Too Little, Too Late

The Washington Post reports

After six years in office, President Bush has agreed to address the NAACP at its annual national convention in Washington, the White House announced yesterday.

With the appearance, Bush will avoid becoming the first president since Warren G. Harding to snub the predominantly black organization throughout his term.

One has to wonder if President Bush made the decision to address the NAACP after reading this article in the New York Times

Starting after President Bush’s re-election in 2004, the [Republican] party chairman, Ken Mehlman, filled his schedule with appearances before black audiences. He apologized for what he described as the racially polarized politics of some Republicans over the past 25 years. And the White House, in pressing issues like same-sex marriage to appeal to social conservatives, was also hoping to gain support among churchgoing African-Americans.

There has been no end to speculation about what the party was up to. Was it simply a ploy to improve the party’s image with moderate white voters? Did the White House see an opportunity to make small though significant changes in the American political system by pulling even a relative few black voters into its corner in important states like Ohio? (Yes, and yes.)

But as Mr. Bush is tentatively scheduled to speak at the N.A.A.C.P. convention in Washington this week — after five years of declining to appear before an organization with which he has had tense relations — it seems fair to say that whatever the motivation, the effort has faltered.

Mr. Mehlman’s much-publicized apology to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People seems to have done little to address the resentment that built up over what civil rights leaders view as decades of racial politics practiced or countenanced by Republicans. One example they point to is the first President Bush’s use of the escape of Willie Horton, a black convicted murderer, to portray his Democratic opponent in the 1988 election, Michael S. Dukakis, as soft on crime.

That perception of Republicans as insensitive to racial issues was fed again by the opposition mounted by some House conservatives to an extension of the Voting Rights Act. The House approved the extension last week.

“I have heard Ken Mehlman talk about the Republican Party as the party of Lincoln,