SAN DIEGO, April, 28, 2015 —During a press conference with Japan’s prime minister, President Barack Obama commented on the Baltimore violence that broke forth like a tidal wave as a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, while in the custody of police a few weeks ago.
Early in his speech Obama condemned the violence.
” It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.”
Unfortunately, as to be expected, the president then went on to say other things.
“The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore, I think, have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist…. Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions. And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks. And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.
“What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new….I think there are police departments that have to do some soul-searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul-searching. But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul-searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades…If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that…. Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.”
Perhaps Obama’s most interesting words came with his call for national “soul-searching,” all the while showing microscopic evidence that he ever searches his own soul.
Yes, Mr. President, some soul-searching is definitely in order; soul-searching such as the kind that evaluates whether the president should be making comments about the Baltimore police department before the investigation is completed, not to mention lingering comments about Ferguson inasmuch as the police officer involved was exonerated not only by the grand jury but by your own Justice Department. Perhaps such thoughtless, irresponsible statements contribute to the misdirected anger, taking the wind out of those earlier obligatory renunciations of the violence which seem to serve as only a prelude for the matters you truly wish to discuss.
And while we’re on the subject of priorities, Mr. President,was this really the time to bring up your own political agenda and make yet another dig at the Republicans?
No, Mr. President, soul-searching does not seem to be a habit of yours. We saw no soul-searching in your lies about health care, lies about Benghazi, or executive orders regarding illegal immigration, orders you yourself had once said you did not have the power to implement.
Ironically, soul-searching is just exactly what our nation needs right now in the face of such political balkanization and race-baiting, which divide, rather than unite.
We should honor our president’s call to soul-searching. But honoring his example would make about as much sense as holding up King George as a champion of colonists’ rights.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.