New York Times
July 12, 2000

First Lady, Speaking to N.A.A.C.P., Takes Aim at Bush


BALTIMORE, MD -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, blending her roles as a Senate candidate and first lady, told the annual convention of the N.A.A.C.P. here today that it should not be beguiled by the assurances of Gov. George W. Bush that he abhors discrimination and is committed to enforcing civil rights laws.

Standing in for President Clinton, who had been scheduled to appear today but was instead presiding over the Mideast summit meeting at Camp David, Mrs. Clinton did not mention Governor Bush by name. But she made it clear that her biting criticisms were directed at the expected Republican presidential nominee, who appeared before the convention on Monday.

Mrs. Clinton said it was gratifying that the annual meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was attracting the kind of political guests who had shunned the group in the past, an allusion to Mr. Bush's appearance after Bob Dole, the Republican nominee in 1996, declined to attend the group's convention. Even though someone may speak to you, Mrs. Clinton told the delegates, it is wise to "watch what they do and not what they say."

"I'm all for compassion," she said, lightly mocking Mr. Bush's assertions that he understands the pain of discrimination. "I think it's wonderful when people feel 'real bad' when there's discrimination. It's fine when people say they are 'truly compassionate' about hate crimes."

But, Mrs. Clinton said: "We need to move beyond mere compassion. We need to move to conviction to do something so we can move beyond the injustices of our country."

At times during her 35-minute speech, Mrs. Clinton sounded very much like her husband, using a down-home style to offer parables from the Bible and drawing warm applause from the audience. She even occasionally lapsed into a pronounced drawl, as in talking to "mah friends," only to revert to her flat ordinary speech.

Her appearance today was sandwiched between Governor Bush's speech yesterday and a planned appearance by Vice President Al Gore, the expected Democratic presidential nominee, Wednesday morning.

Mr. Bush received a surprisingly warm welcome, noting wryly that his predecessors as Republican presidential nominees had not always been eager to appear before the N.A.A.C.P.

Julian Bond, the chairman of the board of the N.A.A.C.P., told reporters today that while the delegates were delighted that Mr. Bush appeared, they were disappointed that he did not address many specific concerns like affirmative action or the death penalty.

He said that both Mrs. Clinton and Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, who also spoke to the convention today, offered genuine substance in their talks, in contrast to Mr. Bush, who he said "viewed his appearance as a photo opportunity."

Mrs. Clinton said she remembered how moved she was in 1963 when, as a high school student, she heard a speech in Chicago by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His message that day to stay involved in the civil rights revolution, she said, stayed with her throughout her life.

She went on to note that she has recently taken a great interest in how the Senate operates, an indirect reference to her campaign for Senate in New York.

In that regard, she said, the Republican-controlled Senate has blocked consideration of four African-American nominees to federal appeals courts. She said the Republicans were blocking votes on James Wynn and Roger Gregory to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Va.; Johnnie Rawlinson to the Ninth Circuit, based in California; and Kathleen McGee Lewis to the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati.

"Tell the United States Senate to let these nominees go," she shouted.

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