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.