Yesterday afternoon, President Obama addressed the violent riots in Baltimore and hinted at a justification for such actions based on altercations involving African-Americans and the police.
“We have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African-American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions,” Obama said.
He added that what was happening in Baltimore and other cities is “a broader social issue.”
The problem with President Obama’s condemnation is that he fails to separate what is happening into two distinct issues. Concerns in the black community over police tactics, and the rioting and vandalism taking place in Baltimore.
One has nothing to do with the other.
In 1992, addressing the nation regarding the Los Angeles riots that followed the Rodney King verdict, President George H.W. Bush was able to separate the two.
Bush told the nation during his address on the matter that what was happening “in Los Angeles is not about civil rights.”
“It’s not a message of protest,” he added. “It’s been the brutality of a mob, pure and simple.”
Herein lies the difference between the two Presidents facing similar circumstances. Bush understood the criminality is not about anybody’s civil rights, and it isn’t a form of free speech. Obama quantifies the violence and destruction of personal property, saying there are “troubling questions” that are part of a societal problem.
By contrast, here is President Bush’s strong statement on the riots in 1992:
What we saw last night and the night before in Los Angeles is not about civil rights. It’s not about the great cause of equality that all Americans must uphold. It’s not a message of protest. It’s been the brutality of a mob, pure and simple. And let me assure you: I will use whatever force is necessary to restore order. What is going on in L.A. must and will stop. As your President I guarantee you this violence will end.
Watch part of his address below…
Which President do you think has had a stronger reaction to violence erupting in the streets over an incident involving police and an African-American criminal?