Video: Obama weighs in on Trayvon Martin case; Update: Romney, Gingrich comment

posted at 12:45 pm on March 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

As one White House correspondent noted on Twitter, President Obama’s response to a question about the Trayvon Martin shooting was unusual in that he doesn’t usually respond to shouted questions from the press corps. Clearly, Obama wanted to talk about the incident after several days of debate over the killing of an unarmed teenager in Florida, and the lack of charges from local law enforcement:

I suspect that this part of Obama’s statement will rankle some:

Obama said Trayvon Martin’s death particularly resonated with him as an African-American parent.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said in brief remarks outside the White House.

I’ve already gotten e-mails claiming that Obama played the race card, but that’s been an important part of the context of this case all along.  All things considered, Obama’s statement was rather restrained.  He seems to have learned a lesson from the Henry Gates incident in 2009, to which Obama reacted by claiming that law enforcement officers “acted stupidly” in the same breath in which he said that he didn’t have all of the facts of the case.  Instead, this time Obama restricted his commentary to noting how any American parent would want a full investigation of the incident, and praising Florida Governor Rick Scott for launching a task-force investigation of the incident.

The DoJ will probe the shooting, too, which Obama noted but which had already been announced.  However, there is almost no chance that the federal government will have any opening, since George Zimmerman wasn’t an agent of the state or local government.  That makes prosecuting Zimmerman under civil-rights legislation almost impossible, especially given the circumstances of the initial assault.  Be sure to see the lengthy explanation of Florida’s self-defense laws in my earlier post to see why Zimmerman will probably face some sort of prosecution if the stated facts of the case are borne out, but that will come from the county or state level, not federal.

Meanwhile, the media leaped at the chance to compare Obama’s statement to the silence from Republican presidential candidates on the shooting.  That’s a bit silly; even Obama took quite a while to comment on the case, and as Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes at Electronic Urban Report, for the same reasons:

Obama, as all sitting presidents, doesn’t take positions on controversial state issues, and that’s the key. They are state issues, and to interfere is to step into a political minefield that would do far more harm than good. It would violate the rigid separation of federal and state powers. It would open the floodgate for any and every individual and group that has a legal wrong, grievance, or injustice to expect, even demand, that the president speak out on their cause. While tens of thousands nationally and globally are rallying behind the demand for arrest and prosecution of Zimmerman, there are millions more that quietly and openly demand that Florida officials resists any rush to judgment about the Martin killing.

Presidential statements on a controversial issue will polarize, and fuel political backlash. This would certainly be the case if Obama utters a word about Martin. In fact, the Martin slaying is a near textbook example of the fury and passion that racial leaden cases and issues always stir. Martin is African-American, and his self-admitted killer is non-black. Obama is African-American and there’s rarely been a moment during his tenure in the White House that he hasn’t been relentlessly reminded of that. The one time that he gingerly ventured into the minefield on a racially charged local issue was his mild rebuke of the white officer that cuffed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in 2009. The reaction was instant and rabid. Polls after his mild rebuke showed that a majority of whites condemned Obama for backing Gates and, even more ominously, expressed big doubts about his policies.

The president relearned a bitter lesson. If you speak out on an issue that involves race, police authority, and local law and local matters you will pay a heavy political price for it. While presidents have routinely spoken out on the deaths of police officers, political initiatives in states, and other local issues, there is no implication or inference of political partisanship or interference in a state matter. Speaking out on a controversial racial issue, as Martin is, would have a direct political inference, namely that the president is taking sides. In an election year, this would have be even more problematic. The GOP presidential contenders would be quick to pounce and would lambaste Obama as playing the race card and inflaming passions. Or, more charitably, that he was butting into an issue that he has no authority over, and that this is yet another example of the White House’s over reach on local matters.

The Trayvon Martin shooting does raise questions about self-defense laws and carry permit legislation only if Zimmerman didn’t violate either of them in the shooting, which seems unlikely under the circumstances.  Those, however, are state-level issues, not federal, so presidential candidates (and Presidents) aren’t under any requirement to share their thoughts.

