Bush Greeted by NAACP With Silence and Ironic Applause
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
WASHINGTON — President Bush was met by a near-complete wall of silence punctured only by ironic applause and heckling yesterday as he addressed America’s leading black organization for the first time since taking office.
Offering a bravura performance high on passion and studded with references to the injustices heaped upon black Americans, Mr. Bush sought to conjure an appeal reaching across the political divide.
But members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People heard most of the 45-minute address in stony silence. The audience only came to life when Mr. Bush said: “I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party.” Some shouted “Yeah!” Others cheered.
But Mr. Bush reminded his listeners that it was a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated America’s enslaved blacks.
“I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African-American community,” he said. “For too long my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African Americans wrote off the Republican Party.”
The relationship between the White House and America’s black leaders is dreadful. The botched operation to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina last summer sparked accusations that Mr. Bush was indifferent to the fate of the disaster’s mainly black victims. Before that, Julian Bond, the chairman of NAACP, had described Mr. Bush as appealing to “the Taliban wing of American politics.”
Most American observers say that Mr. Bush’s far-right image among blacks is unfair. He has appointed two black secretaries of state, including a woman, and has shown a greater willingness to hire black Americans than some of his Democratic predecessors.
The core of the anti-Bush case among blacks is that Mr. Bush’s administration has cut anti-poverty programs that disproportionately benefit African-Americans.
[Also yesterday, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which opened voting booths to millions of black Americans, won a 25-year extension from Congress as Republicans sought to improve their standing with minorities before the fall election, the Associated Press reported.
The legislation, approved 98–0 by the Senate after last week’s overwhelming House passage, now goes to Mr. Bush, who told the NAACP earlier in the day that he looked forward to signing it.]