The Buzz

December 6, 2013

BUZZ: When Strom met Nelson

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

As Congress began weighing impeachment hearings against President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal in late September 1998, South African President Nelson Mandela brought a respite to the political tension during a visit to Washington where he received the Congressional Gold Medal.

But Mandela was not the only diversion. South Carolina's venerable senator, Strom Thurmond, brought a little added levity to the ceremony in the Capitol, according to news reports.

From The New York Times:

The ceremony included a beaming, unscripted intrusion by Strom Thurmond, the Senate ancient who arrived here more than four decades ago as a segregationist Democrat and survives as a 95-year-old integrationist Republican. He toddled forward and held up Mr. Mandela's hand, as if the destroyer of apartheid was the greater champ in the planet's crusade against racism.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution added that Mandela's reaction to having his arm raised by Thurmond was how his life sometimes made him feel "like the heavyweight boxing champion of the world."

There were no reports of Thurmond's reaction or reasoning for raising Mandela's arm.

Anyway, the picture kind of says it all.

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