Update: Rep. Allen West has called the lack of action against Zimmerman “an outrage,” through his Facebook page:

Noting that he had taken some time to “assess the current episode,” West wrote: “The US Navy SEALS identified Osama Bin Laden within hours, while this young man laid on a morgue slab for three days. The shooter, Mr Zimmerman, should have been held in custody and certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit. From my reading, it seems this young man was pursued and there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him….against the direction of the 911 responder.”

The congressman added: “Let’s all be appalled at this instance not because of race, but because a young American man has lost his life, seemingly, for no reason.”

The Florida lawmaker said that he had signed a letter supporting the Justice Department’s investigation but that he did not plan to attend protests in Florida “to shout and scream, because we need the responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences.”

That went much farther than Obama did, although as a Representative elected from Florida, West has more political connection to what happens in the state.

Update: Mediate notes that Mitt Romney has made a statement today about the case, and Newt Gingrich did last night:

Shortly after President Obama spoke out for the first time on the killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney followed suit, issuing a statement, through a spokesperson, which read “What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.”

Romney’s statement was similar to comments made by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who told CNN’s Piers Morgan, last night, that “I think that Americans can recognize that while this is a tragedy, and it is a tragedy, that we’re going to relentlessly seek justice. And I think that’s the right thing to do.”

 


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Yeah. I honestly don’t even think he sees how prejudiced he’s being in his assumptions; it’s like it’s not even registering.

I’d perfectly interested in having a legitimate conversation, but it doesn’t seem like he’s up for it.

BadgerHawk on March 23, 2012 at 4:32 PM

For real. Some people just want to bang the drum. He’s every bit as much a vigilante as he claims Zimmerman was.

Nom de Boom on March 23, 2012 at 4:38 PM

For real. Some people just want to bang the drum. He’s every bit as much a vigilante as he claims Zimmerman was.

Hey, he’s a Collectivist. They can do that, ’cause they’re better than other people.

As he’s amply demonstrated.

Ragspierre on March 23, 2012 at 4:40 PM

And so it begins,,,,setting up the Race Meme just before the Election Cycle,how Serendipity for Team Obama!!
————————————————

Its getting ramped up,heres the timeline,and news as it
came in,and,politicians are now stepping into it as well!
——————————————————————

Trayvon Martin shooting
************************
************************

http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/trayvon-martin-shooting

Trayvon Martin Case: Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Demands Arrest of Suspect on House Floor
Uploaded by ABCNews on Mar 22, 2012
************************************

Rep. Frederica Wilson delivers speech on the House floor about slain teen.

For more on this story, click here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/trayvon-martin-rally-today-amid-calls-police-chief/s
(Video-1:19)
===============

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i50JiemL9h8

canopfor on March 23, 2012 at 12:45 AM

canopfor on March 23, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Yeah, 6″3 and 140 pounds, knicknamed “Slimm.” Sounds like a menacing figure, alright.
/

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/22/2708960/trayvon-martin-a-typical-teen.html

cam2 on March 23, 2012 at 4:41 PM

The one thing I will say with absolute certainty at this point; Trayvon should not be dead. Zimmerman was told by the 911 dispatcher not to follow him and he shouldn’t have.

BadgerHawk on March 23, 2012 at 4:10 PM

That is not necessarily a true statement, the 911 dispatcher can make suggestions but not give orders. There have been numerous cases where following the dispatcher’s suggestions to retreat would have potentially led to an assault and/or homicide on the 911 caller who instead stood their ground and defended themselves. In our PC world, many 911 dispatchers are required to discourage self-defense even when it is the best course of action.

AZfederalist on March 23, 2012 at 4:44 PM

So, a BLACK teenager gets killed by a HISPANIC male and it is world news for two weeks with even the stupid president weighing in on it.

However, hundreds of whites/hispanics get beaten/killed by BLACK youths and there is silence.

