- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2013


“The boy wasn’t supposed to take his swag to South Africa.”

Those were the first words out of Big Mama’s mouth when asked what she thought of President Obama’s eulogy of Nelson Mandela.

“Whatever he said might’a been true and inspirational for young folk who haven’t lived through what Mandela lived through,” she said. “But what’s dat saying, ‘A picture’s worth a thousand words?’ Well, Lordy, there were several pictures, and those pictures of him hammin’ and thinkin’ who knows what with that lady, you know, that disrespectful Dane, well, dat wasn’t right.”

” ‘Inappropriate,’ as you reporters would say,” she added.

Big Mama said she has seen presidents do many shameful and embarrassing things in recent decades, since she bought a television to keep a watchful eye on Bill Clinton.

“Now that boy needed a lotta eyeballs keepin’ track o’ him,” Big Mama said. “Seemed every time Hillary or them Secret Service guys turnt their backs, Bill was sniffin’ out women trouble. Look at all that mess he and his family jewel box made with that little girl Monica.”

And it wasn’t just latter-day presidents or Democrats that Big Mama said shame-faced their families and their nation.

She mentioned Thomas Jefferson and his regular hankerings for slave Sally Hemmings, and Warren G. Harding, a scoundrel of the Republican sort, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died in 1945 in the company of Lucy Mercer, his “social” secretary, with whom he began an affair 30 years earlier.

And Jack Kennedy?

“If you’re trying to get a rise outta me,” Big Mama said, “mention that Kennedy again.”

“The devil you bring him up for?”

Barack Obama is in a “whole ‘nother basket of eggs,” she continued.

“The boy traveled halfway ‘round the globe to honor Nelson Mandela, and he knew that day was comin’,” Big Mama said. “That man was old and had been sick for a longtime, months. So the boy knew.

“He knew Bush, bless his heart, would be there, and he knew the wives and Michelle would be there. And you know what? He knew those other presidents and high-level folk would be there, too.

“That some ‘social’ situation had him and the Dane lady sittin’ together wasn’t no coincidence,” she said, punctuating that last sentence with not only a rocking of her chair and folding of her arms, but a “humph” from deep inside her belly.

Understand what Big Mama, unable to vote much of her adult life, saw on Tuesday.

As the son of a Kenyan father and American mother, Mr. Obama eulogized a man widely considered an important political figure with a forgiving soul. So although Mr. Obama had set foot on the continent of his father many times over, Tuesday’s visit was also to pay homage to his ancestral lineage.

In South Africa, this American president of undeniable African heritage, greeted, cheek-to-cheek or hand-to-hand, other heads of government, including Cuba’s Raul Castro, incensing multitudes.

And he drew incredible shame by misbehaving not only in public but while seated next to Michelle, the mother of his undeniable offspring.

Taking a selfie with the “Dane lady” Helle Thorning-Schmidt, whose title is prime minister of Denmark, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is one thing, and for sure theirs’ was inappropriate behavior in such a setting.

That he and the “Dane lady” carried on as if they were merely two childish school kids was indeed “unconscionable” — a word that did not roll easily off Big Mama’s tongue.

“I saw those pictures of them on your website,” she said, referring to The Washington Times photo gallery of the Mandela service.

“That boy was smellin’ hisself and sniffin’ her, too. The pictures don’t lie. And poor Michelle, she did what any red-blooded mama would have done,” Big Mama said.

“She was quiet at first, making sure she was actually seeing and hearing what she thought she was seeing and hearing, then Michelle made one simple but important move,” Big Mama said.

“She sat between the boy and the Dane lady.”

That’s what my mother would do if she saw us kids misbehaving or acting inappropriately.

My mother would separate us, quicker than we could say, “See what happened was …”

As it happens, America’s first lady spends far more time with America’s little ladies, Sasha and Malia, than the president does, and while Daddy’s little girls might not bicker as much as other siblings, there likely have been sisterly disagreements that called for a mother’s intervention.

Big Mama said she suspects Michelle gave Barack a “talking-to” as soon as the doors were shut tight.

Wouldn’t be surprising at all, she said, since women often have to define and redefine parameters, especially when children misbehave.

Is hanky-panky too strong a word for the behavior of the president and the “Dane lady”?

“Ain’t that a question for Michelle?” Big Mama asked. “That’s what my eyes saw, but she’d probably call it flirting.”

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]



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