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Battling the boobirds

Politics | Mitt Romney persists in telling the NAACP that African-Americans would be better off with him as president

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a gathering of the NAACP on Wednesday that if they "want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him."

The audience at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's convention in Houston responded with sustained booing.

While the boobirds dominated, Romney's appearance did include a smattering of polite applause. Even occasional organ riffs punctuated some of Romney's remarks. The presumptive GOP nominee focused his speech on job creation, noting that the unemployment rate for African-Americans rose in June from 13.6 percent to 14.4 percent.

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"Americans of every background are asking when this economy will finally recover-and you, in particular, are entitled to an answer," Romney said.

He pledged to open up domestic energy sources, expand trade, cut the growth of government, improve education, and restore economic freedom.

"Do these five things … and jobs will come back to America, and wages will rise again," Romney promised. "The president will say he will do those things, but he will not, he cannot, and his record of the last four years proves it."

This assertion by Romney that President Obama's policies have failed led to one of the numerous negative reactions from the audience. The loudest roars of disapproval came when Romney pledged to overturn Obamacare.

After letting his listeners vent for several seconds, Romney persisted, saying that if jobs are to be a priority then the new healthcare law needs to be changed.

The crowd gave tepid approval to Romney's remarks on strengthening families, defending traditional marriage, and promoting the growth of charter schools in urban areas. But the former Massachusetts governor kept hammering away at the economy.

"If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone," Romney said. "Instead, it's worse for African-Americans in almost every way."

Romney is not expected to win the black vote, and his campaign team did not expect his speech Wednesday to change that. But they hoped the African-American community would appreciate and respect the fact that he reached out to them by speaking at the convention. Romney, who said he would not be running for president if he didn't believe his polices would help families of color, promised to work with the black community if elected president.

"I can't promise that you and I will agree on every issue," he said. "But I do promise that your hospitality to me today will be returned. We will know one another, and work to common purposes. … And if I am elected president, and you invite me to next year's convention, I would count it as a privilege, and my answer will be yes."

Romney then walked off the stage to light applause as the organist played"God Bless America."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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