- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

The standard-bearers of the civil rights movement this week wrapped up their annual fiery bash in the Big Easy, and what a gathering it was. From the swipes in opening remarks made by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond to the condescending remarks made Wednesday by Hilary Shelton, the organization's director of legislative affairs, it became fairly clear why President Bush was not wanted there. And indeed why he would not want to be there, either.

Mr. Bond set the nasty tone by repeating comments he had made earlier this year, likening Bush appointees to oppressive Islamic extremists and criticizing the president's modest tax-relief package. Mr. Bush has, said Mr. Bond, built "a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich." (That's white folks for those who need a translation.) Mr. Bond also promised to keep "report cards" on members of Congress for the next year. Meanwhile, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who wants to continue fighting the "great fight," reminded attendees that the convention's theme was "Speak Truth to Power," which was interesting considering Mr. Mfume's own disgraceful performance. He spewed a passel of insults at black South Carolina lawmakers calling them "weak-kneed, shifty-eyed, backbending legislators who scratched when they didn't itch and who bent over when they were not in prayer" because they sided with their white counterparts on a compromise during last year's Confederate flag flap, which was instigated by the NAACP.

To be sure, the year 2000 was not a good year for the NAACP, which not only lost the flag war, but also saw its presidential choice, Al Gore, go down in flames. This after the NAACP spent more than $9 million in a widely heralded and historically unprecedented get-out-the-black-vote initiative. So its leaders have good cause to feel, well, defeated even humiliated.

Even so, as Rep. J.C. Watts told this newspaper, the insults uttered this week are "far below the standards befitting an institution as storied and influential as the NAACP. Far from pledge to 'applaud when he is right,' you have sought to distort the Bush administration's record and further divide this nation," he said. Mr. Watts wants to have a sitdown with Mr. Bond. Hear, hear.

Indeed, what's really interesting is that the leaders of the NAACP know they need the Bush administration more than the Bush administration needs them. Furthermore, many rank and file members of the 500,000-strong organization know only too well why the Bush administration is headed toward accountability in public education and why faith-based help is needed when it comes to joblessness, drug addiction and welfare reform. They know because they are hard-working and law-abiding citizens and, in that respect, are no different than white Americans millions of whom also wound up on the losing side of the 2000 elections.

Again, the real significance of these inflammatory remarks, though, is that the NAACP of today has moved far from the inclusionary principles on which it founded. Listen to Mr. Shelton, the NAACP's legislative director, and you'll get the picture. "Mr. Bond was trying to make a clear, distinct point that there could have been appointments who all Americans can rally around," he said. "We have commended the choices of Rodney Paige, of Colin Powell, of Condoleezza Rice."

Ah, there you have it. They have commended the appointments of the office-holders of color. Enough said.

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