The Very Polite Conservative Response to Obama's Trayvon Martin Speech

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 19 2013 6:48 PM

The Very Polite Conservative Response to Obama's Trayvon Martin Speech

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President Obama's remarks Friday on Trayvon Martin incurred less wrath than anybody expected.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

As soon as President Obama started his off-the-cuff remarks about the George Zimmerman verdict, a question burned in the minds of liberal Web writers. "Hey, which conservatives are going to pop off about this?"

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

Well, this is a nice end to the week, because the answer is "not really very many at all." Erick Erickson weighed in with a series of tweets.

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Chris Wallace, on Fox, quickly dismissed the idea that the speech was divisive. And people searching for conservatives who are dog-piling on the speech seem to be resorting to random jerks on Twitter. Hey, news flash—people on the Internet, with the gift of anonymity and endless space, often have untoward racial views.

I get the quest for Offensive Responses to Obama, and I expected more, too. In 2012, when the president weighed in on the time it was taking for charges in the Martin case, conservatives pounced on his "divisive" rhetoric. "Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn’t look like him?" asked Newt Gingrich.

The circumstances are different now. The president started his remarks by acknowledging the judgment of the jury. Tonight and tomorrow, scores of activists are going to be protesting the verdict again, in various cities. "You know, I think it's understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent," said the president. "If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family."

That's sort of the thing you'd want a president to say. Sure, you can comb the Web for examples of fake outrage (Drudge is a cesspool, as usual), but here we might have the rare example of the president making a speech that ... doesn't inflame anyone more than they already were.

Oh, and I hope there's some pressure put on the administration in re: this line.

The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Elsewhere, Artur Davis weighed in on Obama's response to the Zimmerman verdict. He wrote this largely before today's remarks, so I asked him if his opinion had changed.

"I would not alter my earlier thoughts," said Davis. "What is needed here is not empathy, which of course Obama and most Americans feel, but a more meaningful narrative about the ways race imprisons all of us, including black leaders who see violence more dramatically when the perpetrator is white than when it is another child down the street."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.