How our leaders responded to events of this week

Yesterday I told you that our leaders’ responses to events of Baton Rouge; Falcon Heights, Minnesota; and Dallas would tell us a lot about them and the years to come. Today, I rate those responses. President Obama and Hillary Clinton rate well; the other candidates rate poorly.

I didn’t have high hopes; this is an intractable problem. I rated the responses on three criteria:

  1. Did the response acknowledge the concerns of African Americans regarding law enforcement?
  2. Did the response acknowledge the concerns of police in the wake of the shooting?
  3. Did the response make concrete and practical suggestions to help solve the problems?

Because I’m looking at leadership here, and not whether I agree with the politicians, I rate the suggestions on practicality, not whether I’m in favor of them. Concete suggestions score well, platitudes score poorly.

Hillary Clinton rates high empathy and suggestions

Hillary Clinton addressed these events in a speech at the AME Church in Philadelphia in which she addressed the deaths, both of those detained by police and of the police ambushed in Dallas. As she said, “There must be a just accounting” and “There is too little trust . . . between police and the communities they are sworn to protect.”  Here are some of her remarks in the New York Times:

“We’ve got to do everything possible to support our police and to support innocent Americans who have encounters with police,” Mrs. Clinton said. She vowed to fight “systemic racism” in police departments and to better train law enforcement officials and integrate them into the communities they serve.

She also called on white Americans to empathize with African-Americans who live in fear of clashes with the police. “We’re the ones who have to start listening to the legitimate cries that are coming from our African-American fellow citizens,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Her Twitter feed addressed the problem.

She also made concrete suggestions:

Based on the speech, I rate Clinton A on empathy with law enforcement, A on empathy with African Americans, and B on suggestions (because I’d like more and better suggestions).

President Obama also rates well in this crisis

President Obama held a press conference about the incidents at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, agreed to cut his European trip short, and planned to speak in Dallas next week. Here’s some of what he said:

Police in Dallas were on duty, doing their job, keeping people safe during a peaceful protest. . . . As I told [Dallas] Mayor Rawlings, and I believe that I speak for every single American when I say, that we are horrified over these events and that we stand united with people and the police department in Dallas. . . .

For now, let me just say that, even as yesterday I spoke about are need to be concerned as all Americans about racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I also said yesterday that our police have an extraordinarily difficult job and the vast majority of them do their job in outstanding fashion. I also indicated the degree in which we need to be supportive of those officers who do their job each and every day. Protecting us and protecting our communities. Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices that they make for us.

Here’s what he had said earlier, as quoted in The Atlantic.

“When incidents like these occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizens that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same—and that hurts,” he said, after arriving in Warsaw for the NATO summit. “And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about.”

Obama is not new to these issues. He had previously commissioned a task force led by Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia Police Chief, to create a report on 21st Century Policing. And he’s repeatedly called for gun regulations in the wake of these tragedies.

I rate President Obama A on empathy with law enforcement, A- on empathy with African Americans, and A- on concrete suggestions. As a sitting president, I give him credit for his suggestions and hold him partly responsible for failing to get them enacted.

Donald Trump fails on empathy for blacks and concrete solutions

Donald Trump published a short video and a 178-word statement on Facebook. The video was strong on empathy with the Dallas Police but referred only obliquely to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the two black men that police killed this week. His statement is similarly one-sided:

Last night’s horrific execution-style shootings of 12 Dallas law enforcement officers – five of whom were killed and seven wounded- is an attack on our country. It is a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.

We must restore law and order. We must restore the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street.

The senseless, tragic deaths of two people in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.

This morning I offer my thoughts and prayers for all of the victims’ families, and we pray for our brave police officers and first responders who risk their lives to protect us every single day.

Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.

This is a time, perhaps more than ever, for strong leadership, love and compassion. We will pull through these tragedies.

There are no concrete policy suggestions. This is indeed a time for “leadership, love, and compassion,” but his statement offers none of these to African-Americans. If I were black, I would be offended that Trump has called the deaths “senseless” instead of addressing the cause of this pattern of police killing black people. And Trump didn’t wait long to go back to political baiting on Twitter.

I rate Trump A on empathy for law enforcement, D on empathy for African Americans, and F on concrete suggestions for improvement.

Bernie Sanders, surprisingly, fails on empathy

Bernie Sanders had very little to say in the moment — he appeared to be focusing on fights about the Democratic Party Platform. He made this generic tweet and posted the same sentiment on Facebook:

He had previously tweeted that all deaths in police custody should be investigated by the Justice Department. Based solely on his reaction this week, I rate Sanders D on empathy with both African Americans and police and C on concrete suggestions.

Libertarian Gary Johnson aired an offbeat theory

Johnson finds the roots of the shootings in the drug war, according to Politico.

“The root is the war on drugs, I believe. Police knocking down doors, shooting first,” Johnson said in an interview Friday in Washington. “If you are (black and) arrested in a drug-related crime, there is four times more likelihood of going to prison than if you are white. And shooting is part of the same phenomenon.”

“That’s the common thread. Shootings are occurring with black people, black people are dying,” he added. “This is an escalation.” . . .

“The focus on drugs needs to be as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. It can be illegal but does it need to be criminal? Do you need to go to jail for drugs?” Johnson said. “I do believe that the root of the militarization, knocking on doors, is a drug war phenomenon.”

For a candidate who’s already out of the mainstream, this is pretty out there. I don’t think legalizing marijuana (or doing nothing about guns, which he also suggested) is going to solve anything. Johnson gets an F on empathy with African Americans and police and a D on solutions.

Here’s a summary of these ratings:

rating 2



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