Bring The Facts…Or Stay Home!
Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful day of fun, feasting, and family.
For several years, I have run what amounts to a Holiday template post during Christmas week. After considerable thought, I decided to deviate from that practice for today’s edition. I understand all the reasons I normally opt not to create new material are in full effect. It’s Christmastime in the city, and the country, and all across the land. Very few people will be allocating time to read a blog. Cool, you have to do what you have to do!
However, this is a special moment in time. The nation is inundated with tensions and hotspots, borne of organized responses to a number of incidents in which police officers have killed unarmed civilians, and District Attorneys or Grand Juries have not found probable cause to file charges against the officers in question.
Before going any further, I must stipulate, police officers are not unequivocally the enemy…period. That is without caveat.
Simultaneously, it is absolutely imperative to enunciate, as clearly as possible, the ranting of select Republicans notwithstanding, to be anti-police brutality, is not to be anti-police. To be in favor of police reform is not to favor killing, harming, or otherwise attacking police officers.
Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York, contends that President Obama is the catalyst for Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s execution of New York Police Officers Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, last Saturday in Brooklyn. Before shooting the officers, the 28 year-old Brinsley shot his 29 year-old ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson, in Owings Mills, Maryland. about 15 miles outside Baltimore. According to the former Mayor, “We’ve had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police.”
Mr. Giuliani has been particularly harsh not only in criticizing President Obama, but also in tying him directly to a broader effort to foment racial dissension in America. He laid the foundation for that specter last month by placing the onus for police treatment of blacks on black crime, citing the statistic that blacks kill 93% of blacks that are murdered. As I have noted previously, this factoid, viewed alone is deceptive as it relates to degree of strength as a causal factor. It totally ignores the fact that murder is typically a crime of passion and/or convenience or accessibility. In other words, the corollary is also true for whites. As a point of comparison, whites kill 84% of whites that are murdered. In short, whether you are black or white, if you are killed, the likelihood is that it will be by someone of the same race as you.
Representative Peter King, of New York, joins Giuliani in this version of the blame game. He argued, “Obama, de Blasio, Al Sharpton and those in the media need to “stop the cop bashing and anti-police rhetoric.” And the drumbeat goes on.
Add conservative blogger Michelle Malkin to the list. She proffered this sentiment: “Obama used his bully pulpit this week to bemoan the ‘real issues’ of discrimination by some police officers. But he said nothing about the murderous strain of racial animus against America’s men and women in blue.”
Then, there is former Congressman Joe Walsh (R-Ill.). He has been tweeting on this topic. In an e-mail to The Washington Post Fact Checker, Walsh said he believes de Blasio, Holder and Obama “have the blood of those two NYPD cops who were killed this past weekend on their hands. All three “responded by stressing how racist America still is, how understandable urban black anger is toward the police, and how police need to re-train and reform. They put all the onus on the police and created the clear atmosphere for people to be angry at and disrespectful toward police. … What they should have done is come out and say succinctly — ‘The judicial system has spoken, respect the decision, cops are good, don’t resist arrest, never ever attack a cop, and don’t you dare riot, loot, and burn.”
The Fact Checker went to work to test the validity of these assertions. They looked at what President Obama said on the deaths of Brown and Garner, with a focus on his statements from August, immediately after Brown’s death. This would have been the beginning of Giuliani’s calculation of four months.
It turns out that none of President Obama’s statements speak any ill of police officers or condone violence among those reacting to the deaths.
- In President Obama’s initial statement three days after the shooting, he urged the public against violence. Violence and unrest nonetheless erupted in Ferguson. Protesters took to the streets, lighting structures on fire and looting stores. Police officers responded with machine guns and other military-style equipment.
- President Obama gave an update two days later, speaking directly to the violence in Ferguson. He said he expressed concernabout the violence to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D). “There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”
- Four days later, President Obama spoke again about Ferguson. He announced Attorney General Holder’s plan to travel to Ferguson to meet with FBI agents, Justice Department personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation into the shooting, and community leaders “whose support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.” He added: “Giving into anger by looting or carrying guns and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.”
- One statement from this briefing seems to directly contradict claims that President Obama immediately took the side of the protesters, thereby launching “anti-police rhetoric”: “I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed because, although these are issues of local jurisdiction, the DOJ works for me, and when they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.”
- Holder quickly became the face of the administration responding to Ferguson. He repeatedly talked about reducing tensions between law enforcement and the community it serves. He and President Obama have spoken on the mistrust toward law enforcement in minority communities, and their personal experiences as men of African American descent. But neither has criticized police officers of systemic racism, or called on the public to be outraged at police officers.
- President Obama offered one of his most pointed criticisms about police training and practices after Ferguson during his December interview on BET, but it’s a stretch to characterize that as “propaganda” for everyone to “hate the police”:
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers are doing a really tough job,
and most of them are doing it well and are trying to do the right thing. But
a combination of bad training, in some cases; a combination in some
cases of departments that really are not trying to root out biases, or
tolerate sloppy police work; a combination in some cases of folks just not
knowing any better, and in a lot of cases, subconscious fear of folks who
look different — all of this contributes to a national problem that’s going to
require a national solution.”
- After a grand jury decided not to indict officials in the case of Garner’s death, President Obama said “law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job … there’s real crime out there that they’ve got to tackle day in and day out — but that they’re only going to be able to do their job effectively if everybody has confidence in the system. And right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly.” He added that it was his job as president to solve the problem of people not being treated equally under the law.
- Giuliani said leaders like Obama, Holder and de Blasio are perpetuating a myth that there is systemic police brutality. Fact Checker found no evidence that Obama and Holder believe police brutality is a systemic problem. However, Obama and Holder have spoken about systemic mistrust among minorities about how they are treated by police.
- Ironically, Giuliani himself was once accused of fostering an atmosphere of police violence. A Haitian immigrant who was sodomized by New York City police officers claimed — then recanted — that the officers invoked Giuliani’s name (“It’s Giuliani time!”) during the assault. So the former mayor should be especially wary of making broad-brush claims that the rhetoric of senior officials is to blame for the actions of individuals.
- Fact Checker concluded: “Mr. Giuliani has a point that there is growing animosity among protesters toward police officers. That may have contributed to the actions of individuals such as Brinsley. But the burden of proof rests with the speaker. We combed through President Obama’s speeches and can find no evidence of “propaganda” that “everybody should hate the police.”
The United States of America is indeed a special place. Law Enforcement Officers hold a unique place in our society. At their best, they do everything form the mundane to the sublime to help ensure that our communities function effectively, efficiently, safely and securely. I stand first in line to thank them for their service. However, from time to time, some of them cross the line, and we have far too many examples of that. When that happens, people of good will must respond. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as having said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
So while we are at it, let’s not just push back on all that Obama hate; let’s show him some well-deserved props for the following:
- Lower gas prices (Actually under $2.00 in some places according to CNN)
- 5% economic growth…strongest in ii years
- Stock Market finished the day yesterday above 18,000 (first time EVER)
- More Americans with health insurance
I salute you Mr. President! To summarize, conservatives have blamed President Obama for every ill in this country from the abysmal Hurricane Katrina response (which occurred before his Presidency…and under one of their own), to the failing economy (which he inherited, but is continuing to rebound nicely), to the death of two New York police officers last Saturday (See item 1-10 above). As with most of the politically motivated rhetoric aimed at crippling him and/or his agenda, a load of specious misinformation. “Bring The Facts…Or Stay Home!”
I’m done; holla back!
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