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February 8, 2006
Post: Bush Reaches Out

The Post reports on yesterday's appearance by President Bush at Coretta Scott King's funeral and provides an analysis that seems more than a little off the mark in its details. Michael Fletcher decides that Bush has finally started reaching out to the black community as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but in the details notes that Bush has "reached out" to the black voters all along -- but chose to bypass the political leadership that had opposed him so bitterly in 2000:

It was the type of eloquent tribute that Americans have come to expect from their president when an iconic figure passes. But the presidential gesture took on added significance because it marks the latest step in the administration's effort to repair its frayed relations with many black civil rights and political leaders.

"President Bush was where he should have been," said Bruce S. Gordon, the new president of the NAACP. "Coretta Scott King is a very important figure in black American history and American history. I thought it was appropriate for the president to be there to honor her."

Bush all but ignored many black civil rights and political leaders during his first four years in office. Instead, he focused on building inroads to African American leaders through the pastors of black evangelical churches and business leaders who were not identified with the traditional civil rights agenda.

Bush became the first president since Herbert Hoover to serve a full term without addressing the NAACP, which many acknowledge as the nation's leading civil rights organization. At the same time, Bush's relations with the Congressional Black Caucus were frosty, contributing to a growing gulf between the administration and black voters.

Fletcher ignores a bit of significant history in this analysis, and comes up with the "growing gulf" characterization out of whole cloth. In 2000, when Bush ran for president, he made a point to speak at an NAACP meeting in order to "reach out" to the leadership. He was rewarded for his effort by an NAACP ad campaign that attempted to pin the James Byrd lynching on Bush, who had resisted hate-crime legislation in Texas. The despicable ads never mentioned that Texas had captured, tried, and convicted the men responsible and sentenced them to death -- underscoring Bush's point about the superfluousness of hate-crime laws. The NAACP just wanted to tar Bush with the lynching to smear him as a closet bigot.

After that ad came out, Bush garnered 9% of the African-American vote, but won office anyway. The NAACP then spent the next five years whining about Bush refusing to visit them. Why should he? They proved to have no appreciation for his earlier appearance, his first attempt to "reach out", and they effectively marginalized themselves with an insulting, degrading, and unfair smear campaign. Bush decided to "reach out" in other directions, bypassing old-line organizations like the NAACP and leaders like Jesse Jackson and instead appeal directly to the communities themselves, through the churches and other organizations. It had a small effect: his share of the African-American vote rose to 11% in 2004.

So much for the "growing gulf".

Bush went to King's funeral because of the stature of her life and the work she accomplished during it. Again, he "reached out" -- and what happened? The political leaders on the left turned the funeral into an embarrassing recapitulation of the Wellstone funeral, using the corpse of King as a soapbox to harangue a President who had simply come to pay his respects. Instead of focusing on a moment of unity, when people from all walks of life and political persuasions could meet and agree that Coretta Scott King had made a positive difference for America, they turned it into a partisan sniping show, with the ever-bitter Jimmy Carter making himself the center of attention, as always.

Some people never learn.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 8, 2006 7:00 AM

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» Media bias on display at WashPost in Coretta Scott King funeral reporting from Sister Toldjah
Tim Graham at Newsbusters reports: The Washington Post downplayed the Wellstone-funeral elements of yesterday’s funeral for Coretta Scott King. The front-page article by Darryl Fears had a bland celebratory headline, and as the article jum... [Read More]

Tracked on February 8, 2006 10:10 AM


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