Without doubt, the right will be blowing about forty fuses over president Obama making a statement in the killing of Trayvon Martin. What is a president doing stepping into a local matter? What business is it of his? Mere campaigning (as they label everything Obama does these days, of course).
These points, however overstated, might have some merit for consideration. But, stop for a moment and think about the opposite possibility. Suppose Bush II were still in the White House. Would he say or do anything to bring attention to the matter? The loudest noise, if Bush were still around, would likely be silence.
We need some national dialog on these matters and Trayvon Martin just happens to be the spark, however needless and unfortunate his killing turns out to have been (even if total proof were found that it was, somehow, justifiable, something that seems very unlikely). More than 20 states have passed laws that give citizens, who do not have law enforcement training and in most cases do not have extensive training and experience with firearms, the same right to “stand their ground” normally limited to police officers. This is serious. If someone can merely claim that they had a “reasonable” fear of death or bodily harm as a reason for killing someone, we are in deep trouble. Shooting could become a common means of conflict resolution.
Until these laws were passed, citizens had a legal obligation to flee, to move away, from someone threatening harm. If they could not move away and the person continued to threaten them or took overt action, they were free to defend themselves. “Stand your ground” moves the trigger point up several notches. It could mean an ordinary dispute with a neighbor could turn into a shooting death.
It is obvious right now that the White House is in full campaign mode, looking for every opportunity to make points. So what? The Republicans, especially those in Congress, have been in campaign mode since January 21, 2009. Obama is merely joining a game already well underway.
THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE ISSUE
It is well known that the Republicans in Congress made a huge effort to paint Obama as against energy development and, by extension, a person responsible for higher gasoline prices. When they passed a deadline for him to approve the Keystone XL, they knew full well that it would probably force his hand into turning down the full pipeline from Canada to south Texas. While some can see his appearance in Oklahoma on Thursday as too clever by by half, it at least throws a wrench in the claim that he opposes energy development. Some will never believe him, some will never believe the Republicans, but at least Obama got the last word in, for now, on the Keystone XL. For a Republican to blame him for doing so is like accusing him of breathing.
Doug Terry, 2.23.12