He has an obligation to do so. He is the leader of the nation; he is the most admired figure among African-Americans; he is sworn to uphold the Constitution, which the Ferguson protestors either want to ignore (by rejecting due process of law) or believe is being ignored and abused. He has the bully pulpit; he is a persuasive and eloquent orator when he cares about what he is saying. Most of all, he has an obligation because the rhetoric of his appointees, party leaders, surrogates and the President himself have exploited race as a wedge issue and lowered racial comity in the nation to its most dismal state in decades.
Now the stage is set for blood, with Rodney King-style riots in Missouri and perhaps elsewhere, should the grand jury refuse to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Already the process has been thoroughly corrupted by premature conclusions about what happened the day Michael Brown died, and the civil rights establishment, goaded by Brown’s parents, their opportunistic lawyer, and permanent agitators like Al Sharpton, have made it clear that nothing less than a murder indictment will constitute “justice.” Professional protesters have been recruited; looters and rioters are gleefully anticipating a rumble; local businesses are tripling security; and the National Guard is on alert. The fuse is lit, and the impending explosion will be devastating in monetary, human, spiritual and historical terms. President Obama is the one individual who might be able to put it out.
If he does not, if he does not even try, it will be the greatest failure of a sadly failed Presidency, and nothing will surpass it no matter what horrors lay ahead.
I do not know why the President has not spoken out already. My best theories:
1. He never acts in a timely fashion, almost literally never. He “leads from behind,” which means that he avoids leading until it is unavoidable, despite the needless harm that results from each delay.
2. He does not want to make the effort and fail, so he would prefer to react to a riot and condemn it, rather than take responsible actions to prevent it.
3. He is so focused on the looming fight of his own making regarding illegal immigrants that he isn’t paying attention.
4. His advisors have told him that there is no political advantage to be gained in making such a speech, and that taking the side of the justice system will be seen as support for a white police officer over “an unarmed teen.”
5. He wants racial unrest because it will dominate the news and take attention from all the other issues—Gruber, the imperiled ACA, Ukraine, Isis, pointless expenditures to stave off climate change, and more—that reflect poorly on him and his administration.
I cannot, however, think of a theory that reflects positively on him as a President, a leader, an American or a human being.
Let me know if you can come up with one, would you? It would sure make me feel better.