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Gary Younge
Foreign trip, domestic gamble

He failed to consult the Congressional Black Caucus, the 38-strong body of black legislators, and then left Nelson Mandela off his itinerary.

"The fact that he's going at all is welcomed," said Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. "But the trip's photo-op nature, and the administration's history of artful visual presentations, and opposition to equity, makes you wonder."

By the time he stood on Senegal's Goree island and branded slavery "one of the greatest crimes of history" his trip had been defined by what he would not say, who he would not meet, and what he would not do.

"It's good that he acknowledged the crime but he refuses to offer the apology," said Salih Booker, of Africa Action, a Washington thinktank. "Five countries in five days is insufficient and inadequate - this is Bush's Africa not Africa's Africa."

But grudging praise suits Mr Bush fine. His trip had two main aims for his domestic audience and neither was to win over black voters. The first was to present a softer and more compassionate image in foreign policy for moderate, white conservatives worried by America's isolation.

The second was to mollify a black electorate which, may not vote Republican but could mobilise against him to great effect.

"A black man voting for the Republicans makes about as much sense as a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders," as the late father of JC Watts, the former Republican congressman who will meet Mr Bush in Nigeria today, once said.

The key question is how many, particularly in key southern states, will turn out to vote Democrat. And that will depend on how angry they are.

Knowing that they are never going to love him, Mr Bush is trying to make sure they don't loathe him.

He is hoping that if he goes to Africa, African-Americans might just stay at home.

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