01/24/2006 01:36 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reading The Pictures: Laura Bush Meets Africa's Movers And Shakers


This is an Administration that has spared no effort placing its key players in pretty poses with African Americans. (Just as it was no coincidence that Laura Bush was in Africa on Martin Luther King's birthday.) That's because a "blue-to-red" shift in the black vote of even a few percentage points has been one of Karl Rove's highest priorities in establishing his so-called "permanent Republican majority."

However, just like the Bush photos taken with black hurricane survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina looked strained, Mrs. Bush's African portfolio also reveals interesting details. ...And I'm not referring to newswire shots, but the supposedly more flattering images the White House (often stages, then) features on its own site.

Before she left, Mrs. Bush couldn't say enough about the importance of her attendance at the inauguration of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman ever elected as a head of state on the continent of Africa. Given the fact Liberia was founded by former American slaves, and the U.S. has been directing cash in its direction, you would think Laura and Condi would have easily snagged a great snapshot with Sirleaf for Karl's favorite demographic back home.

Somehow, however, things didn't turn out that way. Instead, the best shot available was the one above, capturing the barely recognizable American power figures from behind (or tucked away in the audience). But then, when you compare the Bush Administration's actual track record in Africa to all its trumped up words and promises, it's not surprising Mrs. Bush's African scrapbook leaves much to be desired.

The American Prospect ran an excellent article recently (Promises, Promises - link) exposing the Administration's Africa policy. The U.S. has dragged its feet on its AIDS commitment; unilaterally invented its own outreach programs, undermining or weakening multilateral programs already in place; interjected a pro-family agenda into the AID's fight; minimized condom use in preference to abstinence as an AIDS prevention method; and shown favoritism to big pharma at the expense of making available more lower cost generic drugs to fight AIDS and other diseases.


Given that record, it's no wonder Mrs. Bush failed to score much visual PR with important dignitaries. She did get this shot, however, at the airport in Accra. It shows Laura in the presence of three happy and entertaining Africans proving that, indeed, many African movers and shakers really do sport the colors of Bush's U.S. of A.

For more of the visual (plus more Laura in Africa), visit

(image 1: Shealah Craighead/White House. January 16, 2006. Monrovia, Liberia. image 2: Shealah Craighead/White House. January 18, 2006. Abuja, Nigeria.