Mitt Romney’s speech before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, was framed by his campaign as an olive branch to the black community and a promise to be a president for all people.
But his sharp criticisms of President Barack Obama and his vow to repeal Obama’s healthcare plan drew sustained boos — and some in the audience left more energized to work against his campaign, reports Los Angeles Times.
“If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him,” Romney said. Pausing as some in the crowd heckled, he added, “You take a look!”
“For real?” yelled someone in the crowd.
However, at first, the NAACP’s reception was polite and appreciative as Romney argued that he would champion school reform to close the achievement gap between white and minority students, and that his economic policies would help lift Americans from poverty and aid middle-class Americans “of all races.”
There were even nods of approval when Romney noted that few had expected 50 years ago that a black man would become the nation’s 44th president and asserted that despite the civil rights movement of that era “many barriers remain” and “old inequities persist.”
Then, within minutes of taking the stage, Romney made note of his opponent’s historic election achievement – and accused him of not doing enough to help African-American families on everything from family policy to education to health care, writes WITN.
“If you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president,” Romney said to murmuring from the crowd.
The Republican presidential candidate added: “I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of color – and families of any color – more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I would not be running for president.”
“I am going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program that I can find – and that includes Obamacare,” Romney said, standing motionless as the crowd jeered for 15 seconds.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) praised Romney for addressing the NAACP, according to The Huff Post.
“You know, they call the members of the NAACP African-Americans and the last word is Americans,” Cleaver said. “So they deserve to hear what the presidential candidates are going to say even if they are Republican. And so I give him an A for that.”
“I felt terrible when the booing started, but I also believe that if he’s got any African-Americans in and around his campaign – which I don’t know; if he does, I don’t know any of them — if he has staff members who vetted that speech or inserted some of the things that I heard, they should be fired,” said Cleaver. “I mean, how in the world would you stand up in front of the NAACP and say that you oppose Obamacare?”
In the meantime, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hinted that all those boos toward Mitt Romney on Wednesday at the NAACP convention might have been exactly what the former governor was counting on, reports Politico.
“I think it was a calculated move on his part to get booed at the NAACP convention,” Pelosi said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.