Jewish World Review July 23, 2004/ 5 Menachem-Av, 5764


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A Matter of Principle | Two summers ago, while attending a Sunday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium, my two sons received a lesson about the dregs of society that they'll never forget. It was a Yanks-Red Sox slugfest, and as usual Nicky and Booker wore BoSox caps as well as Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez T-shirts. During the third inning, a well-dressed man a few rows back from us, soused from too many beers, spied my wife's Boston hat and screamed a slurred torrent of obscenities at her. I sprung from the seats and confronted the toad, contributing to a mini-scene in Section 18; my boys followed me and defended their mother's honor. The stadium's security men were soon there as well, and immediately escorted the drunk from the premises.

Now, say by chance I met up with this guy at another game and he offered to buy me a beer. Would I accept? Dumb question. And that's why President Bush, to the absurd consternation of countless editorial page writers, refused to address the NAACP's annual convention last week.

It was a matter of principle.

The Sun (July 13) and Los Angeles Times (July 9) were typical in criticizing Bush for skipping the alleged nonpartisan organization's conference. At least Baltimore's daily, unlike its sister Tribune Co. property, had the decency to acknowledge that NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said that Bush treats black voters like "prostitutes." The L.A. Times, in asking "Why Snub the NAACP?", was typically disingenuous in editorializing that "[r]elations with the NAACP have not been terribly warm since Bush became president," without explaining why.

Mfume — a one-time valuable Maryland congressman who lost his marbles when he chucked a promising career to lead the racist NAACP — told Washington reporter Hazel Trice Edney earlier this month that Bush is "prepared to take us back to the days of Jim Crow segregation and dominance."

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, who justifiably rose to prominence at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, has turned into a bitter old man, as his tenure with the organization has proved. A year ago, Bond told the group that Republicans appeal "to the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality." Two years earlier, Bond claimed that Bush catered to people from "the Taliban wing of American politics" and that his cabinet was comprised of individuals "whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."

That was probably news to Colin Powell, Rod Paige, Mel Martinez, Spencer Abraham, and Elaine Chao, among others.

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In fact, Paige, Bush's secretary of education (and also a lifelong NAACP member), wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week: "I have a message for the NAACP's Julian Bond and Kweisi Mfume, who have accused black conservatives of being the 'puppets' of white people, unable to think for our-selves: You do not own, and you are not the arbiters of, African-American authenticity."

There are some in-your-face conservatives who argue that Bush made a political mistake by not attending the NAACP convention, claiming he would profit from the guaranteed catcalls and hostility that would interrupt his speech. Maybe so, but it wouldn't be honest. Just as Sen. John Kerry would turn down an invitation to speak before an anti-abortion rally, there was no point for Bush to address such a hateful audience. When you're accused of embracing the values of the Confederacy and advocating a return to segregation, it does the country no good at all to rebut such delusional charges.

Kerry scurried to the Philadelphia convention on July 15 once Bush declined, delivering his standard stump speech — his Vietnam service, tax hikes for the wealthy, the vague promise of comprehensive health care — with a few demagogic flourishes meant for this particular audience. The following bit was particularly caloric: "W.E.B. Du Bois talked about the two Americas years ago. He called it 'a nation within a nation.' John Edwards and I have talked about that divide for many years now."

Say what? I'm sure Edwards doesn't mind that the temporary master of his political future now freely appropriates the North Carolina senator's signature phrase as his own, but it's condescending patter that ought to shame Kerry. As should this outright lie: "Don't tell us that in the strongest democracy on Earth, a million disenfranchised African-Americans and the most tainted election in history is the best we can do." More "tainted" than 1960, Mr. Kerry, when your hero John F. Kennedy bested Richard Nixon in a battle of rustling up the votes of dead or bribed men and women?

And here's a line that wouldn't go over well with the affluent Democrats on Wall Street who've donated so generously to Kerry's campaign. "Did you know that right now your tax dollars are being used to ship jobs from Philadelphia and Baltimore, Detroit and Boston overseas? That's inexcusable. When I am president, no longer will American workers have to subsidize the loss of their own jobs."

If it's a Thursday, in front of a black audience, it's time for Kerry to wear the protectionist caps he borrowed from Dick Gephardt and Pat Buchanan.

Bush, who will address the Urban League on July 22, isn't likely to tally more than single digits of the black vote. Nevertheless, his repudiation of the anachronistic NAACP is hardly a slap at an influential minority. Rather, it's a refusal to play politics as usual and dignify lies that are told about him.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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