music and drama department. He recalls Mr Mandela running around a big field in the compound – which today doubles up as a running track and a parade ground. “He would do squats and jumping jacks. He followed that exercise routine religiously every morning.” A curious Mr Tesfaye snatched conversations with Mr Mandela when he and his trainer came into the canteen for lunch. “Security was quite tight and we weren’t really allowed to approach him.” But, he says, Mr Mandela was “very friendly and talkative” and explained apartheid to him and how the ANC intended to fight it with guerrilla warfare and political activism. On a couple of occasions, the police band – in which Mr Tesfaye was the pianist – played for Mr Mandela in the officer’s club. “He really enjoyed that. He was really happy when we played for him.”

Mr Mandela’s military training in Ethiopia was supposed to last six months – but after only two weeks he was called back to South Africa by the ANC. He had already spent seven months out of the country – and he was needed back home. As Mr Mandela left Ethiopia, Gen Tadesse presented him with a pistol and 200 rounds of ammunition – a gun that is thought to be buried somewhere on Lillesleaf Farm, where in 1963 other ANC leaders were arrested and sentenced to life alongside Mr Mandela in the famous Rivionia trial. Mr Mandela himself had been arrested on 5 August 1962 – for leaving the country illegally , shortly after his return from his trip around Africa – and still in the military fatigues in which he had been trained in Ethiopia.

Source: BBC

Don’t Sanitize Nelson Mandela: He’s Honored Now, But Was Hated Then

By Peter Beinart December 5th 20137:40 pm followMore Stories by Peter Beinart

If we turn the late South African leader into a nonthreatening moral icon, we’ll forget a key lesson from his life: America isn’t always a force for freedom.

Now that he’s dead, and can cause no more trouble, Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the ideological spectrum as a saint. But not long ago, in Washington’s highest circles, he was considered an enemy of the United States. Unless we remember why, we won’t truly honor his legacy.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan placed Mandela’s African National Congress on America’s official list of “terrorist” groups. In 1985, then-Congressman Dick Cheney voted against a resolution urging that he be released from jail. In 2004, after Mandela criticized the Iraq War, an article in National Review said his “vicious anti-Americanism and support for Saddam Hussein should come as no surprise, given his longstanding dedication to communism and praise for terrorists.” As late as 2008, the ANC remained on America’s terrorism watch list, thus requiring the 89-year-old Mandela to receive a special waiver from the secretary of State to visit the U.S.

From their perspective, Mandela’s critics were right to distrust him. They called him a “terrorist” because he had waged armed resistance to apartheid. They called him a “communist” because the Soviet Union was the ANC’s chief external benefactor and the South African Communist Party was among its closest domestic allies. More fundamentally, what Mandela’s American detractors understood is that he considered himself an opponent, not an ally, of American power. And that’s exactly what Mandela’s American admirers must remember now.

We must remember it because in Washington today, politicians and pundits breezily describe the Cold War as a struggle between the forces of freedom, backed by the U.S., and the forces of tyranny, backed by the USSR. In some places—Germany, Eastern Europe, eventually Korea—that was largely true. But in South Africa, the Cold War was something utterly different. In South Africa, for decades, American presidents backed apartheid in the name of anti-communism. Indeed, the language of the Cold War proved so morally corrupting that in 1981, Reagan, without irony, called South Africa’s monstrous regime “essential to the free world.”.

In South Africa, it was the Soviet bloc—the same communist governments that were brutally repressing their own people—that helped the ANC fight apartheid. In the 1980s, they were joined by an American and European anti-apartheid movement willing to overlook the ANC’s communist ties because they refused to see South Africa’s freedom struggle through a Cold War lens. At a time when men like Reagan and Cheney were insisting that the most important thing about Mandela was where he stood in the standoff between Washington and Moscow, millions of citizens across the West insisted that the ANC could be Soviet-backed, communist-influenced, and still lead a movement for freedom.

They were right. When it came to other countries, Mandela’s leftist ties did sometimes blind him to communism’s crimes. In 1991, for instance, he called Fidel Castro “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.” But at home, where it mattered most, the ANC was a genuine, multiracial movement for democracy. And so the Americans who best championed South African freedom were the ones who didn’t view freedom as synonymous with the geopolitical interests of the United States.

Therein lies Mandela’s real lesson for Americans today. The Cold War is over, but mini-Cold Wars have followed. And once again, American elites, especially on the right, have a bad habit of using “freedom” as a euphemism for whatever serves American power. Thus, American politicians frequently suggest that by impoverishing the people of Iran with ever-harsher economic sanctions, and threatening to bomb them, we are promoting their freedom, even though the people risking their life for democracy in Iran—people like dissident journalist Akbar Ganji and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi—passionately disagree.

Mandela challenged that. Like Martin Luther King, who publicly repudiated Lyndon Johnson’s claim that Vietnam was a war for democracy, Mandela rejected George W. Bush’s idealistic rationalizations of the Iraq War. In 2003, when Bush was promising to liberate Iraq’s people, Mandela said, “All that he wants is Iraqi oil.” When Bush declared Iraq’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons a threat to the planet, Mandela had the bad manners to remind Bush that the only country to have actually used nukes was the United States. Mandela’s message to America’s leaders, born from firsthand experience, was clear: Don’t pretend you are pure.

As with King, it is this subversive aspect of Mandela’s legacy that is most in danger of being erased as he enters America’s pantheon of sanitized moral icons. But it is precisely the aspect that Americans most badly need. American power and human freedom are two very different things. Sometimes they intersect; sometimes they do not. Walking in Nelson Mandela’s footsteps requires being able to tell the difference.