I hate this country. Seriously, I do.

Luckily I live in Texas and I love my state.

carbon_footprint on March 23, 2012 at 4:44 PM

In our PC world, many 911 dispatchers are required to discourage self-defense even when it is the best course of action.

AZfederalist on March 23, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Yeah, I agree with that; if someone breaks into my house I don’t care what the dispatcher says, that person likely isn’t walking out alive.

But this is different. Zimmerman escalated a situation he didn’t have to and had been advised not to. If he hadn’t Martin would still be alive.

BadgerHawk on March 23, 2012 at 4:47 PM

@NBCMiami tweeted:
********************

#BREAKING Family of #TrayvonMartin thanks #Obama for his comments about their son http://t.co/HfBgZ1Gl

Submitted 2 hours ago from twitter.com/NBCMiami
http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/trayvon-martin-shooting
==========================================================

canopfor on March 23, 2012 at 4:50 PM

So because blacks, who are not associated with this young boy, have killed others it makes it okay that this child lost his life?

some people have the mental capacity of a block of wood.

No offense to blocks of wood.

So, a BLACK teenager gets killed by a HISPANIC male and it is world news for two weeks with even the stupid president weighing in on it.

However, hundreds of whites/hispanics get beaten/killed by BLACK youths and there is silence.I hate this country. Seriously, I do.

Luckily I live in Texas and I love my state.

carbon_footprint on March 23, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Emphasis mine

Ododeo Jones on March 23, 2012 at 5:01 PM

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/23/Ed-Shultz-Jeb-Bush-To-Blame-For-Treyvon-Martins-Death

Speaking of idiot, demagogic gas-bags…

Conversely, Ben Jealous did NOT stoop to that (pond-slime) demagoguery….

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/03/23/NAACP%20President%20The%20Gun%20Law%20Not%20To%20Blame%20In%20Trayvon%20Martin%20Death

One thing to remember…Democrats under Jim Crow did NOT like armed black people.

Ragspierre on March 23, 2012 at 5:03 PM

The libs would have us believe that Zimmerman called the police, discussed a course of proceeding with the dispatcher, and then murdered Martin in a cold-blooded racially-motivated assassination.

Yeah, THAT would make a lot of sense. /sarc

HeatSeeker2011 on March 23, 2012 at 5:14 PM

So because blacks, who are not associated with this young boy, have killed others it makes it okay that this child lost his life?

Ododeo Jones on March 23, 2012 at 5:01 PM

I am pretty sure that the lives of all murder victims were as important to them as Martin’s life was to him.

The only reason the Martin case is important to the left is that the left is composed of racist bigots who want to make political hay out of a Hispanic shooting a black.

If Martin were white or Hispanic, and had been shot by a black, the left would ignore this like they ignore other crime committed by blacks.

You know it’s true.

HeatSeeker2011 on March 23, 2012 at 5:21 PM

I don’t recall Obama saying that any white teenager killed during his time in office, under equally tragic circumstances, ever reminded him of his son, even though Obama is as white as he is black.

Selective racial pandering always sucks.

profitsbeard on March 23, 2012 at 5:22 PM

Selective racial pandering always sucks.

Oh, on the contrary…

It can get you all kinds of wonderful things.

Why do you think Bad Luck Barry does it…???

BTW, ever heard him say a word about Agent Terry…???

Ragspierre on March 23, 2012 at 5:26 PM

libfreeordie on March 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Again, you link to a post that says there are unanswered questions (which there are), but in your head you’ve already filled in the answers without any factual evidence.

BadgerHawk on March 23, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Oh I get it JeffinSac, when the media presents a version of events favorable to Zimmerman they are telling the “facts” when they cite witnesses like this woman who claim that she heard a young boy cry for help, its lies?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cWwUAbbWnk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

libfreeordie on March 23, 2012 at 3:50 PM

Show me just one, just one 17 year old, six-foot plus man that when crying for help, sounds like a young boy and I’ll concede the witness may have indeed heard what sounded like a young boy crying. Until then, I’ll presume that she made up the story.

