Those on the right who accused President Obama of spreading hate with his comments about Trayvon Martin were oddly silent when the president discussed murder victim Melissa Jenkins today.
Here is the video of President Obama discussing the Jenkins murder from C-SPAN:
The President said, “One last thing I want to do. I want to express my condolences to everybody who knew and loved Melissa Jenkins, because I know some of the elected officials are going on to that funeral. This is a woman by all accounts, who devoted her life to her community and helping to shape young minds. And I know that Vermont’s heart broken, so all we can do is live our lives that in a way that pays tribute to hers, by looking out to her students and her son, and Michelle and I want to express our thoughts and prayers to everyone who knew her. I know that’s a tough situation.”
Compare these expressions of sympathy to what President Obama said about Trayvon Martin,
Well, I’m the head of the executive branch, and the attorney general reports to me, so I’ve got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we’re not impairing any investigation that’s taking place right now.
But obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together – federal, state and local – to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
So I’m glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what’s taking place. I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means that examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
The basic message of sympathy and condolences is the same. Yet the right was outraged about Obama’s remarks about Trayvon Martin, but they have said nothing about his remarks today in Vermont? President Obama’s remarks in Vermont obliterated the right’s claim that the president never talks about murder cases. Why aren’t they out there arguing that President Obama is spreading hate and trying to politically profit from the Jenkins case?
There is one key difference between Trayvon Martin and Melissa Jenkins. Obama’s remarks about Trayvon Martin presented the right with the perfect opportunity to remind their supporters that he is an African-American. On a deeper level their criticism and faux outrage is designed to give the impression that Obama gives preferential treatment to African-Americans. Their message is that white America should fear the black man in the White House, because he is prejudiced against you and won’t give you a fair deal.
The only thing more obvious than their political cynicism is their hypocrisy.
It isn’t President Obama who is trying to politically benefit from the Trayvon Martin case. His critics on the right, including George Zimmerman’s father, have made this shooting a racial and political issue. You better believe that if Melissa Jenkins had been an African-American, the right would have seized on the president’s prayers and sympathy as more evidence of Obama’s “racism.”
Why is it that the right only has a problem with Obama making any statements about a crime or an incident is when the victim isn’t white? Apparently, the Republican political Jim Crow laws give Obama permission to speak only in sympathy and support of white people.
The right’s reaction to the president’s remarks in both cases goes beyond separate and not equal. It is a shameful and ludicrous pander to the darkest parts of our collective character. It is a desperate political tactic carried out by even more desperate men in the twilight of their power. It is also a gambit that is destined to fail.