Barack Obama gave his second statement on the Fort Hood massacre, and this one went better than his first. He cautioned Americans to let law-enforcement agencies do their job in investigating the 13 murders apparently committed by Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan and to avoid “jumping to conclusions” based on incomplete data. Although this statement has prompted angry responses in e-mail, in this case Obama’s correct — almost anticlimactically so:
President Barack Obama said Friday the entire nation is grieving for those slain at Fort Hood, and he urged people not to jump to conclusions while law enforcement officers investigate the shootings.
Obama met Friday morning with FBI Director Robert Mueller and other federal leaders to get an update on what they’ve learned. Thirteen people were killed and 30 others injured in the shooting rampage at the Texas Army post on Thursday. The suspected shooter is an Army psychiatrist; his motive remains unclear.
“We don’t know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts,” Obama said in a Rose Garden statement otherwise devoted to the economy.
“What we do know is that there are families, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday,” the president said.
Of course we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions, although the impulse to do so is very, very tempting. What do we have? A single data point on a mass shooting where the suspect apparently yelled “Allahu akbar!” before killing 13 people. That could mean a wide range of things, from a conspiracy to commit a series of such attacks, to a militant anti-war action, or to just a lunatic with a religious delusion. That’s why we have law enforcement to investigate crimes — so that conclusions will be based on fact rather than conjecture.
Earlier this year, conservatives howled, and rightly so, when Janet Napolitano issued a report on “right-wing domestic terrorism” that advised law enforcement that opposition to abortion and Obama policies could be indicators of potential extremist violence. The report based that on a couple of lunatics murdering abortionists. It also warned that former combat veterans could fall prey to right-wing militia groups and commit terrorism, based on the single named example of Timothy McVeigh. We were right to criticize that report as entirely conjectural and lacking any specific reasoning. We should not rush to make the same mistake with the Fort Hood massacre.
There is certainly room for criticism of the coverage of the shooting, especially the reluctance of some outlets to report the known facts of Hasan’s circumstances. We deserve to have all the facts presented without bias so as to reach the right conclusions. However, we need to wait for all the facts in order to make sure we do. Rushing to conclusions now does no one any good at all, and almost guarantees that we will reach the wrong ones, such as the one Newsweek waited less than a day to float:
What if Thursday’s atrocious slaughter at Fort Hood only signals that the worst is yet to come? The murder scene yesterday afternoon at the Killeen, Texas, military base, the largest in the country, was heart-wrenching. Details remained murky, but at least 13 are dead and 30 wounded in a killing spree that may momentarily remind us of a reality that most Americans can readily forget: soldiers and their families are living, and bending, under a harrowing and unrelenting stress that will not let up any time soon. And the U.S. military could well be reaching a breaking point as the president decides to send more troops into Afghanistan.
As one person said in Rick Moran’s comments, it reminds me of the conclusion-leaping that took place when the St. Anthony Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis two years ago, which also killed 13 people. The Left didn’t wait for longer than six hours to blame it on Tim Pawlenty’s budget cuts; in the end, it was a design flaw from the original construction that doomed the bridge.
Update: Good point from commenter Dingbat63; Barack Obama should have heeded this advice when he leaped to the conclusion that Cambridge police “acted stupidly” when they arrested Skip Gates. Beer summit!