AH_C on March 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Obama should have only stated the truth–that this is a tragedy.

What he said publicly should have been stated privately.

jazzuscounty on March 23, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Yeah, 6″3 and 140 pounds, knicknamed “Slimm.” Sounds like a menacing figure, alright.
/

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/22/2708960/trayvon-martin-a-typical-teen.html

cam2 on March 23, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Sorry, that doesn’t jive. 6’3″ and 140lbs he would make an anorexic look chubby. And from the photos we’ve seen of his face, he was not emaciated.

I think someone has got the numbers wrong.

ButterflyDragon on March 23, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Right, Butterfly…

plus…

ever give a cat a bath???

Ragspierre on March 23, 2012 at 6:21 PM

Show me just one, just one 17 year old, six-foot plus man that when crying for help, sounds like a young boy and I’ll concede the witness may have indeed heard what sounded like a young boy crying. Until then, I’ll presume that she made up the story.

AH_C on March 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Actually, on one of the recorded phone calls to 911, you can hear someone calling for help. What’s not clear is whether it was Martin or Zimmerman calling for help.

ButterflyDragon on March 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM

populism run amok, whatever is trending is trendy, any word on the other deaths that day? In Chicago? How about the white 13 year old in KC who go burnt by 2 racist blacks whom get taught that thru the local schools? Only certain situations qualify for ‘news’. The 5 year old that gets killed in a drive by is irrelevent.

I guess those left wingers were correct, history is merely a collection of narratives

John Kettlewell on March 23, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Actually, on one of the recorded phone calls to 911, you can hear someone calling for help. What’s not clear is whether it was Martin or Zimmerman calling for help.
ButterflyDragon
 on March 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM

I understand and should have bolded the “young boy” meme that libtard was pushing

AH_C on March 23, 2012 at 6:32 PM

I understand and should have bolded the “young boy” meme that libtard was pushing

AH_C on March 23, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Sorry, I misunderstood you. I agree, a lot of people seem to be pushing an agenda on this one.

ButterflyDragon on March 23, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Conversely, does Trayvon’s dad look like obummer?

ultracon on March 23, 2012 at 6:45 PM

http://www.thegrio.com/specials/trayvon-martin/trayvon-martin-shooting-timeline-leaves-many-unanswered-questions.php

libfreeordie on March 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Wow, selectively choosing media reports again, I see.

The Grio is another Leftist website calling itself a “news source”; their masthead shows their founder was previously employed by the same C-BS “news program” that was busted for using fake documents to try and swing a Presidential election in 2004. Their Managing Editor also works for Democrat mouthpiece MSNBC, and their Deputy Editor used to work for another Far-Left outlet, The Nation. On their entire masthead I see absolutely no ethnic variety at all; a similar all-Caucasian outlet would be called Racist.

On their front page, they call themselves an “African American news source”, but then they only link to other “news sources” that share their Agenda. Hence, they will link to MSNBC, but not to Fox News, despite the fact that Fox News employs many African Americans, including several anchors.

Del Dolemonte on March 23, 2012 at 6:47 PM

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said in brief remarks outside the White House.

I have to ask this question, does this statement mean that Obama is doing Trayvon’s mom? Because that is about the only way that that the kid would look like his son. Either that or Obama’s white half is saying all black people look like.

bbinfl on March 23, 2012 at 7:42 PM

Haven’t read the posts yet, but why does it make him think of his daughters? Tray Martin would look like his son, if he had a son? What’s up with that? Is he saying all black people look like him?
Not with those ears baby!

KOOLAID2 on March 23, 2012 at 8:05 PM

Wow Obama really want to divide before even an investigation has happened

Conservative4ev on March 23, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Is the shooting (pending more info about what actually happened) a tragedy?

Yes.

Is it such a tragedy that it should attract the attention of the nation?

NO.

