I think he handled this extremely well, stressing that we need to diligently investigate the facts and expressing empathy toward the parents of the dead young man. (I'm avoiding writing "boy," but I see many people including Obama are calling this 17-year-old a "boy," presumably out of empathy, but in my mind, there is discordance with the old problem of overusing the term "boy," and I just can't write it.)
Obama didn't bring up the topic himself:
Mr. Obama was asked about his feelings regarding the case during the announcement of a new president for the World Bank in the Rose Garden Friday morning.So he knew it would be asked or at least anticipated it. (At most: his people planted it.)
The president often appears perturbed when he gets off-topic questions at ceremonial events, but on Friday, he seemed eager to address the case....
... which has quickly developed into an urgent cause in the African American community. He cautioned that his comments would be limited because the Justice Department is investigating. But he talked at length about his personal feelings about the case.He said: “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids” and “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
He did a much better job here than he did in the Henry Louis Gates incident, where he made assumptions and blurted out "it's fair to say... that the Cambridge police acted stupidly." It wasn't fair to say.
I was struck earlier this morning by what Glenn Reynolds wrote (before Obama made his statement):
... I am puzzled by one thing: Dem groups are flogging this because they think it’s good for them, but how can it help Obama — who ran as a post-racial figure who would help America put its racial divisions to bed, a sort of anti-Al Sharpton — to have Al Sharpton leading protests and Louis Farrakhan threatening violence?These are all good questions, and they explain why Obama needed to step in and try to take control of the discourse around this volatile topic. To my ear, his words have a calming, moderating effect, but we don't all hear him the same way, I've noticed time and again.
Sure, it stirs up the base, or part of it anyway — how Florida Latino voters respond may be different — but doesn’t it just add to the unfavorable contrast between Obama 2008 and Obama in 2012? Or are Sharpton, et al., basically tossing Obama’s interests aside to pursue their own? And is that some sort of indicator itself?