Over the weekend, nobody fumbled the Trayvon Martin issue like Newt Gingrich.
President Barack Obama was the first to dip in on Friday morning, with a declaration of empathy. “I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” Obama said. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Rick Santorum had this to say: “There’s a difference between ‘Stand Your Ground’ and doing what he did. And it’s a horrible case. It’s chilling to hear what happened, and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made by people in this process.”
Likewise, Romney declared the killing of the 17-year-old, unarmed black youth a tragedy: “Our hearts go out to his family, his loved ones, his friends. This shouldn’t have happened.”
And then there was Newt, who actually may have been the first to weigh in — quite sensibly. On CNN on Thursday night:
“The district attorney has the ability to step in and say, ‘wait a minute, let’s look at this again.’ They’re clearly doing that. The police chief himself has been suspended. And I think that Americans can recognize that while this is a tragedy — and it is a tragedy — that we are going to relentlessly seek justice and I think that’s the right thing to do.”
If he had stopped there, Gingrich would have been fine. But on Friday, the former U.S. House speaker turned his focus to Obama – declaring that the president’s reaction as a black man was inappropriate. From a radio interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity:
“Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him? That’s just nonsense, dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American.
“At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”
Santorum, in softer language, also later accused the president of politicizing the issue. Which gave David Plouffe, who managed Obama’s 2008 campaign, a chance to put “reprehensible” and “circus” and Republican in the same sound bite:
The Gingrich campaign as much as conceded the misstep in a 3 p.m. Sunday press release over the name of campaign strategist Kiron Skinner, who was specifically identified as an African-American:
“Many Americans are rightly saddened by the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, and they demand justice. Speaker Newt Gingrich condemns the killing as well and has called for a grand jury probe. His firm commitment to the rule of law, even in the most inflammatory cases, is one more reason why I have endorsed Speaker Gingrich’s presidential campaign.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider