Monday, July 8, 2002

HOUSTON The right-wing conspiracy is operating out of the Department of Justice and the office of White House Counsel, Julian Bond said last night in a keynote address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The NAACP chairman, speaking at the commencement of the 93rd annual national convention of the group, also ridiculed black conservatives, calling them “ventriloquist dummies.”
Mr. Bond, 62, a former Democratic lawmaker from Georgia and a vehement opponent of Republicans, gave the keynote speech last night to a ballroom packed with 4,000 people most of them over 40 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Using the theme of “Freedom Under Fire,” Mr. Bond’s address, and several of those by his predecessors, accused the Bush administration and the Department of Justice of eroding the civil rights of all Americans.
Mr. Bond dismissed President Bush as a fraud, noting the then-presidential candidate’s speech at the NAACP’s 2000 convention in Baltimore included a promise to enforce civil rights laws.
“We knew he was in the oil business,” Mr. Bond said. “We didn’t know it was snake oil.”
In the next breath, Mr. Bond called Attorney General John Ashcroft “a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell.”
Without mentioning names, Mr. Bond said that some of the younger black faces that have begun to surface as challengers to older, established black leaders are simply part of a “conservative constellation” whom he accused of “buying seats at the table of influence.”
Over the past year, upstarts such as Cory Booker, the Yale Law graduate and Democratic candidate who ran for mayor of Newark, N.J., have begun challenging the older guard of black leaders with a new agenda that includes support of school vouchers, which is anathema to liberal groups such as the NAACP.
Mr. Bond also criticized Ward Connerly leader of a “colorblind” effort in California to eliminate racial classification from some government forms calling him “con man Connerly.”
“Oh they are colorblind all right,” Mr. Bond said. “They are blind to the consequences of being of color.”
Texas Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson preceded Mr. Bond to the lectern, calling the Department of Justice a “partisan institution” and noting that the country under the Bush administration has “taken a significant step backward” in issues related to education, health care and the environment.
“If we’re not careful, we will be back beyond the ‘60s.”
She concluded her talk by cautioning the crowd to “be careful who you vote for when you go to the ballot.”
This year’s convention also is scheduled to include speeches from NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Jesse Jackson and several U.S. senators, including Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.
President Bush was invited but declined for the second year in a row.
Ten thousand delegates, spectators, corporate representatives and government employees are expected to attend. The convention ends Thursday.
The group plans to release a report card on state officials and how they have worked to improve flaws and eliminate voter rights abuses. It and other civil rights groups are suing over problems they claim disenfranchised Florida voters.
It also plans to report on its study of how hotels provide business opportunities to blacks and other minorities. The NAACP recently settled a lawsuit with Adams Mark hotels, which it accused of mistreating black guests.

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