I just got around to reading President Bush's speech to the National Urban League. It's very good. I don't think there's any question which candidate should appeal more to black voters, as long as they're willing to put aside long-standing prejudices against the Republican party. Bush knows how to speak the language of the ordinary person, something Kerry can't even succeed at doing when he puts on his actor's hat and tries. It's no surprise that some of this involves speaking the language of the ordinary black American. The things Bush choose to emphasize in this speech are the things so many ordinary Americans, including those who are black, value very much. They're the very things black voters have been convinced for a couple generations that Republicans don't value at all.
This time there's no way you can charge Bush with just saying it when speaking at this sort of gathering, because most of his speech was a defense of actual policies he's enacted or tried to enact unsuccessfully. It's not just a defense, but it's a good defense. He knows how to make this argument well. I don't agree with every single point, and it may be (for all I know) that on some points I'd be more inclined to agree with Kerry, but John Kerry doesn't hold a candle to him on these issues.
Judging just by the transcript, he seems completely at home in this gathering, with frequent laughter from the audience at his quite funny jokes. He goes way out of his way to recognize black leaders he thinks are doing a great job. He even recognizes Sharpton and Jackson, establishing some common ground with them at a couple points. He adeptly even jokes about his own party's need for progress on these issues and about Jesse Jackson's too eager nod of agreement. He argues for his choice of the black members of his cabinet (and other high positions) and says something about the good work all of them are doing.
Overall, though, he's simply positive. He's giving a message of hope, of looking to the good that people can accomplish if they're working together. He invites more people to come alongside, and he thinks it's not right for the party of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to be some underreflective of black America. He longs for more black voices in the Republican party, not just so they'd be voting for Republicans but so that their concerns will shape the direction of the party the way they've shaped some of his own policies in distinction from those of other Republicans.
This is the sort of thing that makes me say confidently that, when it comes to these issues, this president is one of the best we've ever had, certainly the best of my lifetime. I won't say that he should therefore be declared a black president, as a certain other candidate would like declared of himself. But then that goes back to the real difference between the two. The current president really cares and is trying to do something. The other merely panders, usually with harmful policies that look good on the surface but create dependencies that cripple a notable section of the African American community. I think the choice is easy.