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July 19, 2006
Check The Temperature In Hades

George Bush will finally make an appearance at the NAACP national convention Thursday evening, after five years of snubs by the White House:

After six years in office, President Bush has agreed to address the NAACP at its annual national convention in Washington, the White House announced yesterday. ...

With the appearance, Bush will avoid becoming the first president since Warren G. Harding to snub the predominantly black organization throughout his term.

The president's change of heart followed a change in the NAACP's leadership. Bruce Gordon, the new president, is a former telecommunications executive who is more moderate than his predecessors.

"Yes, they have political disagreements," Snow said, but "Bruce Gordon . . . and the president have good relations."

So why now? The civil-rights organization has been anything but civil to Bush. He addressed the national convention before being elected to the presidency, but the NAACP repaid him by equating him with the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas in the 2000 campaign. The Washington Post fails to mention that episode in its review, but it does note some others. Julian Bond, who has gotten increasingly shrill over the years, claimed that Bush represented the "Taliban" wing of the GOP. The group did so much politicking against Bush in 2004 that it risked its tax-exempt status.

Bush wants to help the party get closer to African-Americans, however, and that makes the NAACP event a must, even if the audience will be hostile -- which hardly seems in doubt. Bush says he wants to defend his record of creating opportunity for African-Americans, but he's probably aiming to just survive the night in good humor. It fits with Bush's personality that he would at some point want to face the challenge head-on.

The change in management has to have helped. Bruce Gordon probably talked him into making the appearance, and I suspect that Ken Mehlman pushed it as well. He got a lot of flack during his outreach to African-Americans at the White House embargo on the NAACP. This will alleviate that particular criticism.

Will it change any minds or make Bush's numbers increase? Almost assuredly not. In the end, I think that Bush didn't want to leave office as the only president since Harding not to address the group at its national conventions. It's good for both Bush and the NAACP to get together, regardless of the outcome.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 19, 2006 10:01 PM

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