After initially declining an invitation, Sen. Scott Brown has apparently decided he can find some time to meet with the Springfield NAACP branch.
In December, the branch invited Massachusetts' junior senator to meet with members at a "town hall" meeting sometime early in 2012. In reply, a scheduler in Brown's Boston office sent an email to the Rev. Talbert Swan II, the branch president, thanking him for his "kind invitation" but turning it down.
"As you might imagine, there are extraordinary demands on the senator's time and we do our best to accommodate worthwhile requests such as yours," wrote staffer Maria M. Coakley. "Unfortunately, due to the schedule of the U.S. Senate, the unpredictability of Senate business and the high volume of requests he receives, we must unfortunately decline."
The note ended: "We appreciate your understanding."
But Swan, in fact, was not especially understanding, as he pointed out in a letter he wrote back to the senator's office. "While I understand the demands of your extremely busy schedule, I remind you that you serve a very diverse constituency across the Commonwealth, including members of the NAACP," Swan wrote. "It is no secret that you are in the midst of a tough reelection campaign and will be spending quite a bit of time in the Commonwealth in the months to come. It is inconceivable that you cannot find any time during the course of this entire election season to meet with our members in Springfield, which is part of the Commonwealth, which you represent."
Swan ended the letter asking Brown to "reconsider" his earlier decision, noting, "To summarily dismiss our desire to meet with our senator is quite concerning."
Within a day of Swan's sending the letter—which, not incidentally, he also sent to the local media—Brown's office had changed its position. Last week, Swan told the Advocate that Brown has committed to a March 19 meeting with the NAACP branch. In addition, some of Brown's staffers will come to Springfield to meet with Swan on Feb. 16.
Swan said he's not exactly sure why the senator's staff requested the private meeting in February, prior to the branch meeting. "I'm happy to sit down with them and tell them what our concerns are, and flesh out what the senator's agenda is," he said. "We're fine with it either way—one meeting, two meetings, three meetings, whatever."
According to Swan, Brown's office told him that the branch's initial request had been turned down as the result of a "misunderstanding" about the scope of the meeting; a town hall-style meeting, Swan was told, requires more time to plan than the senator had time for.
"It was basically a bogus excuse," Swan said with a laugh. "The reality was, [they] saw 'NAACP' and decided, 'We're going to blow it off.'"
And as for Brown's opponent in that "tough reelection campaign" Swan referred to? Swan said he spoke to presumed Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren during her visit to Springfield last week and asked her, too, to meet with the NAACP—an invitation Warren readily accepted. The date of that meeting has yet to be set.