Democrats & Liberals Archives

A House Divided

John Kerry addressed the 95th annual NAACP convention Thursday and used the opportunity to contrast himself with the president - the simple difference between being there and not being there, along with the deeper significance of our representatives working to find common ground.

When you’re president, you need to talk to all the people – and that’s exactly what I intend to do. I will be a president who truly is a uniter, not one who seeks to divide our nation by race, riches or any other label.

President Bush refused an invitation to speak to our nation's oldest civil rights organization for the fourth year in a row. Bush campaigned in 2000 as a compassionate conservative and a Washington outsider who would seek to unite the country rather than divide it further with partisan politics, yet when faced with a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this, he allowed a grudge to override his campaign sense instead.

Certainly, the vast majority of African American voters are Democrats. Yes, the NAACP has been highly critical of this administration and has called Bush's presidency illegitimate. This would only add to the impact of his appearance, though. As long as he came with a genuine effort to reconcile differences, whatever alleged political trap that may have been laid would be rendered ineffective, if not offensive.

His campaign officials have promised they are going to compete for Black voters and Bush is scheduled to speak with the Urban League, but to have ignored the NAACP throughout his term appears uniquely inconsiderate. President Bush has reconciled with President Chirac of France and Chancellor Schroeder of Germany, two of his most bitter opponents to our invasion of Iraq, yet he can't bring himself to face the NAACP?

For Kerry, it's obviously not a bold move to speak to the NAACP. An equal move on his part might be speaking to the US Chamber of Commerce whose president, Tom Donohue, had threatened if Kerry chose Edwards as his running mate, the organization would abandon neutrality and fight against the Democratic ticket. This doesn't take away from the political worth of accentuating the point, though: George Bush may say he wants to unite America but his actions aren't in line.

Kerry, on the other hand, has shown he can gain support both ends of the political spectrum on issues he is generally perceived to be weak such as business and national security. Kerry has managed to get support from the business community. A group of executives endorsed Kerry earlier this month, and he has already gained the support of Warren Buffet, the nation's second richest man who has been lauded for his investment savvy. Kerry has done this while still maintaining a connection with labor. Kerry has shown steadfast support of organized labor even though it was an affront to his own party and it denied him the chance to speak to the US Conference of Mayors. And the Florida Professional Firefighters have endorsed Kerry adding to his labor support while highlighting the first responder aspect of homeland security. His other positions on national security have been bolstered by support from a group of prominent retired admirals and generals, including two former Joint Chiefs chairmen and Wesley Clark, of course.

Bush may claim to be a uniter but Kerry's actions speak stronger. He can attack Kerry's credibility but his own is on the line. And he may hide from his most vigilant detractors but Kerry will be there to point it out.

Posted by Joseph Briggs at July 16, 2004 9:09 AM