Attendees at the NAACP convention provided only tepid applause when President Barack Obama phoned in a Thursday morning greeting via video.
“Sorry I can’t be there,” he declared, even though his White House schedule shows no visits from foreign dignitaries, negotiations with Congress or ceremonial events.
In his place, Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the convention at 11.05 a.m.
The only entry on Obama’s public schedule is notification of a routine 9.45 a.m. meeting.
THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Obama’s brief comments were boiler-plate material about reviving the middle class, with little mention of the issues that have plagued the African-American community.
Those issues include very high unemployment, low educational rankings, a massive loss of wealth amid the real estate meltdown and continued crime in Chicago and other urban areas.
Obama said he’s trying to create “an America where we’re looking out for the middle class.”
“If you keep standing with me… I know we can arrive there together,” he said.
The distancing is hard to explain, partly because Obama needs overwhelming support — and very high turnout — from African-Americans to win swing states such as Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania.
A Gallup poll in June showed his support at 86 percent among African-Americans, down from 95 percent in 2008.
The decline reflects African-Americans’ distress at continued high unemployment, which is at least 14 percent in the African-American community.
Some African-American leaders have also protested Obama’s decision to endorse same-sex marriage.
Obama’s June announcement of a de facto amnesty for 800,000 illegal immigrants is likely also unpopular among African-Americans. (SEE ALSO: Ralph Nader: Obama ‘abandoned’ Wisconsin, ‘betraying the working people of this country’)
Obama’s absence form the Houston convention even drew some criticism from Obama-friendly media.
“I’m surprised the president was a no-show,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said June 12. “I checked the president’s schedule for today… He’s got meetings [and] I assume those meetings are very important, but he could have found time to pay his respects to the NAACP.”
“The president should not take the African-American vote for granted,” he added.