What did Cheney say about Nelson Mandela?

A viewer asked this question on 7/30/2000:

I read where Dick Cheney was not supportive of the ANC and Nelson Mandela who served 27 years in prison. I am an African American. I feel uncomfortable with Dick Cheney. Below is the article I read:

What are your thoughts about Dick Cheney?

On ABC's ``This Week,'' Cheney defended his 1986 vote against a resolution that called for U.S. recognition of the African National Congress in South Africa, freedom for the organization's then-imprisoned leader Nelson Mandela and negotiations with the black majority.

``The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization,'' Cheney said Sunday. ``It was a step that we simply weren't prepared to take.''

Now, Cheney says he believes the ANC has ``mellowed'' and Mandela is ``a great man.''

``He deserves an enormous amount of credit for the transformation of South Africa,'' Cheney said ``But I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.''

madpol gave this response on 7/31/2000:

It wasn't just a matter of one vote. Cheney was an advocate of "constructive engagement," (i.e. backing out of the worldwide boycott of resource rich South Africa.)His change in attitude has less to do with "blowing with the wind" than with accepting a fait accompli.

The recommendation below is for a book that has nothing to do with Cheney. It's an "Alternate History," in which the South wins the Civil War, due to the intervention of time travelers and ends up abolishing slavery anyway. It's a good look at the internal and international pressures for abolition during the period and gives a chilling picture of just how crazy the Boers are.

I recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh perspective on the Civil War.

JesseGordon gave this response on 7/31/2000:

Here's some details of the actual votes that Cheney voted on with regards to South Africa:

1) In 1986, he voted against a sense-of-the-House resolution calling on the white-controlled government in South Africa to free Mandela.

2) He voted against measures that sought to ensure the application of a variety of US civil rights laws.

3) He voted NO to imposing South African sanctions over Reagan veto in 1986.

In short, even if he DID believe that Mandela was a "terrorist," he could have voted on the 2nd and 3rd issues. So Cheney's "opposition to apartheid" was pretty weak, no matter what.

And for the record, I was involved with South Africa protests at the time of Cheney's votes (I was in college then; we took over some buildings to demand divestiture). I assure you that no one considered Mandela a "terrorist" except the most right-wing fanatics -- it was obvious to anyone familiar with the situation that he was a political prisoner.

My thoughts about Cheney in general are that he is indeed "changing" his views for political expediency, in particular on issue like these. I can understand why he'd have voted hard-line on gun laws and abortion, because he came from a very conservative state and wanted to represent them well. That's ok -- Gore says the same thing about his early votes in Congress. It's also ok to say, as Cheney does, that many of his votes were cast under conditions of a budget deficit, and would be different today under a budget surplus.

What's NOT ok (i.e. is hypocritical) is to say that his votes were "a long time ago" without any explanation as to WHY his views differ now. That makes it obvious that his "views" now are simply the same as Bush's for the convenience of not explaining his differences.

Anyway, here are some sources:

1) Cheney's views on everything at;

2) Cheney on Mandela at and

3) Gores' explanation of his changing views since the 1980s in Congress at

4) Gore's biography, including changing views since Congress, at, especially the "Principles" section.

DRobe65483796 rated this answer:

Thank you, appreciate your answer.

JesseGordon gave this follow-up answer on 8/2/2000:

Despite your citation that Cheney now considers Mandela "a great man," he said on the record (in Monday's L.A. Times) that he would not change his Congressional vote on Mandela, i.e., still does not agree that Mandela should have been released from jail.

The quote:
Cheney also said he would no longer vote against funding the Head Start preschool program or tuberculosis vaccinations for children. He also said he no longer opposes funding the Department of Education. On the Equal Rights Amendment, Cheney said he'd support it if the Pentagon was not required to draft women. One former stance Cheney said he would not change was his 1986 vote against a non-binding House resolution on Nelson Mandela.

Citation: m

stevehaddock gave this response on 7/30/2000:

Well, some other people have changed their minds in the past, and it is up to you to determine whether Cheney is sincere, or is just turning with the wind. It has been my experience that a politician who has opinions, even if he changes them, is a better bet than a politician who simply goes whatever way the wind is blowing.

As for the mistakes of the past:

Abraham Lincoln called blacks "n
* gg*rs" in private and was often heard to remark that he didn't think blacks were the intellectual equals of whites. Still, he never dropped his support for the abolition of slavery and died after promising blacks in the United States equal citizenship with whites.

James Longstreet was Lee's second in command at Gettysburg. After the war, he vowed to support the cause of blacks and became one of the leading Republicans in the South. When whites rioted and overthrew the Republican government in New Orleans, Longstreet led the troops that tried to resist the white dominated forces.

The leading slave trader in Richmond, VA realized he was in love with his black slave mistress and, shortly after the Union occupation, married her - probably the first interracial marriage in Virginia, which later banned the practice. His family also sold his old prison to blacks wanting to build a school when no other white in Richmond would.

A viewer asked this follow-up question on 7/30/2000:

Just want to say that Abraham Lincoln was not really in favor of abolition of slavery. He only went along with it to preserve the Union. If he could, he would have still had slavery, but he knew it would be detrimental to keeping the Union. Also Lincoln and his wife owned slaves.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also had slaves.

Thank you for your reply.


stevehaddock gave this response on 7/31/2000:

Abraham Lincoln is one of those guys who gets short shrift in history class. The idea that Lincoln only went along with abolition to keep the union together is a myth.

In the famous speech ("If I could maintain the union by abolishing slavery..."), most quotes leave out the last line, that Lincoln's compromises with support of slavery were only political. He stated quite clearly on that occasion that his personal belief had always been that slavery was wrong and should be abolished. At the time, he was trying to promise that his personal beliefs wouldn't get in the way as his job as President.

Indeed, the reason why Lincoln was made the Republican nominee over Seward was that many abolitionist republicans felt that Seward's support of abolition was politically motivated, while Lincoln's views on the subject were well known. In speeches prior to becoming president, Lincoln almost always supported equal rights for blacks.

Moreover, in his private correspondence, Lincoln always revealed a tremendous repulsion over the institution of slavery that was stronger even than his public pronouncements. Lincoln traveled in the south and saw slavery first hand, including the brutal slave trade. It is clear these experiences left an impression on him.

Still, by the standards of today, Lincoln would have been considered racist. However, in his political life, he put aside these feelings and dealt with blacks as equals - something no American at the time dared do and few whites after Lincoln dared do either.

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