Transcript July 19, 2013
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s so — that’s so disappointing, man. Jay, is this kind of — the kind of respect that you get? (Laughter.)
Q: Wake up!
Q: What brings you out here, Mr. –
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, on — on — on television it usually looks like you’re addressing a full room.
Q: (Laughs.) It’s just a mirage.
Q: There’s generally not –
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right.
Q: (Inaudible) — got the Detroit story.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I got you. All right. Sorry about that. Do you think anybody else is showing up? Good.
Well, I — I wanted to come out here first of all to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is — is very much looking forward to the session.
Second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.
The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave an — a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.
First of all, you know, I — I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s — it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.
The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal — legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.
The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a — in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.
But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.
The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.
We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.
And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that statistically somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.
So — so folks understand the challenges that exist for African- American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.
Now, the question for me at least, and I think, for a lot of folks is, where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? You know, I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.
But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government — the criminal code. And law enforcement has traditionally done it at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.
That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.
Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it’d be productive for the Justice Department — governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.You know, when I was in Illinois I passed racial profiling legislation. And it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.
And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way, that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and in turn be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously law enforcement’s got a very tough job.
So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And — and let’s figure out other ways for us to push out that kind of training.
Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.
I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the stand your ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.
On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?
And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?
And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
Number three — and this is a long-term project: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
You know, I’m not naive about the prospects of some brand-new federal program.
I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as president, I’ve got some convening power.
And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that — and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — you know, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And then finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there have been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.
On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
And let me just leave you with — with a final thought, that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. I doesn’t mean that we’re in a postracial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.
And so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues, and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.
All right? Thank you, guys.
I’m enjoying watching the reaction from Republicans to President Obama’s incredible second inaugural speech. I especially like their whining about the President not reaching out to them.
They way I see it, the Republicans are speeding towards the edge of the cliff and now they want the President to grab their outreached hands and save their tea party asses before the “momentum of their ideology” flings them into the canyon. Sorry dudes, this is your runaway mess. Enjoy the ride.
It takes a special kind of crazy to spend four years walking in lockstep against our President and slapping his outreached hand at every turn, only to cry about him not reaching out to them in the second inaugural. It has become obvious to anyone who is honest with themselves that the Republican Party is bankrupt, out of ideas and has no foundation remaining. They are a reactionary party now, and they don’t seem to be doing that very well either.
Beyond that, they are also becoming a party of whiners. Recent articles by Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson and David Brooks give us the best examples of this. Krauthammer started the trend that is best summed up by Smartypants as “conciliatory rhetoric as ruthless strategy”. Here is a piece of Krauthammer’s whine, via Smartypants…
He’s been using this, and I must say with great skill–-and ruthless skill and success–to fracture and basically shatter the Republican opposition… His objective from the very beginning was to break the will of the Republicans in the House, and to create an internal civil war. And he’s done that.
Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, came up with yet another great expression for us liberals to use, in bold.
The debt ceiling is a form of leverage they can’t responsibly use. A partial government shutdown or full implementation of the sequester are less toxic alternatives but of questionable utility. [...]
Given this weak Republican position, Obama must be tempted by a shiny political object: the destruction of the congressional GOP. He knows that Republicans are forced by the momentum of their ideology to take positions on spending that he can easily demagogue.
For a noted Republican to admit that the Republican Party is out of control, careening towards the cliff, is pretty astounding. I have very little sympathy for them, since we all watched as Republican leaders let the Tea Party take the wheel of their party while they stood on the curb cheering.
It’s more likely that today’s majority party is going to adopt a different strategy, which you might call Kill the Wounded. It’s more likely that today’s Democrats are going to tell themselves something like this:
“We live at a unique moment. Our opponents, the Republicans, are divided, confused and bleeding. This is not the time to allow them to rebuild their reputation with a series of modest accomplishments. This is the time to kick them when they are down, to win back the House and end the current version of the Republican Party. [...]
“Then he could invite a series of confrontations with Republicans over things like the debt ceiling — make them look like wackos willing to endanger the entire global economy. Along the way, he could highlight women’s issues, social mobility issues (student loans, community college funding) and pick fights on compassion issues, (hurricane relief) — promoting any small, popular spending programs that Republicans will oppose.
That last paragraph is just hilarious considering the reality that we all just witnessed.
I frequently ask myself who the Republicans think they are appealing to with this whining strategy. Do they think that the base of their party wants to hear them cry about those mean ole Democrats? I’m sure more than a few Republicans are calling them some choice names for that.
Do they think their whining appeals to Democrats who just worked their asses off to defeat their party? If anything, it makes us gleeful as we watch them form a circular firing squad and then argue about who gets to go first.
