But not always. Mitt Romney showed up this week in Houston to speak to the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some people thought he was brave; others that he was merely foolish and wasting his time. …

Mr. Romney obviously knew he wouldn’t raise the rafters with anything approximating cheers, but showed up, anyway, to do what politicians, editorial writers and civics teachers say we all should do — address respectful arguments to those who disagree with us. Didn’t someone say that’s the American way? He paid the crowd the compliment of addressing them as grown-ups in a speech that was direct, assertive and dispassionate. He told them that he, not Barack Obama, was really the one they have been waiting for. …

Others in the media chorus quickly picked up the theme. Lawrence O’Donnell of cable-channel MSNBC called the Romney speech part of a “Southern strategy” to appeal to “racial and racist voting.” One of the O’Donnell guests accused Mr. Romney of being “culturally ignorant” for describing a black colleague as having served in his “kitchen cabinet,” or inner circle of advisers, when he was the governor of Massachusetts. “To talk about being in the kitchen and not talk about an African-American actually being in your Cabinet is really not a good metaphor to use with African-Americans.”