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Obama Triangulates Ferguson Crisis Before Midterm
Posted By Neil Munro On 7:02 PM 08/18/2014 In | No Comments
President Barack Obama called for calm in Ferguson in an Aug. 18 afternoon statement, but he also spiked media coverage by announcing that Attorney General Eric Holder would visit the town on Wednesday a part of a new civil rights investigation.
He distanced himself from the crisis by saying he could not prejudge investigations of the Aug. 9 shooting of a young black man by a white cop. But he also thrust himself closer to the dispute by choosing to make his statement from the press room in the White House, instead of delegating the issue to local or federal law-enforcement officials.
Throughout his 27 minute appearance, he portrayed himself as a cautious moderate while he sequentially pandered or reassured multiple demographic groups whose support he needs to help Democrats win the November midterm election, now only 10 weeks away.
The dispute began with the Aug. 9 police shooting of an African-American youth, Michael Brown, shortly after he robbed a convenience store.
The shooting has been followed by several nights of rioting and looting, by the withdrawal and then the return of paramilitary policing, and by the arrival of various political entrepreneurs, including Rev. Al Sharpton.
In his extended triangulation, Obama sought to reassure suburbanites by criticizing the rioters who have looted and vandalized shops, but he also pandered to local African-American demonstrators and rioters by making repeated criticisms of the local police force.
“There is no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully,” he said about the police actions.
He acknowledged the rioting and looting, but he excused the African-American community which failed to control its young men. “What is also clear is that a small minority protestors are… giving in to [their] anger by looting or by carrying guns,” he said. “That undermines rather than advances justice,” he declared.
He recognized suburbanites’ worries about the high crime-rate among African-Americans, saying “there are young black men that commit crime… [and] if they commit a crime, they need to be prosecuted because every community has no interest in public safety”
But then he immediately pandered to African-Americans communities by suggesting that African-Americans’ crimes were “a consequence of tragic histories… [because African-Americans youths] find themselves isolated, without hope, without economic prospects.”
But their criminal activities may be caused by outsiders who impose racial disparities in school punishments and in trials, Obama suggested. “What is also true is that given the history of this country, where we can make progress in building up more confidence, more trust, making sure that our criminal justice system is acutely aware of the possibilities of disparities in treatment,” he said.
“Part of that process is also looking at our criminal justice system to make sure that it is upholding the basic principle of everybody is equal before the law,” he said, without offering evidence of racial bias.
The president did not mention actual disparities in crime rates. For example, his administration has published data showing that young black men between the ages of 14 and 24 are only 1 percent of the population, but commit 27 percent of murders.
He declared his neutrality, pending completion of the investigations. “I have to be very careful about not prejudging… the [Department of Justice] works for me and when they’re conducting an investigation I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other,” he said.
But he also announced his sympathy for the protestors, and indicated his opposition to the use of the National Guard to suppress rioting. “I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown,” he said.
“I spoke to [Democratic Gov.] Jay Nixon about [use of the guard], expressed an interest in making sure that if, in fact, a National Guard is used it is used in a limited and appropriate way,” he said. But, he added, “I’ll be watching over the next several days to assess whether [the National Guard] is helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson.”
Obama even tried to entangle Latinos in the crisis by suggesting at least twice they are victimized by state police forces.
“You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college,” he said. ”In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear,” he said.
There’s no evidence that Latinos are involved in the Ferguson meltdown, but Obama needs them to vote in November.
Obama did not call for the quick completion of investigations, or the quick release of information, that might help locals understand the shooting incident.
So far, Obama’s deputies objected to the release of a video which shows the dead young man robbing a store shortly before the fatal shooting.
But media reports say other information is being held back. That information includes records of the dead man’s juvenile criminal record, and hospital pictures of the police officer’s face after he was treated for injuries possible caused by Brown at the start of their deadly meeting.
Last July, Obama gave a similar back-and-forth response about the shooting of another African-American youth, Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman, a Latino who was repeatedly described as white by the media.
“Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence,” he said. (RELATED: Obama Blames Racism, Guns For Zimmerman Acquittal)
In that speech, be suggested that young black males were treated unfairly by society.
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