Why Hasn’t President Obama Made A Formal Appeal To Avoid Violence In Ferguson?


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.

54 thoughts on “Why Hasn’t President Obama Made A Formal Appeal To Avoid Violence In Ferguson?

  1. I remember listening to commentary on the Rodney King riots when they were happening. The head of the Michigan NAACP was on and said that the public shouldn’t blame blacks for the riots, this is just how blacks are when they don’t get their way. Everyone in the lab just stopped in shock. This was the head of the state NAACP! President Obama comes from the same type of racial politics in Chicago. Could it be that he really thinks that the people in Ferguson are justified in rioting? Could he actually support the riots as a way to punish the police and the rest of Ferguson for the shooting of Michael Brown? Eric Holder and Jay Nixon’s opinions on this matter have set up a lot of justification for a riot. Is the President on-board too?

  2. Spot on. There have been leadership failures to address the need to trust the system on ALL LEVELS and to reassure the people or to simply and assertively demand peace. This is utter nonsense.

    But I’ll say it again. Even if there is an indictment, I think there will be rioting. The cowardly race hucksters can’t whip a pre-riot into a frenzy and not expect all that pent up emotion to go unreleased. Nope.

    Here’s the next thing that WILL occur IF there is an indictment- The rioters will then, like children or terrorists, just move the goal post… they’ll then quietly imply that rioting will occur if there is no conviction.

    They are beyond any rationalism in this. Far Beyond.

  3. I think the LA riots started because the verdict was so unexpected. They had the people on tape after all. There were no riots for the Martin case, because people were rather resigned at that point that Zimmerman was going to walk. The authorities have been signaling for weeks now how they expect the grand jury decision to go, so it will probably turn out more like the Martin case. There will be protests, maybe an isolated incident here or there, but as long as the police don’t do anything too inciteful (like having police dogs piss on Brown’s memorial like the last time), it should be well handled.

    • ” because people were rather resigned at that point that Zimmerman was going to walk. “

      resigned? They HAD NO CASE. There’s nothing to be “resigned” from as though an injustice was occurring with no righteous power able to stop it.

      “but as long as the police don’t do anything too inciteful “

      When you sweat, do your biases leak out? Because they are so palatably thick they seem to pour out of you.

    • I think the President should employ the wait and see method. Right now, in theory, at least, we don’t know what the grand jury has decided. If the grand jury decides not to indict, I think at that point the President should do a live conference urging calm. But this far in advance presupposes an outcome that is supposed to be a secret (in theory).

    • It was unexpected because the media kept showing only the part of the video showing King being beaten (and to the part were he attacked the officers and appeared to be immune to force). As with the Brown case, it involved police violence, with a police force that was already distrusted. And the trial was not televised or widely available. That is a much better analogy to the Brown case than with Martin:

      1. The Martin narrative had already broken down, with videos of Zimmerman’s injury, the faked MSMNC tapes, etc.
      2. The Zimmerman trial occurred a long time after the initial event and the uproar.
      3. There was no large, homogenous black community in Sanford, nor in the surrounding cities, unlike the Ferguson/ St. Louis area.
      4. The Zimmerman trial pretty conclusively showed that there was no basis to convict him. In King, there was the video—in Brown’s case, the witnesses who claim he was surrendering, and his body lying in the street.
      5. It’s cumulative: Zimmerman’s acquittal is being used to ramp up anger over Brown.
      6. The anger in the Martin killing was all focused on Zimmerman. Here, as in King, it is institutional—the police, white racism, Ferguson, profiling.
      7. Things have spun out of control for Obama, too, so his biggest and most uncritical supporters see racism in that.
      8. The process has already been discredited by the race-baiters. The fix is in, they have been saying. With Zimmerman, the special prosecutor and the state were blatantly and unethically obvious about wanting to railroad Zimmerman. They essentially pronounced him guilty. There was nobody to blame but the jury.

      I think you are deluded.

      • Anything is possible, so you may be right. But they were predicting riots in the Martin case too, and that didn’t pan out. I think there will be protests, of course. But I believe those will be mostly peaceful. There may be some “enterprising” individuals, in the guise of protesting the Brown decision, who decide to try to “liberate” items from stores. But I don’t that will be widespread.

        I think the sense of anger will be there. But like I’ve said, they have been signaling for weeks now how they believe the grand jury decision will turn out (if they haven’t been sitting on it for this long), so the sense of shock will be missing. I think the shock is what provides the spark for a lot of the riots, while the anger at the institutional racism evinced by the police and other authorities is the fuel that allows the riots to go on. But I guess we shall see.

        Unlike the LA riots, there are a lot of organizations who are primed to deal with any disturbances, and other ones who are trying to funnel the anger into peaceful actions and protests. Hopefully that will make a difference.

        • Again, deluded. I thought riots might be a possibility, until the whole trial played out, and it was such a slam dunk. Even rioters don’t want to look stupid. So much easier to go on, say, Barry’s blog and argue that blacks should be angry about the verdict, all facts to the contrary. And either way, the chances of riots in Ferguson would go down dramatically if the President spoke directly to the protesters, in public.

    • “(like having police dogs piss on Brown’s memorial like the last time), it should be well handled.”

      Just a wild guess…you are not a dog trainer, right? If you were, you’d know that a dog outside is going to piss whenever and wherever the notion strikes them and they will NOT piss on command.

      • Keep up the peaceful protesting, I would assume. I’m pretty positive that most of the protesters meeting with the president were not the same ones breaking into stores and making off with stuff.

