This writer has been a dues-paying card-carrying member of the NAACP for almost two decades now. What follows may be colored by that (sorry about the pun).
The basic story broke last weekend –
Bush Criticizes NAACP's Leadership
Relationship With Rights Group 'Basically Nonexistent,' President Says
Mike Allen, The Washington Post,
Saturday, July 10, 2004; Page A05
YORK, Pa., July 9 -- President Bush said Friday that he has a "basically nonexistent" relationship
with the NAACP's leadership and he refused for the consecutive fourth year to speak to the group's national convention.
Bush's assessment of his relationship with the nation's largest civil rights organization was a sharp reversal from
his rhetoric during his last campaign. Then he spoke to the group's convention as part of an effort to show he was a different
kind of Republican and said that "there is much we can do together to advance racial harmony and economic opportunity."
will not be speaking before the 2004 convention, which will open Saturday in Philadelphia.
Bush, during a day-long bus
tour through Pennsylvania, said in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer and two other state newspapers that
he "admired some" NAACP leaders and said he would seek members' support "in other ways."
But he castigated the group's
officers, who include President Kweisi Mfume and Chairman Julian Bond. "I would describe my relationship with the current
leadership as basically nonexistent," Bush said, as reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers. "You've heard the rhetoric and the
names they've called me."
They hurt his feelings?
No, they didn’t show him the proper respect. They disagreed with
Some perspective -
Let's first be clear that the Bush campaign isn't simply not going to the NAACP convention, they're
deliberately and publicly snubbing the NAACP, and this snub was planned well in advance. The White House and the Bush campaign
would have known probably a year ago that the NAACP would be in Philadelphia this weekend, and they would have planned the
Pennsylvania bus trip months ago. Not only did they decide not to go to the convention, they deliberately planned on being
in Pennsylvania at almost the exact time of the convention to draw more attention to the fact that Bush would not appear before
The bigger issue here is that George Bush is effectively saying "screw you" to one of the most prominent
and esteemed organizations in America, an organization that is the most important representative of African-Americans and
which still leads the fight for civil rights in America. This isn't a failure to send a message to supporters of civil rights,
this is a deliberate decision to send a message that, forty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there are still
two sides to the debate on civil rights, and Bush is on the side of those opposed to "special" rights for people who aren't
white, Christian, and heterosexual. By deliberately blowing off the NAACP four straight years, Bush has signaled that he doesn't
view himself as President of all Americans. He's the President of just those Americans who look like him and agree with him.
It is, thus, a message
to his base.
Also from the Post -
Earlier this week, the White House said the invitation had been declined because of scheduling
commitments, and officials said that was the reason cited in the letter to the group. But when asked about the matter by reporters
on Air Force One on Friday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan made it clear that a lot more was involved. "The current
leadership of the NAACP has certainly made some rather hostile political comments about the president over the past few years,"
The NAACP said Bush is the first president since Warren G. Harding not to meet with the group while in office.
Bond has accused Republicans of "playing the race card in election after election." He said they have "appealed to
that dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," and "preach racial
neutrality and they practice racial division."
Oh heck, Bond and Mfume
are still grumpy about Ted Olson and that University of Michigan case. And Bush
and Ashcroft speaking at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where interracial dating is strictly forbidden. And Ashcroft saying his political hero is Robert E. Lee. They seem to take this stuff seriously.
But there is a larger question.
Bush can win easily without the black vote, and without the gay vote - he doesn’t need them.
really, depending on voters who know what it is like to be insulted, to be disrespected, and see Bush as they guy who just
won’t put up with that. Bush is making himself into a kind of hero to the
common man here – the person people wish they had the courage themselves to be, but cannot. Bush can smirk “Like I need YOU?” to the NAACP. And
Cheney can tell the senior senator from Vermont, on the floor of the Senate, to go fuck himself. And people cheer, or that’s the theory on how to win in November.
Is this approach to the
election planned? Is it instinctual? That’s
hard to say, and frankly it doesn’t matter much. It simply works.
has been said about how odd it is that Bush is seen as “the common man” while John Kerry is seen as a rich, removed,
elite patrician sort. Bush’s antecedents are a president (formerly the
VP and head of the CIA and an ambassador) and a senator (Prescott Bush) and a long line of bankers and financiers (the Harriman
and Walker families). And we’re talking major money here. Kerry is the son of diplomat, schooled in Switzerland as a kid, who speaks a number of foreign languages
fluently and who is married to one of the richest women in America, who herself is sophisticated and brilliant in her own
way. Both went to Yale. Both were
in the famous, and socially elite, Skull and Bones. Neither guy is exactly Joe
So how does Bush pull it off?
