- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2012


Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin and neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman had a confrontation on a dark street in Sanford, Fla., last month. There was a fight, and Mr. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, fatally shot Trayvon, who was black.

Trayvon’s parents received the news that every parent dreads when the phone rings late at night: Their son was dead. Mr. Zimmerman’s friends and family say he was distraught and wept for days over the fact that he had taken a life in what he says was self-defense.

Sadly, the political left, big media and an assortment of race baiters like Al Sharpton have rushed to judgment, attempting to exploit the pain of this tragic confrontation for their own ideological agendas. Even sadder, the president is exploiting the tragedy for his own political purposes.

This unholy alliance didn’t say a word about the 49 people who were shot - 10 fatally - in Chicago during one weekend this month. Virtually all of the victims were black, as were the shooters. Where was the outrage?

Where was their outrage when another black Florida teenager, Shawn Tyson, motivated by racial hatred, murdered two British tourists who had wandered into his neighborhood?

In the Sanford shooting, the media immediately adopted the narrative that it was further evidence of the rampant racism in America, even though both men were racial minorities and Mr. Zimmerman comes from a biracial family and has numerous black friends.

The New Black Panther Party saw its chance to add to the hate by calling on black men to volunteer to track down Mr. Zimmerman. It even offered a $10,000 reward for him - dead or alive.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Justice Department announced that it would investigate the Sanford Police Department - but it was silent about the Panthers’ call for vigilante justice.

Predictably, President Obama jumped in, too, even though he has no more information than anyone else. His comments followed to the letter the left-wing script - pointing out that we have to get justice in the case because if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon.

And his point was what? Absent evidence that the shooting was racially motivated, the fact that Trayvon was black is irrelevant.

Sadly, Mr. Obama, whom millions of Americans had hoped would bring racial reconciliation, has a well-established pattern of stoking the fires of racial antagonism. Remember in July 2009 when Mr. Obama, admitting he didn’t know the facts of the case, accused Cambridge, Mass., police of acting “stupidly” when they arrested his friend Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates? Then he cited the “long history” of police mistreatment of minorities. The facts of that case ultimately supported the cops whom Mr. Obama had accused of acting “stupidly.”

The legacy of racial discrimination haunts America. The overwhelming majority of Americans of all races want reconciliation. They also want good schools, safe streets, strong families and national healing.

It is sad and infuriating that so many left-wing ideologues are willing to fan the flames of racial discord, incite vigilante justice and exploit racial division for political gain.

Trayvon and George Zimmerman deserve justice delivered in a fair trial with an unbiased jury, something the left has made far more difficult. America deserves political leadership that tries to heal our national wounds instead of rubbing them raw.

We don’t yet know what happened on that day. We may never know. But we have a pretty good idea why Mr. Obama spoke up.

It’s the same reason he spoke up prematurely after the Gates episode: He’s desperate to retain the support of black voters.

Blacks voted in unprecedented numbers in the 2008 election. And 95 percent of them pulled the lever for Mr. Obama. Blacks proved decisive for the president in several states.

But Mr. Obama has come under searing criticism from black leaders. The unemployment rate among blacks is nearly twice that of whites, a fact Rep. Maxine Waters has called “unconscionable.”

A Washington Post poll last September found that the share of blacks with a “strongly favorable” view of the president had fallen dramatically, from 83 percent five months previously to 58 percent.

I’m not suggesting that many of the 95 percent of black voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 will vote for the Republican nominee this year. But some of them simply may not vote.

Mr. Obama needs these voters. Blacks make up significant shares of the electorates of a number of swing states, including Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Last September, Mr. Obama told blacks to “stop complaining and fight.” His forays into the politics of racial grievance are his way of telling black voters he’s willing to fight for them, if only with words.

Mr. Obama’s remark about Trayvon’s shooting was a cheap gesture that’s part of a larger strategy he hopes will help him secure the support he’ll need come Election Day.

Given that his policy agenda fails to address the real obstacles to prosperity that many black Americans confront - failing public schools, fragile families and a gangster culture - it’s a strategy he will need.

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.

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