Before Urban League, Bush Makes His Case for Black Support of GOP
No one booed, which was one of the White House's main concerns for the day. He received some approving shouts of "Amen!" and "Yo! Yo!"
The first four-fifths of Bush's remarks consisted of an adaptation of his stump speech, with the repeated addition of the phrase "progress for African Americans and all Americans," and a detour to list eight of the prominent African Americans in his administration, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, General Services Administration Administrator Stephen A. Perry and Office of Personnel Management director Kay Coles James.
Bush frequently referred to a positive role for government "to help people have the tools so they can help themselves."
The Bush-Cheney campaign paid for the event at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center Hotel, and at the end the president switched to an overtly political pitch after describing his records and goals. "I'm here for another reason," he said. "I'm here to ask for your vote."
That was greeted by applause but also by guffaws, which Bush did not miss. "No, I know, I know, I know," he said. "The Republican Party has got a lot of work to do. I understand that."
Jesse L. Jackson sat in the front row, and Bush drew laughter by ad-libbing, "You didn't need to nod your head that hard, Jesse."
Bush also joked with Al Sharpton, who had sought the Democratic nomination and was also in the front row. "I appreciate your putting your hat in the ring," Bush said. Sharpton quipped, "It's not over."
Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, said afterward that he had asked Bush for a private meeting about protecting African American votes in the Nov. 2 election. Jackson said he described abuses in Florida and elsewhere. "He said, 'That's not right. I'll talk to Karl Rove [Bush's senior adviser] and get back to you,' " Jackson said.
Jackson said he has "a congenial personal relationship" with Bush, but he said the president has had "a closed-door policy" for many of the interests of African Americans. "Those he anticipates will disagree with him, he pushes them away."
Bush lingered to pose for photos and dispense bearhugs. "I believe in my heart," he said, "that the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, is not complete without the perspective and support and contribution of African Americans."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Jesse L. Jackson, center, applauds as President Bush is introduced at the Urban League conference in Detroit.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- AP)