Folks on the homepage and the Corner have pretty well covered the appalling violence stemming from Ferguson. Just a footnote that, in neither of his two public statements since the grand jury’s decision, has President Obama uttered a word of praise for the legal system. No comment on its thoroughness, its fidelity to duty, the earnest effort of American citizens both black and white who served on the grand jury to reach a judgment based on facts and not emotion, a process that took weeks and sought out the statements of anyone who claimed to have seen the incident.
No, not one word for the system that sets us apart from banana republics and autocracies. The best our lawyer-president could do was a grudging acknowledgment that, “we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” It was all but a call to question the grand jury’s competence or neutrality, as well as a justification for those who opposed the decision.
Instead, Obama shifted his focus to undermining faith in law enforcement nationwide. The president spent his valuable national television time warning local police not to overreact, not to confuse a few bad apples with the whole bunch, entreating all of us to recognize the unfair treatment that rages in our country. All this while the split screen showed dozens of criminals burning down private businesses in Ferguson, most of them minority-owned. Given a do-over on Tuesday, a chance to educate the American public about the grand jury system and try to restore faith in legal process, Obama doubled down on his polemic criticism of law enforcement.
On neither Monday nor Tuesday night did the president use more than a few words from his bully pulpit to castigate, to publicly shame the opportunistic thugs who chose violence for no reason other than their own nihilism. The president said nothing about groups of protesters burning the American flag in Ferguson or D.C. or destroying Christmas decorations in Atlanta. But he took pains to say
So my message to those people who are constructively moving forward, trying to organize, mobilize and ask hard, important questions about how we improve the situation, I want all those folks to know that their president is going to work with them.The president can choose sides, and clearly has; after all, he identified himself as “their” president. That’s his right. But his subtle and poisonous undermining of faith in our legal system will have consequences for years to come.