U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch yesterday “strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police.” The comments came on the heels of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) arguing that “the entire Obama administration” has shown “hostility [towards] law enforcement.”
Cruz, of course, backed up his argument by pointing to … nothing. Soon after, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) appeared on Fox News and said the White House’s support for law enforcement has been “ambiguous,” which contributes to violence and lawlessness. To support the contention, the scandal-plagued Republican also pointed to … nothing.
Taking an even less subtle approach, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) published a piece on a far-right blog yesterday, reflecting on “a serious problem.”
In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we’ve seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat.
Look, eventually we’re going to reach a put-up-or-shut-up moment. We talked yesterday about how offensive it is when politicians exploit the deaths of police officers for partisan gain, but as the number of GOP candidates connecting the White House to the slayings grows, it becomes all the more important for Republican officials to do one specific thing:
Back up their ugly claims with some shred of proof.
Of course, at this point, I can imagine some conservative readers yelling at their computer screens. “Oh yeah, smart guy? What about you? Where’s your evidence that the president has offered unambiguous support for law enforcement?”
It’s not an unreasonable point, but it’s also surprisingly easy to spend a little time online and find all kinds of examples. About a month ago, Obama told the NAACP’s annual convention, “Our communities are safer thanks to brave police officers and hard-working prosecutors who put those violent criminals in jail.” In May, he said, “To be a police officer takes a special kind of courage…. It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate.”
Here was the president in May at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service:
“Your jobs are inherently dangerous. The reminders are too common. Just a few days ago, two police officers were killed in the line of duty in Mississippi. A week before that, an officer was killed in the line of duty in Queens. A few months before that, two of his fellow officers in the NYPD were killed as well. We cannot erase every darkness or danger from the duty that you’ve chosen. We can offer you the support you need to be safer. We can make the communities you care about and protect safer as well. We can make sure that you have the resources you need to do your job. We can do everything we have to do to combat the poverty that plagues too many communities in which you have to serve. We can work harder, as a nation, to heal the rifts that still exist in some places between law enforcement and the people you risk your lives to protect.“We owe it to all of you who wear the badge with honor. And we owe it to your fellow officers who gave their last full measure of devotion. Most of all, we can say thank you. We can say we appreciate you and we’re grateful for the work that you do each and every day. And we can thank the families who bear the burden alongside you.”
In March, reflecting on the crisis in Ferguson, Obama said, “The overwhelming number of law enforcement officers have a really hard, dangerous job, and they do it well and they do it fairly, and they do it heroically. And I strongly believe that. And the overwhelming majority of police departments across the country are really thinking hard about how do we make sure that we are protecting and serving everybody equally. And we need to honor those folks, and we need to respect them, and not just assume that they’ve got ill will or they’re doing a bad job.”
Even in this year’s State of the Union address, the president added, “We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
The list goes on and on. There are so many examples like these – the ones noted above are just from 2015 – spanning Obama’s entire presidency. Over and over again, he’s voiced support and gratitude towards Americans in law enforcement.
Ted Cruz said this week that the police feel under “assault from the president,” which the far-right senator considers “fundamentally wrong.”
It is fundamentally wrong, but not for the reasons Cruz thinks.
The underlying allegation is no mild rebuke. Republican officials, some seeking the nation’s highest office, are publicly accusing the president of the United States, not only of hostility towards law enforcement, but also of contributing to a dynamic in which officers are being killed. That’s a serious accusation, which requires substantiation.
If GOP officials can’t back it up, they ought to move on to some other kind of nonsense.