President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, their liberal credentials challenged by protesters outraged by the failure of grand juries to indict police officers, are tittering and tottering on a political balance beam, trying to placate their bases without infuriating the opposition.
?My tradition is not to remark on cases where there may still be an investigation,? Obama said last week, regarding the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, which the medical examiner said was a homicide.
Mayor de Blasio also chose to straddle the fence during an interview Sunday on ABC?s ?This Week? with George Stephanopoulos.? ?I make it a point not to talk about any element of judicial process per se,? he replied when asked if he respected the grand jury?s decision in the Garner case.? ?I respect the process.?
Oddly, Obama?s remarks came before de Blasio?s, upstaging the mayor and offering his reaction as the mayor prepared for his press conference.
Neither chose to meet the verdicts head on, rather choosing to comment on related matters.? Obama talked about body cameras for police officers, a task force to investigate the police shootings of unarmed Black men, and tamping down the militarization of local law enforcement agencies.
De Blasio dodged much of Stephanopoulos? interrogation, setting his focus on the possibility of his son having to face the police.
?Look, I want to say it the right way,? he began.? ?What parents have done for decades who have children of color, especially young men of color, is to train them to be very careful when they have an encounter with a police officer.
?It?s different for a white child,? the mayor continued, ?that?s just the reality of this country.? With Dante very early on we said, ?Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do.?? Don?t move suddenly; don?t reach for your cell phone.? Because we knew, sadly, there was a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if he?s a young man of color.?? And young Black men, according to a recent study, are 21 times more likely to be a victim of police excessive force and possibly killed than a young white man.
Without saying it explicitly, the mayor was recounting the circumstances that led to the deaths of Anthony Baez in 1994, Amadou Diallo in 1999, and the more recent tragedy of Eric Garner.?
His comments were not received well by Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen?s Benevolent Association, who felt the mayor was throwing the police ?under the bus.?
Nor would former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani be welcoming de Blasio?s remarks about his reaction to the Garner case and the ongoing protests, which he said should focus on violence within African Americans communities.
?I think he fundamentally misunderstands the reality,? the mayor said of Giuliani.? ?A lot of voices on both ends of the spectrum want to keep us mired in a history that hasn?t worked for us.?
Meanwhile on Sunday, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was handling similar questions on CBS? ?Face the Nation.??? He said now that the grand jury has completed its work and found no probable cause to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD will conduct its own investigation of the incident.? ?There will be a department trial?,? Bratton said. ?I will make the final decision.?