Maybe they think all that crying and whining will appeal to independents in the country. I suspect there are a few of those who will sympathize with them, since that swath of “independents” or “undecideds” aren’t the brightest bulbs in the bunch – see the CNN focus groups after the debates.
I probably shouldn’t get so much pleasure from seeing all this, but I do hope this Republican sideshow gets picked up for another season.
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles
H/T to Smartypants for the links!
This clip is all kinds of awesome. You may have seen it in other places, but if not, this is my gift to you. If Republicans were smart, and most aren’t, they would listen to Rachel’s advice. Take it away Rachel…
Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog sums up just some of the things that Republicans have done or attempted to do to women in recent years. It was in response to Liz (chip off the ole blockhead) Cheney and a crazy rant of hers.
Consider the proposals we’ve seen from Republican officials this year: restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; requiring state-mandated, medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds; forcing physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; fighting equal-pay laws; and delaying the Violence Against Women Act. When it came time for House Republicans to pay for lower student loan interest rates, GOP officials decided to get the funding by cutting access to breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings.
The Republican Party’s 2012 platform calls for a constitution amendment that would ban all abortions. A Republican congressman recently compared access to birth control to 9/11 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee co-sponsored a bill to redefine “rape.”
The Republican Party’s U.S. Senate nominee in Missouri believes a woman cut “shut that whole thing down” if impregnated through a “legitimate rape,” while Republican Party’s U.S. Senate nominee in Pennsylvania believes a rape pregnancy and out-of-wedlock pregnancy are “similar.”
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles
The impact of President Obama’s support for same sex marriage will be felt for years to come and in many ways.
Prior to the interview on ABC where he affirmed his support for SSM, I honestly didn’t realize just how much impact it would have. On my drive home from work, I heard Andrew Sullivan on NPR discussing his reaction and the full impact hit me hard as I began to cry.
ANDREW SULLIVAN: I did have mixed feelings, but I thought beforehand that this is a state issue. The president’s role in this is really circumscribed. One interview doesn’t make a difference. And then I watched the interview and the tears flooded. There is something about hearing your president affirm your humanity that you don’t know what effect it has until you hear it. And I think of all those gay Americans over the centuries who never heard that, never believed it could happen. And I have to say I’m immensely proud of this president for doing what he did.
I think he let go of fear today, the fear that somehow by embracing this natural, obvious and I would say conservative development he was sometimes – somehow embracing political calamity. He wasn’t, he isn’t, he won’t. And exchanging fears for hope on this and affirming what we all know who have met him and seen him that he thinks of gay people exactly as he thinks of straight people, as human beings and Americans first. That’s a great moment. (emphasis mine)
Hearing Andrew’s words brought home to me how important this is for the LGBT community.
The President’s words also went a long way towards strengthening the institution of marriage. I know that is the opposite of what you will read today in most publications that are mining the religious community for hyperbolic quotes and trying to create some controversy. But in my mind, there is no way it can do anything but strengthen it.
News flash – Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people aren’t going away and thank god, they help make our communities rich. The idea that preventing loving, committed couples from marrying will somehow weaken the institution of marriage makes absolutely no sense. In reality, allowing same sex couples to marry can only strengthen that institution. It promotes commitment, stability and family by giving security and a sense of belonging to a group that for far too long has been forced to live on the outside of the circle.
In a world where young people are becoming more promiscuous and the role models for our youth in many instances are the cast of the Jersey Shore, the Kardashians and misogynistic musicians, having two loving adults making a commitment to each other should be welcomed, regardless of their gender.
The religious objections to this idea are rooted in centuries old biases and cultural influence. When I read the Bible years ago, the cultural influences on each writer was very apparent to me. A friend of mine who studied the Bible extensively, pointed out that many stories are repeated in the Bible and each version of the story was different, based on who was writing it and the culture that influenced him. The writers were humans – imperfect humans who brought opinions and biases to what they wrote. So when religious folks refer back to a book written thousands of years ago in a completely different age, I have to wonder why it is they feel the need to live by the biases of a long ago people. In effect, they are ignoring everything that humans have learned since then.
The idea that allowing LGBT people to marry somehow hurts heterosexual marriages is just a mystery to me. I can’t seem to connect the dots of their argument and to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen anything but platitudes when it comes to this idea. There is no argument to be made other than an appeal to emotions, fear and homophobia. My wife and I spent a couple minutes trying to figure out how it has anything to do with our marriage. We basically just shook our heads back and forth and said, WTF.
President Obama’s interview with Robin Roberts where he affirmed the humanity of LGBT people was an important moment in our history. And even though the Federal government has a limited role in defining marriage, the courage of President Obama to speak honestly about his feelings and to speak up for equality for all people can not be diminished, no matter how hard people try.
