IT WAS Wednesday morning at the convention of the supposedly nonpartisan NAACP. In a speech that was distinctly partisan, presidential candidate Al Gore was introduced as "the greatest vice president this nation has ever known."
Within moments, the greatest second-stringer this nation has ever known walked through the convention floor, smiling, clasping hands, pressing the flesh, trying to milk votes from the overwhelmingly black audience that cheered him wildly. Once he took the stage, he embraced warmly Kweisi Mfume, Myrlie Evers-Williams and Julian Bond, past and current leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Yep. It all seemed so nonpartisan. If it were any more nonpartisan, this thing would have looked like Gore's nomination at the Democratic National Convention, as opposed to an address to the NAACP, the organization that makes a big deal of not endorsing candidates.
Soon, Gore was at the podium. No point in coming to this campaign rally and not giving a speech.
"I have come here not just in an election year, but year after year," the vice president chirped, a not-so-oblique reference to Republican candidates who have shunned the NAACP in recent years.
Texas governor and presumptive Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush changed that Monday, when he became the first Republican since his father to address an NAACP convention. He was warmly received, but his appearance didn't generate the near hysteria and revolting rapture that greeted Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who talked to the group on Tuesday. Nor did it match her husband's reception on Thursday.
Gore wasted no time in trying to prove his liberal white guy credentials to the NAACP delegates. He started out with a quote from W. E. B. DuBois, an NAACP co-founder and editor of its magazine, The Crisis.
"W. E. B. DuBois defined the NAACP mission as 'the discovery and redressing of injustices,'" Gore said. Bush also used a quote from DuBois in his speech, but "Dubya's" DuBois quote was more to the point of a major issue in this year's presidential campaign: education.
"Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States," Bush quoted DuBois.
But neither candidate apparently appreciated the irony of quoting a man who was run out of the NAACP for having the audacity to suggest that blacks develop their own educational, social and business institutions rather than try to integrate white ones.
It was on the subject of education that Gore received one his most thunderous standing ovations.
He promised more money for education - being a liberal Democrat, he could do little else, since liberal Democrats don't believe there's any problem more tax money won't fix - and scoffed at the idea of school vouchers, claiming they "divert money away from public schools."
This has been said before, but it bears repeating. Gore, NAACP leadership and liberal Democrats in general should tell the American people why any public school that is not educating and, in some cases, not protecting achieving black students from verbal and physical harassment should receive tax dollars.
Gore spoke of teachers "burdened with 35 students in the classroom."
More than one baby boomer has noted that when their generation went to school, class sizes of 35 to 40 students were not uncommon. Somehow, learning still occurred. Algebra was mastered. Students learned important historical events and how to read and write plain, simple English.
Teachers of that era might remind Gore and others that they would prefer a class of 35 well-disciplined students who are eager to learn to a class of 10 unruly ones who proudly fly the banner of ignorance.
That's teachers from an era long gone, mind you, not NAACP delegates of 2000.
The way these folks soaked in Gore's drivel about how to solve America's education crisis - throw more money at it - you had to get the feeling the convention attendees were an overwhelmingly liberal, Democratic lot. The NAACP leadership is overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic. Isn't it time the NAACP abandoned its faM-gade of being a nonpartisan organization?
The NAACP might have been truly nonpartisan at one time. (Although one perhaps cynical observer has claimed the organization proclaimed nonpartisanship to solicit donations from both rich Republicans and affluent Democrats.)
Harry Moore, the Florida NAACP leader from 1934 to 1951, ran into problems when he tried to register black voters as Democrats in that state.
Moore had to form an independent organization to register the voters. Most of the NAACP leadership in his day was Republican.
But today, the leadership and rank and file are liberal Democrats. They should identify themselves and their organization as such.
If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a Duckocrat.