        These protesters were the ones getting pepper sprayed and threatened by the police while peacefully assembling, yet who did not retaliate against the unlawful use of force against them, and remained peaceful, bringing most of their complaints to the media instead.

        • Of course, even that would be irresponsible and provocative. Obama has no idea if they have anything to stay the course about. What if a huge stoned thug was arrested after an assault and theft, tried to get the officer’s gun, and charged him after being told to stand down? What’s the protest for then?

          • I think he just means, “keep up the peaceful protests”, rather than the alternative, the looting and rioting, nothing more. If people feel that they have been aggrieved, then they have the right to assemble and protest that treatment. The Brown case has expanded far beyond the killing of one man, but about the police treatment of African-Americans in Ferguson and surrounding areas in general. Brown is just a symbol of that treatment, not the totality of that. So even if Brown was as your hypothetical supposes, they could protest issues beyond just the killing of Brown himself.

            • Yet it still veers too close to the Presiden’t endorsing the view of the protestors…that they have been aggrieved and shouldn’t trust the system. A stance the President probably ought not to verbalize…or at least be very very clear how he caveats all commentary.

            • Stay the course is such a nice non-committal encouragement that can be used for someone losing weight, signing petitions, or sailing for Lisbon. It means whatever the audience want it to mean and he will get points from them, without him having to commit any effort on his part. He’s the head of the executive branch, not the NAACP or the French Resistance. That means you are also responsible to every citizen for their safety. You cannot be more ‘the Man’ than he is as President.

              He can say things to support peaceful protest without this silent approval of potential riots and looting. He is way overdue to ask to some calm as ANY other President, regardless of party, has done when this kinf if unrest hit national consciousness.

  4. I think obama chose his words carefully to maintain plausible deniability, but also meant for them to be interpreted, by people he thinks are incapable of parsing linguistic nuance, as a suggestion to keep it ALL up, looting included, unless I’m mistaken and there was a reprimand about the looting during the same speech. I strongly believe it’s #5. I think the guy is wringing his hands in gleeful anticipation of an explosive clash, one that he might use to justify yet another law that allows him to act unilaterally and vigorously in future situations like this, or maybe get people more used to seeing men in military uniforms utilized for police roles, or maybe just amp up the racial animus even more than it already is, towards whatever ends they’re aiming for. Yep, call me a conspiracy theorist or cynical, but I really have a bad feeling about this guy. Lots of subtle, and not so subtle, indicators for me that he is not merely incompetent.

    • “Incapable of parsing linguistic nuance”? Well, I guess Gruber provided some pretty strong evidence that Obama is not above this and also some evidence that he is not merely incompetent. Just incompetent at leading as a President should. I also wouldn’t put Jack’s #5 past him either. And I don’t take saying that lightly. I’m not one who jumps at implying such nefarious motives but I can’t just ignore what is right in front of my eyes. Also, my big question is what are these people protesting and what is their plan to fix the problem? I’m all for “Justice” but what does that mean and how do they plan to achieve it beyond the indictment of this officer? Burning, looting, blocking traffic, and even spending days and nights in the streets yelling for justice isn’t going to do a damn bit of good in the end.

  5. Is there any reliable source that could report on the changes (if any) to the racial demographics of the Ferguson police force over the past few suspenseful months? It’s a grasp at a straw, I know, but maybe, just maybe, if enough of the riled and ready-to-riot residents of the town started seeing more local law enforcement people who “look more like themselves,” then perhaps at least some of the tensions and “triggers” could be reduced.

    • Lucky…yep, this would be a good sign and definitely should be included in the realm of “justice” that the protestors are wanting. I haven’t seen anything pertaining to this information or if this is something that has been put in place as of yet. I also don’t feel comfortable with Al Sharpton being Obama’s “got to guy” when it comes to giving directions regarding the protests. Al Sharpton needs protests in order to make a living and it’s only when money exchanges hands that he and his kind will stop whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

  6. In regard to Jack’s five possibilities, I would again add the inevitable sixth option: All of the above. Obama has proven time and again that he’s solely motivated by political considerations, not by the requirements of his office to uphold the law and protect law abiding citizens.

        • If they try to take to the streets on a looting spree now- after dark- it’s going to get bloody. A lot of citizens and business owners have armed themselves. Who can blame them, either, after what’s already happened and after what a number of “gangstas” have been threatening to do?

              • Well, I’m convinced, that last group of protesters who smashed the liquor store and cleaned out all the private property sold me. I totally believe the American system is unjust.

                I really think it was the masked cowards with armfuls of vodka that showed me how righteous their position is.

                • I’ve just been commenting on that elsewhere, Tex. When a riot is imminent, one of the first things an on-scene commander should do is secure and de-stock the liquor stores. The rioters will naturally go for those to keep their “spirits up”. That’s just fuel on the flames. I was recalling how the New York Draft Riots of 1863 turned into a conflagration in such a manner. Whoever is in charge of the police just made an elementary error that could cost the lives of hundreds.

                  • Nah, EVERY SINGLE store owner in Ferguson should have had clearance sales for 2 months before this. Boarded up, left, come back and claimed insurance, then left the Community.

                    Then the recently dilapidated community can complain and the store owners can say “I’m sorry, you didn’t stop this, and in fact some of you did this. Good bye”

                    • I sympathize! Still; when the authorities didn’t take this action with the Grand Jury verdict about to be announced- regardless of what it would be- they committed unpardonable negligence. When some whiskey soaked rioter kills someone, they’ll have to take part of the blame.

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