Monday, July 14, 2003

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Republicans appeal “to the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality,” NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said yesterday at the civil rights group’s 94th annual convention.

“They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division … their idea of reparations is to give war criminal Jefferson Davis a pardon,” Mr. Bond said during his welcoming remarks. “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side.”

Mr. Bond, who in a 2001 speech compared conservatives to the Taliban, never specifically used the term Republicans but made the comments about those who control the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court.

“We are and always have been nonpartisan … but being nonpartisan doesn’t mean being noncritical. And it doesn’t even mean criticizing all parties equally. If the Democrats were doing anything, we’d criticize them, too,” Mr. Bond said.

Mr. Bond, a former Democratic state legislator in Georgia, also attacked President Bush’s tax cuts, saying Mr. Bush signed a “death warrant for social programs for decades and decades to come.”

He promised that if Hispanics and blacks vote in that the same rate as they did in 2000, “the no-show National Guardsman in the White House and his draft-dodging vice president will lose by 3 million votes,” referring to Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

For the past several decades, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been a mainstay of support for Democrats. It is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, a group headed by Kweisi Mfume, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland. It is seen by those on the right as an agency of liberal advocacy.

On Saturday, Mr. Mfume addressed reporters by chastising those Democratic presidential contenders who don’t appear before the group this week.

“We expect that Democratic candidates who want to influence the African-American vote will be here,” Mr. Mfume told reporters at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Democratic presidential candidates who have cited scheduling conflicts and will not attend include Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina and Reps. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.

“If they don’t want to appear, well, we’ll have more to say on that later,” Mr. Mfume said.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and John Kerry of Massachusetts, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton are scheduled to appear at a Democratic presidential candidates forum today.

Mr. Bush has refused to appear at the group’s annual summer convention since he was elected, frustrating NAACP leaders.

“It’s a little ironic that the president would go to Africa to meet with black leaders but he won’t meet with black leaders here in the United States,” Mr. Mfume said.

The last time Mr. Bush spoke to the group was 2000, when he was the governor of Texas and a presidential hopeful.

“The night before last, I went back and read his comments, which were absolutely on point,” Mr. Mfume said. “He said, if I might paraphrase, that ‘the party of Lincoln was the party of civil rights.’ That ‘we had not always stood on the right side of history but the party of Lincoln had an opportunity to rectify that and to be different.’

“We’re still waiting, in many respects, for some of the rectifying to take place.”

The convention runs though Thursday. On Wednesday, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is scheduled to participate in a meeting of NAACP officials and Caribbean representatives.

The meeting is seen as an invitation to controversy in a region where Haitians are split on the conduct of Mr. Aristide, who was put into office with the blessing of many black leaders in the United States.

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