When President Obama waded into the messy arrest of renowned African American scholar Henry Louis Gates in his own home in 2009, the depth of the trouble he got into went right up to his neck as he slammed the police involved. “Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,” he said in response to a question.
Obama would not make the same mistake this morning when he was asked about the Trayvon Martin case. In fact, his response was pitch-perfect.
I’m the head of the Executive Branch and the attorney general reports to me so I’ve got to be careful about my statements so that we’re not impairing any investigation that’s taking place right now. But, obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America,” he said, “should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative to investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together — federal, state, and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened....
I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident. But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
Last night, before a crowd of thousands, Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton told the throng, “Trayvon is your son.” It was an emotional message that found its echo in the Rose Garden this morning when the president of the United States personalized this tragedy by saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” For many, myself included, those powerful words have created an enduring image.