The NAACP hurt poor George W. Bush's feelings
, so he's like, soooo not going to talk with them, because, like, they're soooooo mean to him:
Bush will not be speaking before the 2004 convention, which will open Saturday in Philadelphia
. Bush, during a day-long bus tour through Pennsylvania
, said in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer and two other state newspapers that he "admired some" NAACP leaders and said he would seek members' support "in other ways."
But he castigated the group's officers, who include President Kweisi Mfume and Chairman Julian Bond. "I would describe my relationship with the current leadership as basically nonexistent," Bush said, as reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers. "You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me."
Earlier this week, the White House said the invitation had been declined because of scheduling commitments, and officials said that was the reason cited in the letter to the group. But when asked about the matter by reporters on Air Force One on Friday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan made it clear that a lot more was involved. "The current leadership of the NAACP has certainly made some rather hostile political comments about the president over the past few years," he said.
The NAACP said Bush is the first president since Warren G. Harding not to meet with the group while in office.
Bond has accused Republicans of "playing the race card in election after election." He said they have "appealed to that dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," and "preach racial neutrality and they practice racial division."
Let's first be clear that the Bush campaign isn't simply not going to the NAACP convention, they're deliberately and publicly snubbing the NAACP, and this snub was planned well in advance. The White House and the Bush campaign would have known probably a year ago that the NAACP would be in Philadelphia this weekend, and they would have planned the PA bus trip months ago. Not only did they decide not to go to the convention, they deliberately planned on being in PA at almost the exact time of the convention to draw more attention to the fact that Bush would not appear before the NAACP.
The bigger issue here is that George Bush is effectively saying "screw you" to one of the most prominent and esteemed organizations in America, an organization that is the most important representative of African-Americans and which still leads the fight for civil rights in America. This isn't a failure to send a message to supporters of civil rights, this is a deliberate decision to send a message that, forty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there are still two sides to the debate on civil rights, and Bush is on the side of those opposed to "special" rights for people who aren't white, Christian, and heterosexual. By deliberately blowing off the NAACP four straight years, Bush has signaled that he doesn't view himself as President of all Americans. He's the President of just those Americans who look like him and agree with him. "Two Americas" indeed.
What a stark and depressing contrast between Bush and the only President from Texas not named Bush:
Rather than writing off or catering to the backlash voters in the South, [Lyndon] Johnson chose to confront his co-regionalists
. Johnson calculated that an appeal to Southern gentility would take the sting off of opposition to black progress and sent his Alabama-born wife, Lady Bird, on a train tour of the South. Even so, Lady Bird faced counter-demonstrators and animosity during her tour, including mocking signs demanding "Black Bird Go Home." The tour was to end in New Orleans...Johnson flew out to meet his wife and give a major address in New Orleans. In planning for his appearance, his aides recommended caution...Yet Johnson threw all caution to the wind, and gave perhaps the bluntest address on racial politics ever delivered by an American President. It was the speech of a populist Southerner mourning the sad effects of racism on whites and blacks alike. Rather than listening to those who shouted "Nigger, nigger, nigger!" to win elections, LBJ asked white Southerners to recognize their common destiny with Southern blacks.
Now the people that would use us and destroy us first divide us . . . all these years, they have kept their foot on our necks by appealing to our animosities and dividing us. Whatever your views are, we have a Constitution, and we have a Bill of Rights, and we have the Law of the Land, and two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate voted for it, and three fourths of the Republicans. I signed it, and I am going to enforce it, and I am going to observe it, and I think any man that is worthy of the high office of the President is going to do the same thing. But I am not going to let them build up the hate and try to buy my people by appealing to their prejudice.
Far from soft-pedaling civil rights, Johnson had traveled to the Deep South to deliver the message that the days of Democratic racism were numbered. Would the flag of racial fear be picked up by the opposing party?
The answer, obviously, was yes, and forty years later, George W. Bush is still waving that flag.
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