Largely because of years of non-stop vituperation, a lot of Americans have stopped listening to Barack Obama. But there are moments when Americans need to hear from their president.
A time when an American city goes up in flames every night, and it seems police power has gotten separated from the people it’s supposed to protect, the president needs to speak. Obama probably can’t calm the streets of Ferguson, or bring together the two angrily opposed sides. But there are points he can make, and that only he can make.
Making clear that there is never a right to violent disruption, Obama can declare that Michael Brown’s death will be taken seriously. The U.S. Justice Department is already investigating it as a civil rights violation. Obama can’t and shouldn’t promise a verdict, or an indictment, but he can assure Americans that the death, and the issue, won’t be ignored.
And as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, Obama should speak to the relationship between the people and their police. It’s his Defense Department stocking local police forces with armored vehicles, and often the federal government setting standards for police training and procedures.
A president doesn’t need to solve all our problems. But he does need to address them.
NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 8/23/14