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Inside Politics

NAACP chairman calls for Bush's ouster

Bond excoriates GOP as racially divisive

• Bush declines NAACP invitation
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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
George W. Bush
Julian Bond
Kweisi Mfume

(CNN) -- NAACP Chairman Julian Bond called on members of the nation's largest and oldest civil rights organization to boost voter turnout to help oust President Bush.

During his keynote speech at the group's 95th annual convention Sunday night in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bond also assailed the Bush administration and the Republican Party, accusing the GOP of "playing the race card in election after election."

The party appeals "to the dark underside of American culture, to the minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," Bond said. "They preach neutrality and practice racial division."

Many black people are "ready to turn anger into action, to work for regime change here at home," Bond said. "But they have to be asked. They have to be registered, organized and mobilized."

In the address, posted on the group's Web site, Bond took aim at virtually all the administration's top domestic and foreign policies.

Bond became NAACP board chairman in 1998. He was a Georgia legislator for 20 years, and during the 1960s civil rights movement, he was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Leaders of the Baltimore, Maryland-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are upset that Bush will not speak to the convention this year.

The White House said Bush had a scheduling conflict, but Bush also has described his relationship with the NAACP leadership as "basically nonexistent."

"You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me," he said last week.

"The current leadership of the NAACP has certainly made some rather hostile political comments about the president over the past few years," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday.

Bush is the first president since the 1930s not to speak at the NAACP convention, though he did so as a candidate in 2000.

At the 2001 convention, which was held before the September 11 attacks, Bond sharply criticized some of Bush's political appointments, saying that he "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."

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is scheduled to speak at the convention Thursday.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice defended Bush's record Monday as "impeccable on civil rights, impeccable on the interests of African-Americans, and I'm quite comfortable with his decision."

She told CNN the "No Child Left Behind" act, an overhaul of public education that Bush signed into law in 2001, challenges the "soft bigotry" of low expectations for black children. (Interactive: The 'No Child Left Behind' Act of 2001)

Rice noted that Bush has appointed blacks "to some of the highest positions in this government to which they've ever been appointed." Rice is black, as is Secretary of State Colin Powell.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume told reporters he has reached out to Bush numerous times in hopes of meeting with him.

"The president never wrote me back," he said. "I always got a letter from someone else in the White House stating his schedule did not permit such a meeting and they would get back with me ... and they never did.

"Two days ago, President Bush made his 30th visit to Pennsylvania. ... Yet he couldn't come to Pennsylvania to speak to us," Mfume said.

Mfume lashed out at Bush for choosing Martin Luther King's birthday last year to announce the administration's stance against an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan.

He said Bush used the same date this year "to unilaterally elevate Charles Pickering to the federal [appellate] bench -- in the face of Pickering's hostility to civil rights and leniency to cross burners."

The Bush administration has said Pickering, who was a federal district court judge, has a strong record on civil rights, and some black attorneys who have worked with him in Mississippi agree.

Bond also lambasted Bush and Republican leaders on a long roster of issues.

"They've tried to patch the leaky economy -- and every other domestic problem -- with duct tape and plastic sheets, " Bond said. "They write a new constitution for Iraq and ignore the Constitution here at home.

"They say giving health care to all Iraqis is sound policy; they say giving health care to all Americans is socialism."

Bond criticized Democrats as well, complaining they are too often "not an opposition; they're an amen corner. With some notable exceptions, they have been absent without leave from this battle for America's soul. When one party is shameless, the other party cannot afford to be spineless."

The NAACP is a nonpartisan organization, Bond said, "but that doesn't mean we're noncritical."

"The differences between the candidates this year are neither incremental nor inconsequential. Yes, the stakes are high, higher than ever in recent memory, and the consequences of loss almost too dire to bear."

He pointed to the 2000 presidential election, when some blacks were inaccurately listed as felons and not allowed to vote, particularly in Florida.

Some black voters reported being stopped by police near polling sites or being asked for multiple forms of identification while white voters were not. Government investigations reported no evidence supporting the allegations.

"We must guarantee the irregularities, suppression, nullification, and outright theft of black votes that happened on Election Day 2000 never, ever happen again," Bond said.

"Any NAACP branch that isn't registering voters ought to turn in its charter."

Bond said NAACP volunteers in 11 key states, including Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and New Mexico, have so far registered more than 100,000 voters.

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