Bush Touts Progress For Blacks

President Bush is welcomed to address the Black Expo Summer Celebration, which promotes opportunities for blacks in jobs, health care and education, in Indianapolis, Ind., Thursday, July 14, 2005. Bush is framed by the Black Expo's Lifetime Achievement award which he was presented before his speech. Bush stressed how black ownership of small businesses and homes has reached an all-time high on his watch.
President Bush appeared before the Indiana Black Expo on Thursday to make the case that his policies are giving minorities a boost.

"Because of sound policy and low taxes, by the way, and the hard work of our citizens, we're getting results: African American business ownership is at an all-time high in America today," Mr. Bush said.

His appearance provided political cover for Mr. Bush, who for the fifth year in a row turned down an invitation from the NAACP. The White House said again that he couldn't attend because of a scheduling conflict.

The president got a friendly reception from the Black Expo audience, though some protesters outside accused the group of selling out by inviting Mr. Bush to speak, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller.

The president said he believes in an America where all people, including blacks, have the chance to own homes and businesses and share in the country's prosperity. He also took credit for narrowing the gap in test scores between black and white elementary school students, according to test results released Thursday by his Education Department.

"I see an America where every citizen owns a stake in the future of our country and where a growing economy creates jobs and opportunity for everyone," the president said, his voice echoing in the cavernous RCA Dome, where more than 3,000 people packed luncheon tables on the floor below empty stands.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman attended the NAACP convention in Milwaukee Thursday. He planned to express regrets for Republican attitudes toward blacks in the past.

"Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization," Mehlman said in remarks prepared for delivery. "I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the president agreed with Mehlman, even though the president didn't express any regrets during his speech in Indiana.

Mehlman also was trying to persuade blacks — who vote overwhelmingly Democratic — to switch political alliances. He said Democrats have been taking blacks for granted in recent years.

"It's not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized," he said. "Just as the Democrats came to this community in 1964 with something real to offer, today we Republicans have something that should cause you to take another look at the party of Lincoln."