- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2015

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on Thursday defended President Obama’s decision to stay away from Baltimore for the time being, saying he’s an “enormous distraction” when he arrives on scene.

“I think, as he has said, right now we’re trying to ensure that there is peaceful, and opportunity, for peaceful demonstrations,” Ms. Jarrett said Thursday on MSNBC in video flagged by RealClearPolitics. “We had a very difficult night a couple of nights ago and everybody from the local law enforcement to the state are all working to try to keep the peace. And when the president arrives on the scene, he’s an enormous distraction, and pulls resources away from where they need to be. So for the time being, he won’t go.”

She said he’s certainly been keeping up with what’s been going on, noting that he spoke to the governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore Monday and that Attorney General Loretta Lynch sent her “top people” out there to sit down with local leaders to see what they could do to help.

“That’s so important at a time like this, to diffuse the situation and not ignite it,” Ms. Jarrett said.

Mr. Obama hinted earlier in the week that he could go to Baltimore some time in the future, and he called for a long-term conversation on criminal justice reform to try to fix underlying problems in such communities. The city erupted in rioting Monday following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody last month.

“Whether he’s physically on the streets of Baltimore or speaking here, very eloquently from the Rose Garden, I think his message was one which really resonated broadly around the country and that is that we do need to be talking about these issues,” Ms. Jarrett said. “And we don’t need to simply talk about them when we have a tragedy, such as this one, and you see people pouring out into the streets. The same thing happened last summer in Ferguson and Staten Island and Ohio and around our country.”

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