- The Washington Times - Friday, July 16, 2004

The White House yesterday called the Urban League a more constructive civil rights organization than the NAACP, which is why President Bush will visit the former after snubbing the latter.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday reiterated that the vehemence of the NAACP’s attacks on the president, which include likening him and his party to racist murderers, “snake-oil salesmen” and the Taliban, make any meeting pointless.

“It really is disappointing to see the current leadership continue to repeat the hostile rhetoric that they have used, which really shows that they are not interested in a constructive dialogue,” Mr. McClellan said.

He added that the Urban League, by contrast, is interested in “having a constructive dialogue.” So Thursday in Detroit, Mr. Bush will address the organization’s convention for the second consecutive year and the third time overall.

The Urban League did not return calls for comment yesterday.

By speaking to the Urban League, which focuses more on economic opportunity than politics, Mr. Bush hopes to appeal to blacks by emphasizing pragmatism over ideology. His faith-based initiative, for example, allows inner-city churches to provide certain government services to the disadvantaged.

Mr. McClellan yesterday rattled off a long list of initiatives implemented by Mr. Bush to help black Americans, including school vouchers and a Justice Department ban on racial profiling. He added that the president’s tax cuts also have aided black families and small businesses.

Every other sitting president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has addressed at least one NAACP annual convention.

Mr. Bush’s only contribution to the Philadelphia convention was his response to a questionnaire issued by the group, in which he was asked about a host of issues such as affirmative action, the death penalty and hate crimes. On most of those issues, his long-stated public stances differ from the NAACP’s.

But relations between Mr. Bush and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have been hostile for years — Mr. Bush said last week that his relationship with NAACP leaders is “basically nonexistent” — and the White House hit back yesterday.

Education Secretary Rod Paige, who is black, joined Mr. McClellan, himself accusing NAACP leaders of “hateful and untruthful rhetoric about Republicans and President Bush.”

“I have a message for the NAACP’s Julian Bond and Kweisi Mfume, who have accused black conservatives of being the ‘puppets’ of white people, unable to think for ourselves,” he wrote, with the approval of the White House, in a Wall Street Journal column headlined “Naked Partisans.” “You do not own, and you are not the arbiters of, African-American authenticity.”

It was a reference to Monday’s remark by Mr. Mfume, president of the NAACP, that black supporters of Mr. Bush are “ventriloquists’ dummies.”

That same day, Mr. Bond implored members of the group to defeat Mr. Bush in the November election. The chairman of the NAACP also told the convention that the Republican Party appeals to the “dark underside of American culture.” Mr. Bond also compared Mr. Bush to a “snake oil” salesman and accused Republicans of “playing the race card in election after election.”

In 2000, the NAACP sponsored a political ad that quoted the daughter of truck-dragging victim James Byrd as saying Mr. Bush’s stance on a hate-crimes bill was “like my father was killed all over again.”

Mr. Bond has said Republicans “draw their most rabid supporters from the Taliban wing of American politics, and now they want to write bigotry back into the U.S. Constitution.” He also has referred to Republicans as “neo-fascists,” “a crazed swarm of right-wing locusts” and “the white-people’s party.”

Yesterday, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry addressed the NAACP’s Philadelphia convention and won cheers by mocking Mr. Bush for his absence.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also was unimpressed.

“George W. Bush’s appearance at the National Urban League is too little, too late,” said the DNC’s William Marshall. “The fact that Bush will become the first U.S. president since Herbert Hoover who has snubbed the NAACP says much more than a last-minute scheduling detour for political damage control.”

Mr. McClellan said Mr. Kerry would reverse much of what the Bush administration has done to help blacks, describing the Massachusetts Democrat as “someone who voted against marriage penalty relief, who voted against expanding the child tax credit, who has called for raising taxes on small-business owners — many of whom are minority small-business owners.”

Mr. McClellan said the Democrat also “opposes leveling the playing field for faith-based organizations that have a proven record of helping people in need — many people in low-income neighborhoods who need that help.”

Mr. Paige went much further, deriding NAACP leaders as Bush haters.

“How ironic that they would direct this vitriol at a president who has appointed more African-Americans to high-profile posts, has committed more funds to fight AIDS in Africa, has championed minority homeownership, and has supported more trade and aid for African and Caribbean nations than any other administration,” he wrote.

His column also contained a rare rebuke of Mr. Bush’s predecessor.

“Through his education policies alone, President Bush has done more for the African-American community than any previous president, including the so-called ‘first black president,’ Bill Clinton,” he wrote. “That’s a secret some black leaders may not want millions of African-American voters to know.”

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