The line that’s getting attention from this afternoon’s impromptu presser is that Trayvon Martin “could have been me 35 years ago,” but that’s both implausible and tangential to his real message. Why implausible? Because, if you believe Zimmerman’s account of the fight, Martin ambushed him and then pounded on him relentlessly after he’d fallen to the ground. Say what you like about President Spock, it’s hard to imagine him reacting that way to anything. To believe the “I could have been Trayvon” claim, you have to believe the most sinister explanation for what happened between Martin and Zimmerman — that Zimmerman killed him essentially in cold blood for the crime of being black, not in self-defense. No one outside of O’s lefty base seems to believe that anymore, which tells you who the target audience here is.
But never mind that. Talking publicly about race is virtually all downside for The One, which is why he does it only when he’s forced to. (His wildly overpraised speech on race during the 2008 campaign was designed to calm the uproar over Rev. Wright.) It’s a given that the media will mindlessly praise him for his brilliance on the theory that anything the first black president has to say about race must be profound, but he gets no real political benefit from speaking up. He can’t be too critical of black culture or it’ll be considered a betrayal; if he’s too critical of law enforcement or the white majority, he risks damaging his party by alienating white voters that Democrats are desperate to hold onto. His allegedly “brilliant” comments on race are thus really just an exercise in tightrope-walking, with a little dished out to each side. It’s easy to fall off the tightrope — remember “the police acted stupidly”? — so his goal is simply to be as politic as possible without being so politic that the left decides he’s a sellout. No matter what he says, it’ll be “divisive,” a situation no pol ever wants to be in.
The point is, it takes a lot to get him to inch out on the tightrope. What got him out there this time? Simple: He knows that Holder has no case against Zimmerman and that the left’s going to be disappointed when the DOJ investigation is dropped. Today’s presser was him reminding them that he feels their pain in order to brace them for the big letdown. And the letdown is coming:
The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries (sic) were properly instructed that in a – in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant. And they rendered a verdict.
And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works…
But beyond protests or vigils, the question is: Are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government. The criminal code and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.
Follow the last link for a full transcript. He talks about the black experience with racial profiling but also acknowledges that “somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably, statistically, more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.” He talks about “soul-searching” and training for local cops, but he also says this, which was a pleasant surprise:
You know, there’s been talk about, should we convene a conversation on race? I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when, you know, politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have…
And let me just leave you with – with the final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated.
But, you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.
The “national conversation on race” is political garbage and race relations are in fact getting better. He might be the only prominent Democrat in the country willing to concede those two points, but if there can only be one, it’s good that it’s the guy at the top who’s doing it. Speaking of garbage, though:
And for those who – who resist that idea, that we should think about something like these Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
Could Trayvon have stood his ground if Zimmerman punched him in the face and then started beating his head against the sidewalk? I sure hope so. Would he have been justified in shooting Zimmerman for following him in the car, though? Er, no, and the law doesn’t say that he is. The Florida statute gives you the right to stand your ground and use force if you’ve been “attacked.” Has O even looked at these laws? Or is he distorting them purposely to build momentum for the left’s new political initiative?
Anyway. I didn’t see the clip, but Zimmerman’s brother apparently received Obama’s comments reasonably well.