Undaunted by the drizzling rain, South Africans and international dignitaries gathered Tuesday morning at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg for the official memorial of former President Nelson Mandela. Crowds danced, shook their umbrellas, and blew plastic vuvuzela horns, generating a celebratory mood while honoring the anti-apartheid icon many there called "Tata," or "Father."
Memorial congregants also offered a warm and receptive welcome to another country's first black president, Barack Obama, whose speech lauded Mandela for teaching us "the power of action, but also ideas." MSNBC's Adam Serwer and Daily Beast's Nico Hines both called the speech "one of his best." The Washington Post and The Guardian both provided full texts of that address, which prompted Guardian's Alexandra Topping to opine, "Whatever Obama's faults, his oratory skills are unmatched in modern politics." Colleague Jonathan Freedland was also a fan: "Worth taking time to read the text of Obama's remarkable eulogy at #MandelaMemorial." Education editor Alice Woolley agreed: "Worth reading every word."
The memorial also provided the setting of the handshake heard round the world, or so Twitter would make it seem. ABC foreign editor Jon Williams shared a contentious twitpic (c/o Reuters) capturing the moment Obama shook hands with Cuban president Raul Castro. "Quite a moment," Williams called it."Trust @Reuters to capture what may well be the best picture of *that* handshake," tweeted Barry Malone at Al Jazeera English. Spanish publication El Pais shared a similar shot while Michael Skolnik also twitpic'd that photo opp when it appeared on his TV.
It didn't go over well with conservative media, to say the least, and the backlash triggered Daily Kos political writer Jed Lewison to tweet, "HealthCare.gov must be working, because Fox is attacking Obama for a handshake." Journalists also spot trouble ahead for Obama's party: "Stuff that doesn't play well in Florida," observed Salena Zito with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, while freelance journalist Micheline Maynard pondered, "How will Florida react?"
Still, The New Yorker's Jon Anderson reflected, "Be nice to see more often."
And speaking of Obama, soon he will be joined by ex-Bill Clinton aide John D. Podesta. As the founder and former president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Podesta has been in a unique position to gently chide the president from afar, which may make him just what Obama needs to regain public approval in the wake of his administration's recent controversies (including the NSA scandal, which more than 500 of the world's leading authors recently decried). "Podesta to the rescue?" wondered Michael Tackett with Bloomberg News. "Podesta in as WH counselor -- big big move. First outsider with heft to force change. Tilts WH a bit left too," Politico's Glenn Thrush observed. "Podesta and [Phil] Schiliro; seems like old times at the White House," remarked John Schwartz at the New York Times.