Barack Obama got heckled at a town-hall meeting in Florida this morning by a group of young men over his alleged inattentiveness to the “attacks that are made against the African community … by the same US government you aspire to lead”. Obama did a good job of restoring order by promising to address their question — which he called “legitimate”:

Protestor: So my question is: In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community, by the same US government that you aspire to lead — and we are talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of — it wasn’t just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community, attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?

Obama: Well, I, ah, I guess, I… Hold on a second, everybody. I want everybody to be respectful. That’s why we are having a town hall meeting. That’s democracy at work. And he asked a legitimate question, so I want to give him an answer.

Does Obama really think that the US government has made “numerous attacks” on the African community, or that this allegation has legitimacy? The protestors didn’t even provide a single example of the US government attacking anyone. The three incidents involving the police were at worst examples of municipal efforts, not federal, and Katrina was a hurricane with spectacularly bad local and state response, complicated by federal bungling.

Not once in his response did Obama point out the logical fallacies of the question, nor did he defend the American government against the charge of deliberately attacking African-Americans in the present tense, as the question was asked and intended. Casting this as a “legitimate question” calls into question Obama’s grasp of civics as well as his outlook on the government he “aspire[s] to lead”.