To honor the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-mast and announced he and the first lady will be attending the funeral services. The same respect, however, wasn’t paid for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“President Obama and the first lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events,” White House press secretary Jay Carney announced, according to USA Today. “We’ll have further updates on timing and logistics as they become available.”
The president also ordered that flags at all federal buildings and installations be flown at half-mast until Monday evening.
A month after Thatcher’s April 8 death, the president offered warm words for the “Iron Lady” at a joint press conference with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to The Telegraph.
“Here in the United States, we joined our British friends in mourning the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, a great champion of freedom and liberty and of the alliance that we carry on today,” Obama said.
“Thank you for what you said about Margaret Thatcher,” Cameron responded. “It was a pleasure to welcome so many Americans to her remarkable funeral in the UK.”
Those Americans, however, did not include either the president or first lady. The Telegraph reported:
Significantly, however, those Americans who attended Lady Thatcher’s funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral did not include a single serving member of the Obama administration in Washington. As is so often the case with President Obama, his flowery, grandiose words frequently fail to match his actions. There is a name for this kind of approach – rank hypocrisy.
What about the flags? The lowering of U.S. flags to mark the death of foreign dignitaries is a rare event, according to National Public Radio. It’s generally reserved for those with whom the United States has a special relationship.
But it’s uncommon for the U.S. flag to be lowered in honor of foreign leaders’ deaths. Obama issued a statement of mourning earlier this year after the death of Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, but he didn’t order the lowering of the American flag. In fact, the last foreign dignitary to be memorialized with the flag was Pope John Paul II in 2005.
“What makes Washington’s little acts of thoughtlessness so telling is that they attract more attention than doing the right thing would,” the New York Post wrote after the Thatcher snub.