Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Incendiary Charges

In retrospect, it wasn't surprising former Virginia senator Jim Webb dropped out of the Democratic race for President one week after after he uttered the frightening phrase "all lives matter" at a debate.

The candidates were asked "do black lives matter or do all lives matter" and, given the choice of the two, two candidates flatly stated "all lives matter" while Hillary Clinton dodged the question.  (Now one week later, I've gotten an e-mail from John Lewis for "African-Americans for Hillary." Go figure.)

Webb, as he pointed out, has worked for years on criminal justice reform which was, we were led to believe, at  the heart of the "Black Lives Matter" movement.   Sometimes and unfortunately, however, slogans take on a life of their own and thereby overshadow more important words and actions.

Conservatives recognize both the possible backlash in acknowledging "all lives matter" and that no politician ever lost a vote by defending police in principle and in general. So they have taken a different tack than did Webb. "If you look at the Black Lives Matter movement," Ted Cruz maintained last week, "one of the most disturbing things is more than one of their protests have embraced rabid rhetoric, rabid anti-police language, literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers.”

This isn't the rhetoric and position only of the anti-establishment right. Once misperceived as sane and sober, Chris Christie, appearing on CBS' Face the Nation, claimed President Obama "does not support the police, doesn't back up the police, he justifies Black Lives Matter."  Asked whether Black Lives Matter should be justified, Christie responded "I don't believe that the movement should be justified when they're calling for the murder of police officers, no."

Republican politicians should not alone be called out.  Two days earlier, towering FBI director James Comey had contended (video below) "In today's YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?"

Three days later and one day after Christie's remarks, Comey tried the "fair and balanced approach," commenting

I actually see an example and demonstration of that arcing through hashtags: the hashtag Black Lives Matter and the hashtag Police Lives Matter. Of course, each of those hashtags and what they represent adds a voice to an important conversation, but each time someone interprets hashtag Black Lives Matter as anti-law enforcement, one line moves away and each time someone interprets hashtag Police Lives Matter as anti-black, the other line moves away.

Good save. But whatever that means, it doesn't mean that Comey doesn't still believe police officers turn their backs on the public because of Black Lives Matter. While pledges differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, that in Hollywood, Alabama (Hollywood, Alabama?) is not atypical. Upon appointment a police officer solemnly swear(s)" she will not "be influenced in the discharge of my duty by fear"and that "I will, to the best of my skill and ability, faithfully discharge all duties required of me and execute the orders of my superior officers and in all cases uphold and enforce the criminal laws and constitution of the State of Alabama, the ordinances of my jurisdiction, and the criminal laws and Constitution of the United States."

James Comey is the nation's chief law enforcement officer.  If police officers are not faithfully discharging their duty, we should know who, where, when, how, and why police officers are violating their oath and/or conducting a slowdown. He owes the country nothing less. And if he does not give us the details nor retracts his statement, he is doing the nation a far greater disservice than a dozen "all lives matter" statements.

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