Why Obama’s Remarks on the Zimmerman Case Are a Failure of Leadership
July 19, 2013 - 12:55 pm
Obama then rejected the verdict when he said “So — so folks understand the challenges that exist for African- American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.”
So the jury got it right, except that in another universe with different facts, they got it wrong.
He attacked a law that did not come up in the case, but has become the left’s current target of rage, when he said “I just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?”
Depending on the circumstances, of course he could have. Circumstances are always relevant. In Florida, blacks benefit from “stand your ground” laws more often than whites do. Despite that fact, which Obama could have taken time to enunciate to cool tempers, the president went on to acknowledge that while “stand your ground” was not invoked in Zimmerman’s defense, we should re-examine such laws anyway. Logically, why?
The president who once said that “there is not a black America and a white America and a Latino America and an Asian America” spent the bulk of his comments only speaking to and about the black American experience. He is half white, and was raised by his white grandparents. Notably, Latino America has not heard from Obama about the case at all despite the fact that George Zimmerman is every bit as Hispanic as Obama is black. Has he thrown a Hispanic man under the bus to appease the radical black left?
Throughout his remarks, Obama went to his “on the one hand, on the other hand” style in which he appears to be a moderate, but ultimately what he did was fail to lead. The tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin is becoming a cause, or an excuse, for some to commit violence against their fellow Americans. Rioters have committed numerous acts of violence, including attacking a Hispanic man in Baltimore and assaulting a white grandmother in Houston. This is unacceptable. Unrest has been encouraged by the New Black Panthers, by Sharpton and the refrain “No justice, no peace.”
Obama’s answer to violence? More talk: “If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.” There has already been violence. Has he not seen it?
It may not have occurred to the president, but people who have already resorted to violence are not likely to listen to anyone remind them of anything. How about warning them that the criminal justice system stands ready to deal with anyone who breaks the law ahead of any violence? Obama did not issue such a warning.
That, and his entire tone, constitute a glaring failure of leadership. Barack Obama had a moment when he could have stood above all the factions in the black community, indeed all the factions arguing over the verdict in that trial. He could have spoken to and for more than just one American community. He chose instead to insert himself and race into the story from the world’s largest bully pulpit, while refusing to use that bully pulpit to stand up forcefully for the rule of law.
No fair-minded person will reject the fact that blacks have faced extraordinary mistreatment and racism through American history, from slavery to Jim Crow to backward attitudes that continue to persist. But race played no role in this specific case, according to the prosecution’s case, according to the jury that reached the verdict, and according to Trayvon Martin’s own mother. The president owes the American people a basic, factual accounting, not a third autobiography. By insisting on injecting himself and race into the case, Obama risks inflaming passions when he could have quieted them.