Bush's Missed Opportunities at NAACP

First it was Karl Rove going before the National Council of La Raza and now President Bush himself has spoken to the NAACP. It’s the latest stop on the Bush Administration’s race-based speaking tour and you have wonder what’s next. Perhaps MEChA or MALDEF?

President Bush had steadfastly avoided the NAACP for six years on the grounds that it was in open opposition to his policies and because of a TV ad in the 2000 campaign that’s widely considered to be the slimiest political commercial in history. But with the midterm elections on the horizon, it seems as if there’s no liberal extremist group that this administration won’t visit.

The guess here is that Bush’s decision to address the group’s national convention in Washington was the idea of “the Architect,” Karl Rove, who likes to see Republicans win at any cost.

Indeed, Mr. Bush was right to accept the invitation because it presented a tremendous opportunity for him to show leadership and to discuss the advantages of his policies for all of the American people. But just as Rove did before the radical group La Raza, Bush approached the delegates of the NAACP with exactly what they wanted to hear.

The crowd wanted an admission of racism. They got it. They wanted the President to pledge his support to signing an extension of the Voting Rights Act. They got it. They wanted a tacit apology for the Republican Party’s having “written off the African-American vote.” They got it.

In return, Bush got very little. When he brought up the subject of school choice, a policy that would benefit African-American children more than any other group, he was booed.

Maybe that’s why Bush chose to pander instead of to persuade. You just wish that he had walked out onto that stage as the conservative “cowboy” that so many of us voted for.

“I chose to speak to you today not because I am seeking your approval, but because you are an important part of America’s future,” the President should have said. “For this great country to grow and prosper, all citizens must recognize where our greatness lies and how we can come together in support of those principles.”

The President should have said: “Many of you in this room—perhaps most—disagree with my party and my policies. That is your right. But if you disagree, it should be from a position of understanding and not through blindly following the lead of certain members of your community who have a vested interest in keeping racial discontent alive.”

Sure, there would have been loud booing at this point.

But the President should have forged ahead: “Because you are African-American does not mean that you must be opposed to the Republican Party, even when it is right. Some of the greatest political thinkers of our day are African-Americans. People like Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Alan Keyes, and J.C. Watts. And that’s not to mention others such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice who have served so well in my administration.”

The crowd might actually be listening by now. The President should have continued: “These great Americans know that the key to success in any community is freedom. The freedom to attend school and college and start a family and work at a business—and someday to own it. The freedom to control your own life without depending on government to do it for you as the other party insists.”

“The values of the Republican Party,” the President should have said, “can lift up your people. But make no mistake; as a leader within your community you have great responsibilities. You must repudiate the gangs and the violent language of gangsta rap. Encourage your young people to stay in school and have children within marriage so those children can grow up with a mother and a father. You must help us break the back of the welfare society that we saw at its worst in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

The President might very well have been booed off the stage, but so what? He would have been honest and he could have walked out that convention center with his head held high.


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