With President Obama leading the way, Republican presidential candidates fell into line last week in prejudging the case of Trayvon Martin, offering up sympathy for Trayvon that suggested they do not believe his killer acted in legitimate self defense as claimed.
Evincing either a spineless willingness to blow with the prevailing wind or a lack of presidential-caliber prudence, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all suggested they agree that Trayvon’s shooter, George Zimmerman, is culpable in the killing of an innocent man.
This even as new evidence emerges that Zimmerman may be telling the truth. From today’s Orlando Sentinel:
With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered, authorities have revealed to the Orlando Sentinel.
That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say . . .
In his version of events, he had turned around and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from behind, the two exchanged words then Trayvon punched him in the nose, sending him to the ground, and began beating him . . .
Trayvon was visiting his father’s fiancée, who lived there. He had been suspended from school in Miami after being found with an empty marijuana baggie.
Romney Friday indicated sympathy for Trayvon similar to that offered earlier in the day by Obama, who had said Trayvon looked the way his son would have.
“The shooting of Trayvon is a terrible tragedy unnecessary uncalled for and inexplicable at this point,” Romney said. “What we’ve heard from the media reports suggest that it’s entirely appropriate for the district attorney to be looking into this and to have called a grand jury and find what the facts are. We hope that justice is done in this case as in all cases. But very tragic and our hearts go out to his family his loved ones his friends this shouldn’t have happened.”
Santorum suggested prosecutors should have gone after Zimmerman, even though he did not yet have the facts about why they didn’t.
“It’s a horrible case, I mean it’s chilling to hear what happened, and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made by people in this process.”
Gingrich spoke along the same lines.
“As I understand it, (Zimmerman) was trailing the young man. The young man wasn’t trailing him. I suspect justice will be done,” Gingrich said.
“I think that Americans can recognize that while this is a tragedy, and it is a tragedy, that we’re going to relentlessly seek justice. And I think that’s the right thing to do,” he said, adding ”you had somebody who was clearly overreaching” by following Trayvon.
The job of a leader is to stand athwart the crowd – in this case a kind of lynch mob – and call for calm, reason, and justice. None of these three passed the test.
Zimmerman may be guilty of a crime. We’ll know that after a trial. We have no idea whether he’s guilty right now, and at least one of these three should have said so.