President Obama Speaks on Baltimore, Blames…Republicans?
I’m honestly surprised it took 72 hours for the narrative to play out this way. That seems like an inordinantly long time for this particular President to take to blame the opposing party – which has been doing an excellent job, of late, proving that it was Harry Reid who was the cornerstone of the do-nothing Congress – for the systemic violence that has plaugued the city of Baltimore since late last week. Of course, we do have to give him a slight berth; after all, Saturday was the White House Correspondents Dinner, Sunday was the first real “golf outside” day of the year, and he’s got a very special State Dinner tonight to prepare for.
Thankfully, though, he hadn’t forgotten his one official obligation. And today, in his speech, he made clear that the reason the citizens of Baltimore are rioting out of control is – wait for it – because Republicans have failed to pass his legislative agenda.
Of course there are plenty of underlying reasons that a city would suddenly become a tinderbox. Baltimore is plagued by bad policy and bad leadership. The city suffers from crippling unemployment, and yes, the police department has a history of treating criminals as less than human. In just a few short years, the Baltimore PD has paid out millions in jury awards and settlements to arrestees and their families, which, while far from conclusive, shows there might be a problem with the aggressive nature of law enforcement. People don’t riot because they feel they have a voice. But that far from excuses the malicious and senseless destruction of property, looting and the bumbling response from government at all levels. But yet…
If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do, the rest of us, to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids. To make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons. So that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense. That we’re making investments so they can get the training they need to find jobs.
That’s hard. That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force, and there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that. I’m under no illusion that under this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities. And so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform, and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.
Look, I grew up in Detroit. Throwing money at a problem – especially Federal money – might make elected leadership feel good, and prevent upper class white liberals from having to face the reality of inner city life by keeping it at a safe distance with checks from the IRS, but it seldom does anything to repair infrastructure or rebuild an eroding community. And it certainly does nothing to improve the quality of leadership that people in flailing urban areas experience (and Baltimore looks to be the same story). In Detroit, it took a plotline straight out of Gotham City – the mysterious death of a stripper and the mayoral persecution of two rogue cops looking to bring her and her family justice – to start the ball rolling on reform. The Federal government threw millions – billions – at Detroit to bail it out, and it spent it all on hookers and cocaine.
But far be it from Barack Obama to address the real root causes of violence. I suppose the good news is he’s too busy than to use the city as a prop for a photo opportunity.