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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Dear Mitt Romney: I was pleased to hear that you have accepted an invitation to speak in July before the 103rd convention of the NAACP in Houston. In anticipation of that event, I have taken the liberty of writing a speech for you. It’s only a beginning, space limitations being what they are, but it should get you off to a solid start and you can take it from there. So, here it is:

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to speak before the nation’s oldest and most storied civil rights organization. I propose not to waste this moment by filling it with the usual vague promises and platitudes. Instead, I want to try something politicians almost never try. It’s called straight talk.

“I am not unmindful that, because of my party affiliation, many of you view my presence here with a certain amount of skepticism. Nor am I unaware that the Republican Party has often seemed to go out of its way to earn that skepticism. The examples abound.

“There was, for instance, the time in 1996 when Sen. Bob Dole refused an invitation to speak before you, saying your then-leader was trying to set him up. In 1994 when Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida, someone asked what he would do for black voters if elected. ‘Probably nothing,’ he said.

“Nor do we have to go back to the ’90s to find justification for your skepticism. In this very day, we see members of my party seeking to gut the Voting Rights Act and questioning the legality of the Civil Rights Act. We have seen them accused and even convicted of voter suppression. And, yes, we have seen my party provide a haven for those whose animus against the president is motivated not by honest political differences, but by simple, malignant bigotry.

“So, yes, I am aware that my party has done much to earn your skepticism. It is my hope that today we can begin the process of earning your trust. To that end, I propose a complete reset of the relationship between African-American voters and the Republican Party. Today, I serve notice that we intend to do something we have not done for more than 50 years: compete for your votes.

“For far too long, the Democratic Party has been allowed to depend on your support while offering you little in return. For far too long, it has gotten away with taking you for granted, commanded your loyalty based on ghostly memories of things the Kennedy brothers and Lyndon Johnson did on your behalf in the 1960s. But the last of those men died 39 years ago and it is time African-American voters asked the Democrats a simple question: What have you done for me lately?

“It is not as if the Civil Rights Movement ended all your problems. To the contrary, African-Americans continue to be discriminated against in banking, housing and employment. You still have unequal access to quality education and health care.

“And the justice system still betrays you. Under the failed ‘War on Drugs,’ young men from your communities are incarcerated at rates that are a national scandal. In some states, they constitute up to 90 percent of those imprisoned for drug crimes, though they commit less than 15 percent of those crimes.

“Yet, even with an African-American man as its leader, the Democratic Party has failed to raise this unfinished business of the civil rights movement to the level of a national concern. That will change under the Romney administration. Under the Romney administration, we will have no higher priority than to ensure that ‘liberty and justice for all’ means exactly that.

“We will use solid, conservative principles to achieve this goal, to attack the inequities that still hobble African-American people. But I promised you more than vague promises and platitudes and I meant it. Let’s get specific, then.

“If I am elected, here is what I will do:

___

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.