Scores of black youth die at each other’s hands every month and there isn’t a peep out of anyone. Or, when a white kid is beaten, robbed or killed at the hands of a black kid, all it draws is either a big fat “meh” or “it’s understandable” from the likes of the race baiters.

Rixon on March 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Yes you are right but they may not happen in swing states like Florida:)

Conservative4ev on March 23, 2012 at 8:10 PM

Newt Gingrich called Obama’s remarks about Trayvon Martin “disgraceful” in an interview with Sean Hannity, according to CBS/National Journal.

It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background,” Gingrich said. “Is the President suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?”

Earlier in the day Gingrich told reporters that he thought the case should be investigated and suggested the shooter was at fault.

“That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot,” Gingrich continued on Hannity’s show. “It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian-American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American. It is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”

Schadenfreude on March 24, 2012 at 12:42 AM

I swear, Obama has never met a first person pronoun he didn’t like. He is such a narcissist. Everything is always about him, isn’t it? He forgot to say, “If I had a grandson, he’d look an aweful lot like him, except I wouldn’t have a grandson because I want my daughters to fulfill their dreams by aborting their babies”

kscheuller on March 24, 2012 at 1:38 AM

Newt Gingrich called Obama’s remarks about Trayvon Martin “disgraceful” in an interview with Sean Hannity, according to CBS/National Journal.

“It’s not a question of who that young man looked like…”

Lefties, including our community-organizer-in-chief, are fanning the flames, preparing the ground for full-fledged pre-election civil disorder.

petefrt on March 24, 2012 at 7:03 AM

Or, when a white kid is beaten, robbed or killed at the hands of a black kid, all it draws is either a big fat “meh” or “it’s understandable” from the likes of the race baiters.

Rixon on March 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Case in point.

IrishEyes on March 24, 2012 at 8:47 AM

So placing your hand on someone’s shoulder, nothing else, construes a rude, insolent or angry manner?

opustx on March 23, 2012 at 3:47 PM

You put your hand on my shoulder without my permission, I’ll blast your ass into a pink mist and a red smear.

Try me…

MooCowBang on March 24, 2012 at 8:53 AM

Nice that you’re concerned about the dude who is still alive after killing a tenenager.
LawnGnomeFanFirst on March 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Nice that youre not concerned with the rule of law, and waiting for a suspect to be tried by his peers in the form of a jury.

Nice for you to take a race-baiting stance without facts or trial.

Nice that you automatically jump to conclusions based on liberal media’s vomitous spewage.

Nice that you want to condemn a possibly innocent man without giving him a chance to defend himself.

Hopefully, someday, you too can be treated as you wish others to be treated.

MooCowBang on March 24, 2012 at 8:59 AM

You know it’s true.

HeatSeeker2011 on March 23, 2012 at 5:21 PM

Youre godd*mn right its true…

MooCowBang on March 24, 2012 at 9:05 AM

@NBCMiami tweeted:
********************

#BREAKING Family of #TrayvonMartin thanks #Obama for his comments about their son http://t.co/HfBgZ1Gl

Submitted 2 hours ago from twitter.com/NBCMiami
http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/trayvon-martin-shooting
==========================================================

canopfor on March 23, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Why…was he asking for free birth control?

MooCowBang on March 24, 2012 at 9:06 AM

Hold your idiocies, especially Obama, Sharpton, Jackson and the sissy contenders for the presidency.

Schadenfreude on March 24, 2012 at 9:11 AM

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001791912868 – maybe this kid was not the angel the MSM is portraying him as? Not that he should have been shot, but ya gotta wonder at the time lapse and motivation. The pic they show on the news is when he was 12, not 17. Mmmmmm.

samazf on March 24, 2012 at 10:54 AM

I may have posted my earlier comments in haste. Dam. I hate it when i let myself get suckered by the media.

http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/state/witness-martin-attacked-zimmerman-03232012

http://www.trayvon.tk/

Guess I’ll wait to see what happens in the coming weeks.

watson007 on March 24, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5