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Sunday, July 13, 2003

The League Of Extraordinarily Sensitive Gentlemen

The NAACP will have a candidates forum, aka, a cattle call, on Monday, giving delegates a chance to hear from the various Democratic Presidential candidates. As of Saturday, the Party of Extraordinary Racial Sensitivity can not quite seem to get it together;

The NAACP's top leadership lashed out Saturday at several of the major Democratic candidates for president, calling their intention to skip Monday's candidate forum an ''affront'' to the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

As many as four of the nine candidates have refused to participate in the forum, expressing reluctance to appear on stage with their rivals in a debate format, NAACP officials said.

As of late Saturday, Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Reps. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio were not expected to attend. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida was scheduled to attend, along with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry plans to go to the convention, but his campaign is pressing for a change in the debate format.

The actions drew outrage Saturday from NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and Chairman Julian Bond, who told The Herald that any candidate who skipped the forum would lose credibility with black voters.

''If you can't come to the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization's national conference to lay out what you believe in and the direction you think our country should go in, you certainly have no legitimacy going into black communities asking for votes,'' said Mfume, as he prepared to welcome delegates to the NAACP's annual conference. ``If you can't do a forum where you're simply asked a question and asked to respond, the question is can you really lead?''

And what might the problem be? Candidates are citing scheduling conflicts, but there is another view:

[NAACP President] Mfume suggested a different theory for the candidates' reluctance: a fear of matching wits with Sharpton or Dean, whose lively style and support for positions backed by the NAACP are likely to win enthusiastic applause.

''If you're afraid to appear against Al Sharpton, then maybe you need to be running for another office,'' he said.

As Charles Barkley famously inquired about one of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team opponents, "Why don't ya'll take your ass-kickin' like men and go on home?"

UPDATE: Edwards and Kerry elect to take Barkley's advice.

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