President to Address NAACP Tomorrow

President to Address NAACP Tomorrow

After six years in office, President Bush has agreed to address the NAACP at its annual national convention in Washington, the White House announced yesterday. White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president will appear before the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights group tomorrow after years of trading rhetorical jabs with its leadership. “I think the president wants to make the argument that he has had a career that reflects a strong commitment to civil rights,” Snow said at a news conference.

With the appearance, Bush will avoid becoming the first president since Warren G. Harding to snub the predominantly black organization throughout his term.

The president’s change of heart followed a change in the NAACP’s leadership. Bruce Gordon, the new president, is a former telecommunications executive who is more moderate than his predecessors. “Yes, they have political disagreements,” Snow said, but “Bruce Gordon . . . and the president have good relations.”

The NAACP was among the organizations that strongly challenged the results of the Florida balloting in the 2000 election that was ultimately decided in Bush’s favor. A few years later, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond referred to far-right members of the Republican Party as “the Taliban wing.” Former NAACP president and chief executive Kweisi Mfume routinely criticized the administration’s policies.

When Bush declined the group’s invitation to speak at its 2004 convention, he explained the snub, saying, “You’ve heard the rhetoric and the names they’ve called me.”

And let’s not forget this NAACP ad during the 2000 campaign:

I’m Renee Mullins, James Byrd’s daughter. On June 7, 1998 in Texas my father was killed. He was beaten, chained, and then dragged 3 miles to his death, all because he was black.

So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.

Such a despicable organization doesn’t deserve to be legitimated by the toadying of the president of the United States. If the president’s acquiescence this year is truly an olive branch in hopes that the current leadership of the NAACP will behave honorably, then this is a worthwhile gesture. If it’s simply a political move done in hopes that NAACP supporters will be more sympathetic to Bush, it’s almost certainly in vain.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ussjimmycarter says:

    President Bush has lost his soul and his mind! What is he thinking going to speak to this leftist/communist organization? We need a new President or Laura needs to give our’s back his stones now!

  2. Tano says:

    “Such a despicable organization…”

    Thanks for the clarity Mr. Joyner. We now know exactly the kind of person you are on these issues.

  3. McGehee says:

    Thanks for the clarity Mr. Joyner. We now know exactly the kind of person you are on these issues.

    Yes — one who judges people and organizations not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

  4. Rick Nowlin says:

    Of course, the right wing tried to counteract the NAACP in the 1960s, so that attitude should come as no surprise (in fact, it was practically driven underground in several Southern states during the civil-rights movement). On top of that, it sponsored a voter-registration drive in 2000 and everyone knew just where those votes weren’t going, and it took abuse from GOP politicians for doing that. I think African-Americans in general and the NAACP in particular know who their enemies are.

  5. The real question is if Gordon represents an opportunity for the NAACP to put the ‘advancement of colored people’ above subservience to the democratic party. If the new head of the NAACP really wants to see where the organization can find common ground, make advances on those issues and agree to disagree on the other issues, then this is a good move and in character for Bush. If this is an opportunity for a rhetorical ambush, then it is just business as usual and Bush gets burned for trying to reach out.

  6. legion says:

    Bush is always there to reach out to the uber-rich, regardless of the color of their skin…

  7. Wow, I hadn’t realized until reading these comments that Republicans were so dominant in the South during the civil rights movement. Time to rewrite those textbooks.

    But seriously, it’s one thing to go back and forth about political and philosophical differences. It is entirely another to argue from historical ignorance and it all gets rather tiresome. But hey, there’s always the ad hominem attacks to liven things up from the dreadfully tedious work of putting together a solid argument based upon facts and generally recognized principles of logic.


  8. Rick Nowlin says:

    I didn’t say Republicans; I said conservatives. Conservatives in the South left the Democratic Party and joined the Goldwater-led GOP beginning in the 1960s in part due to their opposition to civil rights. Anyone, especially on the political right, who believes that most African-Americans are simply going to “make nice” with folks who they know basically hate what they stand for must be using some kind of hallucinogenic substance.

  9. McGehee says:

    Conservatives in the South left the Democratic Party and joined the Goldwater-led GOP beginning in the 1960s in part due to their opposition to civil rights.

    They joined the Republicans because of opposition to civil rights? The same Republicans who, more than Democrats in the then-Democrat-dominated Congress made possible the passage of the Civil Rights Act? Those Republicans?

  10. spacemonkey says:

    The Republicans hated blacks so much, they wanted to give them the ability to be disenfrsanchised.

    Then Democrats on the other were merely protecting them from the impending disenfranchisment that would occur after franchisement.

    Plus the Dems hadn’t yet realized how many votes entitlement programs would snag them.

  11. Austin,

    I have no idea where you found the straw for your argument.

    Yes the republicans were instrumental in passing the civil rights legislation. Yes, if they were playing minority party politics then, like the democrats are today, the civil rights legislation would never have been passed.

    Believe it or not, prior to FDR, the black vote was a monolithic GOP vote (something about slavery, civil rights amendments, democrats suppressing black votes, etc.).

    I remember a quote by JC Watts about the difference in being a black politician in the GOP vs the democrats. Basically it was that when the GOP asked a black politician to a political dinner, they generally were asking him to speak at the dinner. The democrats preferred their black politicians to remain quiet.

  12. 1. To be pedantic, Mr. Nowlin, you didn’t write Conservative, you wrote right wing, which, let’s be honest, indicates a prejudice that’s tough to hide in and of itself.

    2. Nice to know you have an enemies list. Such lists have such a fine pedigree.

    3. The most basic problem you have seems to be what psychologists call projection.

    4. There’s an old aphorism that seems apropos here with respect to what people just know: “It ain’t what people don’t know that’s the problem, it’s what they know that just ain’t so.”

    With that, I hereby retire from the sport of mud wrestling.

  13. OK, so after not appearing before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for five years, Bush has tentatively agreed to speak to the group on Wednesday in what aides said was the latest White House effort to improve relations with African-American leaders. Whatever!

    I don�t get why it is so important for N.A.A.C.P. officials to lobby for Mr. Bush to speak to the group. We already know Mr. Bush and what Mr. Bush stands for. They (The NAACP) could have spent the time developing strategies to rebuild African-American communities with the billions of dollars African-Americans waste each year on useless products, rather than relying on government to fix everything.

    The Washington Post reports, With the appearance, Bush will avoid becoming the first president since Warren G. Harding to snub the predominantly black organization throughout his term. After Katrina, Iraq, and years of Bush, why should the N.A.A.C.P. care about Bush�s place in history?

    I guess in the big picture of things a new President of the United States or a new President of the N.A.A.C.P. for Black-America makes little difference.

  14. Rick Nowlin says:

    It’s amazing to see how much denial the political right is in when it comes to its own sordid history on racial issues.

    Here is the truth, responding to McGehee: The South was solidly Democratic up until the 1960s but of course also chock full of segregationists. When the Democratic Party began agitating for civil rights, Barry Goldwater came down South preaching “states’ rights,” which Southerners wanted to hear. After the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 — President Johnson supposedly said prophetically, “I have just lost the South for a generation” — numerous Democratic politicians, Strom Thurmond the first, began switching to the GOP. The pro-civil-rights Republicans have basically been pushed aside.

    To answer Mr. Austin, we all know that “conservative” and “right-wing” now are virtual synonyms; however, today’s political right is not at all “conservative” in the classic sense.