All-Star Panel: The lasting legacy of Nelson Mandela

'Special Report' All-Star panel remembers the iconic leader


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 5, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's bring in our panel early tonight, syndicated columnist George Will, Kirsten Powers, columnist for the Daily Beast, and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer. George, your thoughts on Nelson Mandela, his life, and impact.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, in the second half of the 20th century and two nations, racial difficulties became racial crises -- the United States and South Africa. And in both amazingly the moment called forth the man. In the United States was Martin Luther King who had one great advantage that Mandela did not have.

Martin Luther King could connect aspirations to the vocabulary of the American public philosophy, the natural rights philosophy of the declaration in which he could say our racial practices are discordant with our principles. Mandela didn't have quite that to fall back upon, which makes his achievement particularly remarkable, because what could have been Algeria, that a simmering war of savagery became a peaceful transition in most unpromising circumstances.

BAIER: Kirsten, you heard President Obama's remarks about Mandela.  He has referenced Mandela before, many times, says that he's an inspiration to him. You wonder if there are leaders out there like Mandela to be had anymore.

KIRSTEN POWERS, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I mean, Mandela is in the category of Martin Luther King, Jr. Those type of people don't come along very often. And there's many remarkable things about him, but in particular, when you consider how he was treated as a captive and then he comes out.  You know, for 18 years of his captivity, he was only allowed to see one person a year for 30 minutes.

He was allowed to send, I think, one letter and receive a letter every six months. Most of us would have gone crazy. And certainly, by the time we left, hated the people who kept us captive, and yet, here he was, this gentle, peaceful man who led a reconciliation process where even the people who perpetrated human rights violations were given amnesty in return for coming clean.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He's remarkable in three ways. The first as Kirsten just indicated was the stoicism and the courage that he showed as a captive. That makes him incredibly admirable but not unique. There are others -- prisoners of war, prisoners of conscience from John McCain to Natan Sharansky who similarly were heroic in their captivity.

What makes him unique is that the two things he did when he rose and became a leader. The first is the reconciliation. He preached no hatred for those who had oppressed and the contrast that one might want to look at is Zimbabwe, which is a country that shows where South Africa could have gone where the Black leaders there who came to power and made war on the whites and destroyed the country.

Mandela understood. He took the example of Chile with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where anybody who tells the truth about what happened is given amnesty. Nobody ends up in jail and that was exactly the right answer. And the last thing he did, which was utterly remarkable, is after five years in office, he steps down. That's George Washington. That does not happen often in Africa or anywhere.

He never took the power to his head. He never was intoxicated by it. And the example he set is extremely unusual and the probably most lasting that he will leave to his country.

BAIER: More with the panel, what impact Nelson Mandela had on the world, what impact here in the U.S., plus, the Reverend Jesse Jackson after the break.

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