It was not long after the August 9th shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown that protests and violence erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, political leaders and pundits of all stripes have weighed in on what that episode means for American public policy. Almost every political actor of significance offered their thoughts on this pivotal moment in American history… with one glaring exception.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been sharply criticized for remaining silent on Ferguson from many of her likely key supporters if she runs for the White House in 2016. Speaking at a rally in Ferguson, Rev. Al Sharpton called out Clinton by name for failing to speak on the matter.
She even clumsily avoided being cornered on the subject by reporters, according to a report in Politico:
“Two reporters called out questions to Clinton about her thoughts on Ferguson after she had wrapped up at Books & Books on Main Street in Westhampton Beach, a store owned by former Simon & Schuster executive Jack McKeown. (Simon & Schuster is the publisher of her new book, “Hard Choices.”) Clinton ignored the questions and kept walking toward a rear entrance of the book store.
Speaking in San Francisco on Thursday, Clinton spoke about Ferguson but also about racial inequity in the United States. “We cannot ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system,” she said.
Imagine what we with would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers, instead of the other way around. If white offenders received prison sentences 10 percent longer than black offenders for the same crimes. If a third of all white men — just look at this room and take one-third — went to prison during their lifetime. Imagine that. That is the reality in the lives of so many of our fellow Americans and so many of the communities in which they live.
She went on to praise President Barack Obama for sending the attorney general to Ferguson and for pursuing a federal investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown.
“She clearly had put some thought into that,” CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin observed. Well, Clinton had 18 days to think that one up since the violence started, so I should hope she did.
This statement makes an overt appeal of solidarity with those on the left who have been insistent that the shooting of Michael Brown not only had a racial element to it but that justice cannot be done in that community. The comments are likely to quiet Clinton’s critics, who have been shocked and justifiably disturbed by her silence on what so many felt was a matter of critical importance, but it should not.
Clinton may have said all the things her critics wanted to hear and more, but she does not share their concerns. If she did, she would not have had to wait to parrot their talking points. Others have suggested that Clinton was merely deferring to the president in a time of national strife. It is possible, but she has also expressed no qualms about criticizing the president’s policy towards the Middle East which is both a national crisis and one in which American servicemen and women are currently in harm’s way dealing with. Clinton has no excuse for her silence save for the legitimate reason she was quiet: She hoped she could get away without addressing this issue and only spoke on it when it was clear she could not.
This is as calculating a maneuver as any a Clinton has ever embraced, and that’s saying something. It is timed to ensure her the maximum political benefit with minimal fallout. There was nothing courageous here. Those too quick to forgive her will be doing so to preserve her viability as a potential Democratic standard-bearer in 2016.
Regardless of what is said in public, Clinton created a rift between her and her supporters on the left. They may be quick to forgive, but they will not forget.