Earlier today on The Situation Room on CNN, Wolf Blitzer told viewers:
Here is something I’d like to say to President Obama: You should have attended the NAACP convention in Houston today. Mitt Romney did. It was the right thing to do. The Republican knows the nation’s oldest civil-rights group isn’t exactly friendly turf but went anyway. On the whole, got a polite reception, but was booed when he said this: [from videotape] “I’m going to eliminate every nonessential expensive program I can find, that includes Obamacare.” Despite the boos, it was a smart political move for Mitt Romney to address the NAACP. He knows he is not going to win over a lot of black voters, but attending these kinds of events is important in reassuring a lot of the suburban white voters that he is a moderate, decent politician, someone that wants to work with all Americans. I’m surprised the president was a no-show. He is sending Vice President Joe Biden, will send a video. I checked the president’s schedule for today. He is here in Washington, D.C., over at the White House. He’s got meetings. I assume those meetings are very important. but he could have found time to pay his respects to the NAACP. The president should not take the African-American vote for granted. Let’s not be under any illusions. He received 95% of the black vote four years ago. He’ll do almost as well this time around for sure. But his problem is voter turnout. The president needs excitement, he needs enthusiasm in the African-American community, especially in the battleground states he carried in 2008. Fewer African-Americans may go to the polls this time. They might not vote for Romney, but might not show up, especially now that black unemployment has risen to 14.4%. It’s a lot higher than the 8.2% for all Americans. So in my opinion, the president missed an opportunity today. My bottom line is this: Romney did the right thing on this day, the president did not. Now some folks will disagree with me, Kate. That’s just me offering my sense of what’s going on.
I think Blitzer noticed something that’s been missed by a lot of people who are just reporting that Romney was booed for mentioning he’d repeal Obamacare: Mitt Romney gave a quality speech, with confidence, to a group that’s not exactly debating its endorsement. And, once he was booed, he hit some kind of stride. I harbor no delusions about Romney running away with the black vote, but maybe, just maybe, he made some progress there today when he said:
I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president. I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of color — and families of any color — more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I would not be running for president.
Or when he said:
If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, black families could send their sons and daughters to public schools that truly offer the hope of a better life. Instead, for generations, the African-American community has been waiting and waiting for that promise to be kept. Today, black children are 17 percent of students nationwide – but they are 42 percent of the students in our worst-performing schools.
Our society sends them into mediocre schools and expects them to perform with excellence, and that is not fair. Frederick Douglass observed that, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Yet, instead of preparing these children for life, too many schools set them up for failure. Everyone in this room knows that we owe them better than that.
The path of inequality often leads to lost opportunity. College, graduate school, and first jobs should be milestones marking the passage from childhood to adulthood. But for too many disadvantaged young people, these goals seem unattainable – and their lives take a tragic turn.
Many live in neighborhoods filled with violence and fear, and empty of opportunity. Their impatience for real change is understandable. They are entitled to feel that life in America should be better than this. They are told even now to wait for improvements in our economy and in our schools, but it seems to me that these Americans have waited long enough.
The point is that when decades of the same promises keep producing the same failures, then it’s reasonable to rethink our approach – and consider a new plan.
As Blitzer noticed, it was respectful. He even got a standing ovation — a Republican, at the NAACP convention — besides the applause he received for his commitment to defend traditional marriage. And he was just a little Romney unleashed. If he keeps this up, he might just be our next president.