An L.A. Times editorial yesterday says:
Bush’s address to the NAACP convention was a model of cautious conciliation. He had notoriously snubbed the NAACP throughout his first term, the first president since Warren G. Harding not to speak to the group. The NAACP’s leadership wasn’t exactly playing nice with the Republican Party, either; former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond memorably referred to the “the Taliban wing” of the GOP in 2001 (he spoke before 9/11). Still, given candidate Bush’s rebuke in 2000 of Republicans who avoided the NAACP, it seemed petty for him to do just that as president.
So the editors make it sound like the only thing the NAACP ever did to Bush was this: pre-9/11, Bond referred to a small part of the GOP as the Taliban wing of the GOP.
But in fact, Bond also spoke after 9/11, and referred to the Republican party as the Taliban wing of all American politics. And that’s hardly the only reason Bush would have a grudge against the NAACP. The group has a history of running unfair ads against him and actively opposing his election as president.
Let’s start with the Julian Bond comment. In July 2001, Julian Bond first made the Taliban wing comment. But he repeated the comments in June 2004. From a June 3, 2004 CNS new story:
In remarks to hundreds of cheering liberal activists Wednesday, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond singled out Republicans as enemies of black Americans and compared conservatives to the terrorist Taliban who once ruled Afghanistan.
“Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side,” Bond told a cheering audience. “They’ve written a new constitution for Iraq and ignore the Constitution here at home. They draw their most rabid supporters from the Taliban wing of American politics. Now they want to write bigotry back into the Constitution.”
Like the June 2004 comments, the July 2001 comments referred, not to a Taliban wing of the GOP, as the editors claim, but rather to Republicans in general as being “the Taliban wing of American politics.”
The editors speculate about why Bush hasn’t met with the group before:
Maybe part of the reason Bush was so reluctant to speak before the NAACP was that he feared unfavorable comparisons to his predecessor, whose lip-biting, eye-welling empathy regularly drew shouts of “Amen!”
The editors also leave out the obvious reason Bush refused to meet with the NAACP in the past: the organization actively fought him in his two presidential elections. After Bush met with the group in 2000, the NAACP ran an unfair ad blaming him for a racist murder in Texas, and the NAACP’s chairman has explicitly called for the group to unseat Bush in 2004. As I explained in December 2004, when the president met with NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume:
An AP story reported in July 2003:
The leader of the NAACP [Julian Bond] criticized President Bush and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, for challenging race-conscious admissions in colleges and vowed to work to unseat the president in 2004 . . . [Bond] also said the group intended “to uproot the bigger ‘Bush’ in 2004.”
As I have previously argued, those comments were a clear violation of IRS regulations preventing tax-exempt organizations like the NAACP from engaging in “political activities” — a term that expressly encompasses “activities that encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate, even on the basis of non-partisan criteria.”
Given the organization’s history of hostility to Bush, it’s no surprise that he refused to meet with any of the group’s representatives until now. After all, meeting with them in the 2000 election didn’t do him much good. Two months later, a (non-tax-exempt) arm of the “non-partisan” NAACP ran an advertisement carrying the NAACP logo which unfairly linked Bush to the racially motivated dragging death of a black man in Jasper, Texas.
It’s really no mystery why Bush chose not to meet with the NAACP in the past, and the editors shouldn’t pretend like it is.