President Barack Obama delivers a statement to provide an update on Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014.
Photo by Olivier Douliery/EPA

Damned if he does; damned if he doesn’t

After President Obama carefully avoided any provocative comments yesterday about developments in Ferguson, many on the left wondered, “Why couldn’t he go further?”
 
And at the same time, in response to the same tepid, cautious comments, many on the right wondered, “Why did he go too far?”
On August 18, Obama delivered remarks on the progress of airstrikes in Iraq and violence in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who was allegedly shot by a St. Louis County police officer.
 
On August 19, Rove condemned Obama’s remarks on Fox’s Happening Now, claiming that the president failed to draw a strict line between the “peaceful protesters” and the “outside agitators” in Ferguson. Rove also accused Obama of creating a “moral equivalency” by placing the police and violent protesters on “the same level,” concluding that Obama’s statements were “not worthy of the president.”
Got that? While many were disappointed that the president was being too careful to avoid anything controversial – some reporters relied on an old standby, comparing Obama to Spock – there’s Karl Rove, saying the president’s comments were too extreme and un-presidential.
 
Of course, in this case, Rove seems to have condemned remarks he hadn’t actually heard.
 
For one thing, the president did, in fact, draw a strict line between the “peaceful protesters” and the “outside agitators.” In fact, Obama specifically said, on camera, loud enough for everyone to hear, “We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not.”
 
I honestly don’t know how much clearer Obama could have been. There was no ambiguity in those comments.
 
As for the “moral equivalency,” here’s what the president actually said:
“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that 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.
 
“Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these. There’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully.”
If there’s any way to fairly characterize these sentiments as “not worthy of the president,” I honestly don’t see it.
 

Ferguson, Karl Rove, Michael Brown and Missouri

Damned if he does; damned if he doesn't