RNC Chief's Planned Speech to NAACP Called a 'Mistake'

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The decision by Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman to address the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Milwaukee, Wis., Thursday, is a "mistake," according to a conservative black activist who added that the NAACP is sure to use whatever statements Mehlman makes against him.

"It's a waste of time because the NAACP for the last 40 to 50 years has proven to be part of the elite, white, racist Democratic Party," said Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, president of the Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny (BOND).

Despite those ties to the Democratic Party, Peterson said "[the NAACP has] tried to present the Republican Party as a racist organization run by white men who want to keep black folks down."

The relationship between the NAACP and the Bush administration has been strained since 2000, when the organization argued that Bush and the Republican Party had stolen the presidential election. Bush has refused to speak to the NAACP for each of the five years he's been president, the first chief executive since Republican Warren Harding in the 1920s not to meet with the group.

On Sunday, NAACP President Julian Bond again went on the offensive.

Bush "likes to talk the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk," Bond told NAACP members gathered at the group's 96th annual convention in Milwaukee, criticizing the White House and Republicans in Congress for allegedly trying to reverse civil rights gains.

Bond also left little doubt about whom he was referring to when he alleged that "the enemies of justice and fair play" were trying to "steal the just spoils of our righteous war."

John White, director of communications for the NAACP, told Cybercast News Service that Mehlman will be treated respectfully when he addresses the civil rights organization.

"The NAACP has a history of receiving all visitors with respect, and we expect Mr. Mehlman to be received in that manner," White said. "The appearance of both (Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard) Dean and Mehlman fit into this convention because a major issue is voting rights and the importance of voting."

He added: "We think it is important that our delegates and other convention-goers hear from both of the major political parties about the issues they consider important."

But Peterson said if he were a representative of the Republican Party, he "would not go into an alliance with [the NAACP]. It's a pure set-up."

Tara Wall, director of outreach communications for the Republican National Committee (RNC), disagreed with Peterson's assessment, saying that Mehlman would be speaking about the direction of the Republican Party.

The RNC will be working to find common ground with the NAACP and trying to increase the Republican vote among African Americans, Wall said. "I think it is very significant, and I think it's going to go a long way in growing and expanding our party.

"We can't call ourselves a true majority if we don't bring more African Americans home to the party of Lincoln, and that is really the goal. It is a positive step forward," Wall told Cybercast News Service.

In 2004, President Bush won 11 percent of the black vote, up 2 percent from 2000.

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