I’ve never understood how people who call themselves Christians can belong to the Republican Party. I read the Bible many years ago and seem to remember lessons that taught me to care for my fellow humans, to show compassion, to turn the other cheek and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That doesn’t exactly describe the modern Republican Party now does it?
With the craziness happening in the political world over contraception, the following story from ThinkProgress makes me think that the GOP is overcompensating in their reaction to the contraceptive issue.
Earlier this month, the nation was barraged with media coverage of the Catholic Bishops’ opposition to regulations promulgated under the Affordable Care Act protecting working women’s access to contraception. The loudness of the bishops’ complaints, which were echoed by conservative luminaries ranging from Speaker John Boehner to GOP presidential frontrunners Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, easily could have conveyed the misimpression that churches and other religious groups are at odds with the Affordable Care Act.
On Friday, however, a broad coalition of religious organizations filed an amicus brief supporting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion that should give the lie to any claim that the faith community opposes the ACA. The brief includes a number of major religious denominations, including the policy arm of the United Methodist Church, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church. Additionally, the brief’s signatories include a wide range of Catholic groups:
Benedictine Sisters, Boerne, Texas; Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Texas; Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary, New York; Dominican Sisters of Hope; Justice and Peace Committee of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts; Marianist Province of the United States; Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth Leadership Team, New Jersey; Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul of New York; Sisters of the Holy Cross Congregation Justice Committee; Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi, Texas; Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Justice Team, Nebraska; Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, Missouri; Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, New York; Sisters of St. Dominic Congregation of the Most Holy Name; Society of the Holy Child Jesus, American Province Leadership Team; Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, US Province; JOLT, Catholic Coalition for Responsible Investing; Region VI Coalition for Responsible Investment, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee; School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund (emphasis mine)
And I would add that with Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham questioning President Obama’s faith, they are venturing into pretty dangerous waters. It seems to me that by going there, they are shooting off a warning signal to anyone who claims to be a Christian. You better watch out, you might be next!
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles
The Democratic Party is clearly on the side of the 99%’ers and no amount of denial and blame shifting can change that. And yes, the Democratic Party has their share of elected representatives that act more like conservatives than liberals, but that fact shouldn’t diminish the hard working liberals in the party who are fighting for all of us in this country who don’t have lobbyists. When I hear or read people generalize and group all Democrats in with big business, they are ignoring reality and perpetuating false memes.
I had an exchange on Twitter the other day with a person who exemplifies much of that “head-in-the-sand” thinking. Here are a few of his tweets, with my responses.
Tweeter: The difference between a Democrat and Republican is the difference between a man and his mirrored reflection.
Extreme Liberal: How does the mirror reflect the repeal of DADT? Or health care for children? Or Lily Ledbetter? Or the Matthew Shepard law?
Extreme Liberal: Or who’s reflection is opposite Sotomayor or Kagan? Do you want a Republican picking the next nominee to the SUPREME COURT!
The Tweeter in question then sent a tweet that he has since deleted, probably had second thoughts about it, but he basically said that the issues I raised were “petty”, to which I replied…
Extreme Liberal: Tell my niece who now has health care that she is petty or over 60,000 LGBT people now serving openly in our military.
Extreme Liberal: And if you have any females in your family, are you willing to give up their rights to their own bodies? Supreme Court matters!
Tweeter: Bush might as well have been a Democrat, Obama a Republican for the similar aims and interests re: domestic/foreign policy.
This is a repost from a while back, because the problem hasn’t gone away!
The above short film was produced by Unity Productions Foundation in association with Gardner Films, Inc. (www.gardnerfilms.com) and was directed by the Oscar-nominated, multiple Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, Robert Gardner.
Go to this website — My Fellow American — to get involved and help counter the hatred and gross stereotypes about Muslims that permeate our culture. All people in this country and the world deserve to be treated with the same respect and honor.
Here is a little bit about My Fellow American.
My Fellow American is an online film and social media project that calls upon concerned Americans to pledge and spread a message that Muslims are our fellow Americans. It asks people of other backgrounds to pledge, and share a real life story about a Muslim friend, neighbor, or colleague that they admire. Using the power of social media, My Fellow American seeks to change the narrative – from Muslims as the other, to Muslims as our fellow Americans.
Most Americans have never met an American Muslim. Many only know Muslims through the way they are portrayed in the media. American Muslims are so often vilified as “the other” that it is possible not to recognize that most were born in the U.S. Or that those who immigrated here came seeking the same freedoms and opportunities that have always attracted people to America.
Please share this post with your friends and family. If we all do a little, a lot will get done. If we all do a lot, the world will change!
Cross=posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles