Why is racial discord the problem of the summer 2016? If anyone has what it takes to unify the country over race it is Barack Obama, who is President right now and who had been President for 7 1/2 years. If it makes any sense to be deciding the current presidential election on this issue, if this longed-for capacity is something that can possibly exist, then Barack Obama would be doing it now and would have been doing it for years.
Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That’s what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don’t see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.
—–Law professor Ann Althouse, on her blog, responding to an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Pat Healy bemoaning the inability of either Trump of Clinton to respond to the Dallas shootings in a manner that unifies rather than divides.
1. I admit it: sometimes I look for other commentators who have discerned what I have discerned and use their quotes to state what I would normally be writing myself. Althouse is a left-leaning eccentric moderate who is not overtly political, and who is skilled at overcoming her own biases. She voted for Obama (at least once), and she plies her craft as a law professor in Madison, Wisconsin, as progressive a community as there is. I have found Obama’s leadership ability and Presidential performance wanting in almost all respects since early in his administration and have explained my analysis here. The price I pay for this is that those who are in denial over what should be obvious (though terribly disappointing and sad) feel that my consistent criticism gives them the opportunity to mask their denial by labeling me an Obama-hater, a partisan (as if I wouldn’t be equally critical of an incompetent Republican President with a flat learning curve) and even a racist. A quote like Althouse’s is not so much an appeal to authority—I disagree with Professor Althouse a lot, though not her dislike of men wearing shorts—but choosing to allow someone else to say well what I may not have said any better, and to prove that I’m not the only one coming to such conclusions.
2. The President’s comments on the shooting deaths of officer-involved deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota were irresponsible, inflammatory, and typical of his approach to race relations from the very beginning, when he stuck his influential nose into a controversy between a competent white Cambridge police officer and a race-baiting black Harvard professor. Then, without knowing any of the underlying facts, he suggested that the white police officer was at fault and the black professor (a friend of his) was blameless. His remarks about the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota issued from the same bias. I’ll just comment on the beginning of his statement, which is enough to make the point:
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. I know we’ve been on a long flight, but given the extraordinary interest in the shootings that took place in Louisiana and Minnesota, I thought it would be important for me to address all of you directly. [ “Extraordinary interest” is not justification for a President of the United States to weigh in on local law enforcement matters before the facts are known. ]
And I want to begin by expressing my condolences for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. [Why? Does the President express condolences to every victim of a police shooting? Every crime victim? There was “extraordinary interest” in the wanton murder of young, white, Kathryn Steinle by an illegal Mexican immigrant with a criminal record, whom Obama’s policies allowed to roam free, yet he made no statement about her, and issued no condolences to her parents. If he set out to create the perception of race bias and a double standard , he couldn’t have done it any better. Furthermore, the fact of his statement implies that the two men were innocent victims and that the police were at fault]
As I said in the statement that I posted on Facebook, we have seen tragedies like this too many times. The Justice Department, I know, has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge. [ What does he mean “like this”? As his next sentence makes clear, he means “Black men shot dead because they were black.” Yet Obama does not know this. He assumes it, as he assumed it in the Trayvon Martin’s death, just as Black Lives Matter and the Congressional Black Caucas and Al Sharpton assume it, because they are all, to varying degrees, anti-police bigots, encouraging anti-police bigotry, and anti-white animus as well.] The governor of Minnesota, I understand, is calling for an investigation there, as well. [ Mark Drayton, the Governor of Minnesota, disgracefully announced without any evidence whatsoever and before any investigation had been begun, much less completed, that police wouldn’t have shot and killed Philando Castile if he’d been white! ] As is my practice, given my institutional role, I can’t comment on the specific facts of these cases, and I have full confidence in the Justice Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and fair inquiry. [ Except that by making this statement in this manner, Obama iscommenting, and specifically treating the incident as a racial incident.]
But what I can say is that all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, [ Again, what does he mean, “these shootings” ? Does he mean, as he would if he were responsible, that Americans should be troubled by the fact that officers are placed in the position of having to use deadly force to protect themselves in the course of their duty? No, he isn’t. This is all irresponsible innuendo…anti-police, race-baiting innuendo.] because these are not isolated incidents. [Again, Obama is grouping the shootings in a category that he cannot fairly say they belong to at this time. Did Michael Brown’s death belong in this group of incidents, or, as Obama’s Justice Department showed, did it belong to the category of “individual shot while resisting a lawful arrest and placing a police officer in genuine peril, with no evidence of race being a factor “? ]
They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. [ Those incidents that are legitimately in this “group”–that is, the group of police confrontations with blacks caused by prejudice, fear and unwarranted assumptions created by racial biases–are a genuine concern, but since Obama at this time cannot know that the deaths of Sterling and Castile were among these incidents, it is provocative and inflammatory to place them there.]
According to various studies — not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years — African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites. African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime. [ None of this is necessarily relevant to the two cases Obama is commenting on, but because he is linking them, the statement amounts to an affirmative statement by the President of the United States that the two men are dead because of their race.]…
3. Obama has not merely “failed” to promote racial harmony, he has actively seeded racial disharmony.
4. I had little hope in 2008 that Obama could achieve most of his extravagant promises, given his evident arrogance and shocking lack of relevant leadership experience. Like many Americans, however, I believed that improved racial trust was one vital objective that the first black President could achieve. More than the profligately exploded debt, more than the deadly and incompetent foreign policies, more than the near abdication of realistic anti-terrorism measures, more than the acceptance of illegal immigration, more than the attacks on due process, more than the cover-ups and atrocious failure to insist on competent operations in federal agencies and departments, more than the insane Iran bargain, more than creating the viral cynicism and distrust that has led to the candidacy of Donald Trump, more than all that and more, Obama’s greatest failure and betrayal of the trust placed in him has been this—the collapse of trust among Americans divided by race, and the demonization of law enforcement within the black community in the process.
5. The murder of five Dallas police officers last week was just the beginning, speaking of incidents that cannot be “isolated.” Last night, a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota erupted into violence against police officers. (President Obama had previously praised BLM, whose website refers to the deaths of Sterling and Castile as “murder.”) San Antonio police headquarters, also last night, were raked with gunfire.
President Obama may not be primarily responsible and accountable for what is happening, but he is significantly responsible and accountable. Althouse correctly flagged the reluctance of a news media and punditry that has looked away from all of his failures and botches for seven years to admit his role in this national disaster.
I never expected this.