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Bush and the NAACP:
Holy Falease: Bush Snubs NAACP Again!

For fourth consecutive year, Bush nixes opportunity to address NAACP Convention, leaving many to ask is there room in his administration for opposing views?

By Peggy Butler

When George W. Bush became the first president since Warren G. Harding to snub the NAACP, he took pains to point out that his grievance was not against the nation's oldest civil rights organization, but ranking members who criticize him unfairly. Pointing to a litany of verbal assaults, Bush said his relationship with leaders of the NAACP is "basically nonexistent" and maintains he has been ridiculed.

In noting Bush's comments, he was referring to remarks made by NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume and Board Chairman Julian Bond, a civil rights activist notorious for his candor. Speaking at the 2003 convention in Miami, Bond said the "Republicans idea of equal rights is the American flag and swastika flying side by side."

Not surprisingly, the former Georgia legislator's remarks at this year's convention were equally terse when he accused the GOP of playing the race card during elections. \"They preach neutrality and practice racial division" Bond quipped. Mfume whom many feel is less contentious than Bond compared the snub to prostitution.

"We're not fools. If you're going to court us, court us in the daytime, but not like we're a prostitute where you run around at night or behind closed doors and want to deal with us, but not want to deal with us in the light of day." As expected, the remarks set off a flood of criticism, initiating a new chapter in this on-going controversy.

The rift between Bush and the NAACP began four years ago when he was running for president and accepted an invitation to attend the organization's annual convention. During his speech in which he admitted that the Republican Party has not been friendly towards Blacks and the NAACP, Bush received a smattering of applause. However, that display was quickly squelched by a controversial ad.

The ad reportedly ran by a group loosely associated with the NAACP implied that Bush who was then governor of Texas was unsympathetic to James Byrd, the 49- year old Black man who was dragged to death by three White men in 1998. Since then Bush has refused to go into what many conservatives dub a "hostile environment."

The consensus among bipartisan observers is that the NAACP and President Bush have valid reasons for maintaining their positions. Addressing the concerns of the NAACP, they noted that regardless of whether the majority of members voted for him, Bush represents all of the people and not just those who share his views. They further noted that when a major organization invites the president to speak and he refuses, based on what he calls bias criticism.

He should put on his armor of courage and show the world that he isn't afraid to go one-on-one with an association that disagrees with his policies. After all, this president invaded Iraq because he felt that Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent threat" to the United States. And although the decision was met with opposition, Bush contends he "did the right thing." Thus, if he's that tough, then he's tough enough to withstand the political heat of the NAACP.

Assuming a more realistic attitude, some Blacks say Bush's reasons for snubbing the NAACP may have less to do with criticism and more with political factors. Polls show that fewer than 26% of African-Americans approve of Mr. Bush's job performance, with 9 out of 10 saying they will vote for John Kerry in the November election.

Touting news of an economic recovery, if Bush had chosen to speak at the NAACP, he would have had to explain why the unemployment rate for African-Americans is 10.1%, twice the rate of non-Blacks. Why the jobless rate for Black teens is more than 32.5%, compared with 15.7% for Whites and 19.7% for Hispanics. He would have to explain why some Blacks feel disenfranchised under his administration, as opposed to his predecessor who appointed more minorities than any chief executive in history.

However, in his defense, supporters maintain that the appointments of Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Education Secretary Rod Paige are proof that Bush does not have issues with people of color. But some political observers argue that having three prominent Black Republicans in your administration does not indicate that you are concerned about issues pertinent to people of African ancestry.

Thus, when viewed from that aspect, it is clear why the president would not want to stand before thousands of NAACP delegates and tell them how his policies have affected minorities since he took office. Still, the administration maintains it's all about taunts, criticism and name-calling.

As for President Bush, while the NAACP may not agree with his policies, experts contend they should respect the office of the presidency regardless of the individual at the helm. And in analyzing this controversy, which I've tried to present from both sides, it should be noted that the president has a choice as to which organizations he chooses to address.

Likewise, members of the NAACP agree that Mr. Bush has no moral obligation to attend the convention, however, they feel that since the president likes to talk about \"equal opportunity and equal rights for all Americans\" he should practice what he preaches. It should also be noted that one of the Republicans' much-touted strategies for the 2004 election is increasing the party's appeal to African-Americans. Unfortunately, President Bush missed a golden opportunity to capitalize on that concept.

© 2004 by Afro Staff

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