The audience at the NAACP's annual conference were treated this morning to a rousing, angry address from Vice President Joe Biden, who sang President Obama's praises and implied the fight for civil rights would be revived were Mitt Romney elected president. Here's a little taste of Sheriff Joe's diatribe:
But no matter the warm reception he received, the audience felt decidedly snubbed by Obama's lack of a presence, Buzzfeed reports. Despite their unwillingness to criticize the president outright, there were some grumblings about neglect:
"The people here overwhelmingly supported President Obama, would have loved to have President Obama here. So there's definitely some disappointment about that," said Dedrick Muhammad, director of the NAACP's Economic Department.
[O]ne former Obama administration official noted to BuzzFeed that the move looked like a snub.
"Even considering the politics here, it seems odd that the first African-American President is sending his vice president to address the NAACP national convention in an election year," the official said.
Most of the convention's audience, comprised of black civic leaders, business owners, and community activists, were reluctant to criticize Obama to the press, even as they complained about his neglect off the record — a reflection of a sense of protectiveness among many African-Americans, and an understanding that Obama must at times disappoint.
The best the president could muster was a two-minute video address, in which he reminded the NAACP, "I stand on your shoulders." Furthermore, per the official White House schedule, Obama is in DC and has nothing on the books today, just an interview with PBS' Charlie Rose -- although his excuse to the NAACP was a "scheduling conflict." Thus, it's unclear why he chose not to attend the conference, and seems like he's taking advantage of one of his most stalwart blocs of supporters.
Many have taken notice of Obama's very transparent excuse. Indeed, Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air has a blistering clip of Wolf Blitzer admonishing the president for skipping out on the NAACP:
BLITZER: 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:
ROMNEY [from videotape]: “I’m going to eliminate every nonessential expensive program I can find, that includes Obamacare.”
BLITZER: 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.
Indeed, Obama risks alienating the African-American community; naturally, if they don't feel like their concerns are high on his list of priorities, they'll be less inclined to head to the polls in November. Given the 14.4% June unemployment rate within the community, Obama would do well to reassure the NAACP that he's mindful of their struggles, and that he's focused on delivering a solution. This would have been the perfect opportunity for him to rally a dependable constituency for him, and, as Ed pointed out, it won't be long before Obama's pining for as friendly an audience as he'd have received in Houston today. This was a very strange move on the Obama campaign's part, and it remains to be seen what political payoff, if any, he'll have won by staying home.