After waiting some 17 hours since the jury issued its verdict, President Obama issued a written statement Sunday afternoon saying “a jury has spoken” but suggesting justice has not been done.
As anger seethes among those who reject the jury’s unanimous verdict that George Zimmerman did not murder Trayvon Martin or commit manslaughter, the president only indirectly called for protestors to refrain from violence.
And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.
Note that instead of calling for calm himself, Obama decided to paraphrase Martin’s parents. And instead of pointedly insisting on nonviolence, Obama mentions the need for “calm reflection.”
Meanwhile, the statement unambiguously favors Martin – starting with the allusion to “two parents who lost their young son” – even though the jurors’ verdict means they could not rule out that Zimmerman was acting in self defense from a vicious attack in which he might have been beaten to death.
The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America . . . We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.
That’s the extent of the statement. Obama did not make any reference to Zimmerman, whom many believe also deserves sympathy, since his life may well have been ruined by the shooting and his safety is clearly in jeopardy in the face of numerous death threats.
By expressing sympathy only for Martin, Obama is again taking sides in the case, as he did in March 2012 when he proclaimed that, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Obama’s statement, with it’s insistence that Americans “ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” may send a message to the Justice Department that he would support federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Appearing Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today hinted he would support such a move:
I think the Justice Department is going to take a look at this. You know, this isn’t over with, and I think that’s good.
And with Obama’s clear support for Martin over Zimmerman, the president may have undermined what would seem to be, in the context of the rest of his statement, an almost perfunctory appeal for calm.