Obama's Remarks on Trayvon 'Instantly Historic'

Presidents gets raves, and jeers, after race comments

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 20, 2013 12:24 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama's surprise comments yesterday on the George Zimmerman verdict—"Trayvon Martin could have been me"—continue to resonate today. Examples:

  • New York Times editorial: It lavishes high praise on Obama for "laying bare his personal anguish and experience" to explain why black Americans were so frustrated by the acquittal. His important, eloquent words went beyond the specifics of the trial and "crystallized the dissonance around this case." It's great we have a president who can do that, but it's "sad that we still need him to do it."
  • Jonathan Chait, New York: It was "instantly historic," he writes. "Obama understands that interjecting himself into a racialized controversy carries risks, but he also believes that the electorate of the future is on his side. His remarks are probably aimed not at the present but at posterity."

  • John Kass, Chicago Tribune: All the people praising the speech are missing something, Kass argues. Obama "played the race card and they didn't see it coming. He attributed racial motive to a homicide even though the race angle was never established in court." His "silky rhetoric" helped him get away it—the president "bypassed the evidence and established his own motive. Only a maestro could accomplish this."
  • Rich Benjamin, Salon: He calls the speech a "dramatic anti-climax," arguing that Obama didn't say anything "insightful or profound." But Benjamin, who is black, raised a ruckus when he compared Obama's response unfavorably to Eric Holder's "trenchant" remarks. "Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?" The comment drew so much reaction that Benjamin later addressed the issue in his post, saying that he used the term "with deep understanding of its long, complicated existence."
  • CBS has the full transcript of the president's remarks.

President Obama speaks about the Trayvon Martin case yesterday at the White House.
President Obama speaks about the Trayvon Martin case yesterday at the White House.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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President Obama's comments on the George Zimmerman verdict.   (YouTube)

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