After five years of frosty relations between the White House and the NAACP, the civil rights organization's new president, Bruce S. Gordon, has met with President Bush twice in the past three months -- and at the second meeting, just this week, he brought eight other black leaders with him.
The continued, widespread anger in the African American community about Bush's lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina is certainly one factor in the White House's new outreach effort.
But another factor is Gordon himself, a former Verizon senior executive, who is apparently willing to indulge Bush in his passion for secrecy.
Gordon and his colleagues have spoken in only the most general terms about what transpired during their closed-door meetings with the president.
Here's the ASCENT Blog take on this (which we expect to, by next week, blossom into a Blackpolicy.org editorial).
First, Froomkin's quick draw tip on Gordon's professional past as a Verizon exec is no mere reference point. Gordon is a former senior exec to a ... please - the leading telecommunications company on the continent and the NAACP has always been embattled with money woes. Bringing Gordon in was strategic as the NAACP has to mature beyond the short-term and think of ways to grow outside of its civil rights box - bringing in a corporate head with fiscal sense makes more money than being saddled with an activist that has none. These private meetings aren't just about Katrina (although, we're fairly certain these sit downs may have influenced the American Red Cross' recent move towards multi-cultural inclusiveness). Some backscratching took place ...
The Congressional Black Caucus' reluctance to endorse Mfume could also be linked to this (note Cummings presence in this meeting). Theory: Bush people could leverage their weight with campaign contributors who are current or potential NAACP donors if Black political leadership holds back on an Mfume endorsement in Maryland (so Steele has a better chance of winning). Bush team also says: "you guys tone that rhetoric down a little and we'll see if we can interest our other friends in some philanthropy." Or - Bush donors who give funding to the NAACP are being sweated by the Bush Hardline because the perception is that they "consort" with or "give aid" to the opposition - so, Gordon has to find a way to appease the donors. NAACP can't operate on dues alone.
We could be wrong, but recent events have been looking might suspicious. And, in politics, there is no such thing as strange bedfellows - only common interests.