Bush laughs at how he did so badly in school. He barely slid by. Folks can relate to that.
doesn’t hide that he was drinking heavily and not doing much of anything before he turned forty. And look at him now. Folks like that – he pulled himself
up from all that.
And Bush does the visuals – he bought that Crawford ranch in Texas just before the 2000 election
and hangs around down there in jeans and a work shirt, clearing brush. The press
is kind enough to not mention how recent an addition that is to the Bush family holdings, and how unlike the rest of the Bush
residences. Folks relate to working around the yard.
But most importantly,
think of the present times. The world now seems, at least over the last almost
three years, a far more dangerous place and complex place than we ever imagined. Any
number of peoples hate us, or our policies, or both - and murderously so. And
it is not getting any better. Much of the rest of the world distrusts us - questioning
our motives, and our actions, and often, even our intelligence (in both the military and general sense). Our list of allies grows thin, as they say.
What to do with this complexity? Simplify it. Good and evil.
With us or with the terrorists. Enough has been said on that. Is this way of thinking cynically planned to win the next election?
Is it instinctual? That’s hard to say, and frankly it doesn’t
matter much. It also simply works.
Kerry offers complexity of thought
and consideration of various options. For “the common man” this is
far too dangerous. And he resents it.
And the key to all this is playing
on resentment. What’s this NAACP snub about? Imagine you’re a regular guy crossing the street in the city on your lunch hour, worried about your
mortgage and your kids and the bills and your taxes and all that stuff. You see
next to you a tall black man in a three thousand dollar tailored suit, with his fancy attaché case, talking on his cell phone
to someone about a bank merger or such stuff. You seethe with resentment. Because of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Affirmative Actions and the 1964
Civil Rights Act and all the rest of what the Democrats said was the right thing to do, there he is, and you cannot remember
where you parked your ten-year-old tinny Civic. That’s what the NAACP snub
is about. Saying fuck you to the whole business.
What happened in Bangkok,
over in Thailand, this last week? The international AIDS (SIDA) conference. And that too is another political stage for the same drama. The politics of resentment.
What has been staged for the American voter? First, we sent only on quarter of our usual array of doctors. Many
papers will not be read or discussed. The folks excluded were, you see, going
to present studies that were just plain wrong. What would those be? Papers suggesting anything about the use of condoms in preventing disease, and papers with any direct or
indirect data or sponsorship from family planning groups that might have, at some time, offered abortion counseling. But we will participate vigorous on the panels discussing drug therapies for AIDS,
to protect the patents on the drugs developed here, to make sure our pharmaceutical industry isn’t undermined by cheaper
versions of these drugs. Business is business.
You see, folks are uncomfortable with all these people dying, and with many of them being those odd and awful gay folks. And all this costs so much! Our meager
participation in the Bangkok conference? A message to the uncomfortable, resentful
American voter – our guys, and Bush, are saying in-your-face, you losers! There
are a whole lot of votes in that message.
Why vote for this guy? Because
he doesn’t shit for anybody – and lives our fantasy life. It’s
a Walter Mitty thing. Kerry has no clue how to counter that.
now is the guy who doesn’t have to explain anything. He just does what
you wish you could do, if you had the balls and weren’t such a damned coward.
He knows you’ll lap it up. You love it, secretly or not.
September 14, 2003 Opinion: Leadership, Management Theory and Saying You're Sorry or That You Need Help for a bit on that.
When Bob Woodward was interviewed by Mike Wallace on Sixty Minutes regarding Woodward's
research on the book he wrote about George W. Bush, Woodward made some interesting comments.
Woodward said Bush told
him that when Bush chairs a meeting he often tries to be provocative. When Woodward asked him if he tells his staff that he
is purposely being provocative, Bush answered: "Of course not. I am the commander, see? I do not need to explain why I
say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something,
but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
… The issue is one of temperament. On one end
of the scale you have the "I'm the boss and you're not" school of leadership. On the other end you have the "We're
all in this together so let's figure out how to make this work” school of leadership. One assumes unquestioning
obedience while the other assumes the leader draws on all the available resources and shapes some sort of plan everyone can
pretty much agree to.
The next national election may be a matter choosing between two leadership/management approaches.
"We're all in this together so tell me what you think and what your ideas are…" - not words that come naturally
to the current leadership. And I wonder if those who will vote in the next national election think those are words any leader
I still wonder.