I didn’t see the president’s remarks live yesterday, but I did read a transcript. Apparently, the remarks disappointed some liberals, including Booman, for one, and a bunch of people on Twitter.
But I think Ezra Klein has it right here:
If Obama’s speeches aren’t as dramatic as they used to be, this is why: the White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better. It is as likely to infuriate conservatives as it is to inspire liberals. And in a country riven by political polarization, widening that divide can take hard problems and make them impossible problems.
As inspirational as he can be, President Obama has always been pragmatic, which is certainly a desirable quality in a leader, though it’s a characteristic that has to be balanced with vision. As Klein observes, before he became president, Obama was inspiring to people because they thought he really might be able to bridge political and racial divides.
I don’t know if Obama himself ever really believed that, but if so, he was quickly disabused of that notion when the GOP started acting like a sack full of paint-huffing honey badgers on January 20, 2009. Some of us got mad at him for continuing to reach out to the most floridly insane and traitorous Congress in the post-Civil War era on issues like the budget and healthcare.
But blaming the president for insufficient speechifying on the issues Ferguson raises ignores what he’s up against. My guess is he’ll thread this needle at some point with actions behind the scenes and words too, managing to inspire those of us who want to see real changes without riling up the significant portion of the country that is either batshit crazy or indifferent.