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Julian Bond: NAACP will keep pressure on Bush

Julian Bond  

Members of the nation's oldest civil rights group are chastising the Bush administration and revisiting issues raised by the 2000 presidential election.

CNN's Brian Nelson spoke with NAACP Chairman Julian Bond from the group's convention in New Orleans.

NELSON: I want to quote something you said Sunday night for our viewers here about President Bush. You said, "He has selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."

President Bush entered Washington saying he wanted to change the tone in Washington. That doesn't seem to be the way to do it. You don't seem to be cooperating. Why?

BOND: Well, it's his tone that we're worried about, not our tone. I think with other Americans we were put off by the nominations of John Ashcroft to be attorney general, of Gale Norton to be interior secretary. Both of them have opposed the traditional legally sanctioned remedies for discrimination and both have demonstrated this unusual affection for the Confederacy that we frankly found disturbing. There is some things the Bush administration has done that we applaud and when more come we're going to applaud them too. But when we think he's wrong, we're not going to hesitate to say we think he's wrong.

NELSON: Mr. Bond, has the NAACP, in your recollection, been as harsh on any president as your comments were against President Bush?

BOND: Oh, surely. Listen. This is the 18th president we've seen in our 92 years. Almost without exception -- and there are exceptions -- almost without exception we've quarreled with all of them. Eisenhower told "nigger" jokes in the White House. Calvin Coolidge and others helped institutionalize segregation in the federal bureaucracy. There is a long and rather sad history of racist actions by past presidents, again, with some exceptions, and we've not hesitated to confront them, as we don't hesitate to confront this one.

And whomever the next president is, we hope we have a good relationship with him or her, but if we don't, we are not going to hesitate to speak truth to power.

NELSON: Can you address the suspicion maybe in some quarters that this is payback for Florida, where the minority populations in Florida had difficulty voting in the last election?

BOND: I don't think anybody here blames President Bush for what happened in Florida. He had little or nothing to do with that. What we're concerned about is the obvious denial of minority and black votes not only in Florida, but in other states across the country. This Congressional report released a couple of days ago confirmed what we've been saying for the past eight months, that we have unequal, unfair, unjust election system in the United States, where some votes are more likely to be counted than others. That just is intolerable in a democracy.

NELSON: Mr. Bond, what else is on the agenda for this NAACP meeting and where do you like to see the organization head from here?

BOND: Well, this is, in part, a legislative session, a training session. We're going to have debates about Mississippi, the Confederate swastika there, what's our reaction to that, what we're going to do about that. We're talking about racial profiling, inequities in the criminal justice system, a whole range of issues, many of them, sadly, old issues for us, but some new issues, too. This is an occasion where we are going to leave New Orleans charged up ready to fight for another year.

NELSON: And in the course of that are you anticipating sitting down at any time with President Bush?

BOND: We've got an invitation out to him to come here. He couldn't come. He sent a video instead. But we have met regularly with members of his administration. We have met with Attorney General Ashcroft. I met in the White House just a week ago with the head of the faith-based initiative to discuss that and to reinforce our opposition to portions of it. So we've got a longstanding open dialogue with this administration and we want it to continue and grow stronger. We'd rather talk than shout. And where there's talk, there can be progress.

NELSON: All right, thank you for taking the time to talk to us this morning from New Orleans. The new chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond. Appreciate your being here.

BOND: Thank you.

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