Obama’s courtiers a royal pain for NAACP
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Barack Obama’s staffers are getting a little too imperial for their boss’ good.
A year ago, when Obama was running for president, he appeared before the national convention of the NAACP and was a great hit. His biggest crowd-pleasing line was how much he was looking forward to coming back in a year as the first African American president. It got him a five-minute standing ovation and millions of votes.
Fast forward to this year. The NAACP invites the president to speak to the group July 16, the last day of its six-day convention at the Hilton in New York.
The White House’s response: Absolutely, he’s coming.
Then the Secret Service comes and says, “No,” the Hilton is not suitable.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says, “Why don’t I give you Yankee Stadium?” It would be the president’s biggest event since his inauguration.
A couple of days later comes the answer from someone in Obama’s operation: We don’t want to project that kind of image. We want something bigger than the Hilton, but not as big as Yankee Stadium.
The NAACP people have to bust their ass to come up with another place – and they do, finally, finding an armory in Harlem. There’s no air conditioning, however, and we are talking New York in July here. The governor steps in and says he’ll provide temporary air conditioning.
The White House then says, “OK, but we want to change the time – 2 p.m. for the president’s speech is not acceptable anymore. We want 5 o’clock.”
The NAACP says, wait a minute – this speech is supposed to take place on the biggest day of the convention, the day we hold the awards banquet. If Obama goes on at 5 p.m., we’ll have to bus hundreds of people from the downtown Hilton all the way up to Harlem, two or three hours before the president arrives. Then we’ll have to bus everyone back and get everyone into their black ties for the awards dinner.
We can’t do that.
So those little bitty people in the NAACP send back the message: Advise him that it’s 2 o’clock and we hope he shows.