Playing the race card

Barack Obama is over-playing his race card.

In the wake of the acquittal of a shooter of a black teenager, Obama again decided to put himself and his race into the picture.

He said he could have been the dead black boy, Trayvon Martin. He had already played a similar line some time ago, saying that if he had a son, he would have looked like Martin.

Race is a political issue in the US. Unlike most other countries, politicians do talk about it.

But by mentioning it twice, in the same way, on the same matter, Obama weakened himself.

  1. He revealed agendas behind his words. Rephrasing his comments indicated what he really wanted to say the first time around. This time though, he was more able, and motivated to say it.
  2. He personalised, not humanised. The first comment was better because it showed empathy. The second comment damaged his gravitas because it was attempt to make the issue about himself (and it is not).
  3. He lowered the President’s prestige, not raised Martin’s. The comment was a “clever” attempt to raise the moral weight of Martin’s memory, and of its symbolism. But it didn’t. Comparing the President to a young man involved in a street altercation, undercut the Institution.
  4. He revealed race-motivations. Obama commented on a result of the justice system that he didn’t like personally. I’m not against politicians criticising the legal system. As representatives of the public, they need to express distaste for outcomes of our law. Heads of State need to be particularly careful about if, when and how they do it. Obama clearly chose this matter because of a personal, or self-identity, issue. That’s an intriguing insight into his judgement.
  5. He weakened his political capital – again. Obama has a habit of putting himself into harms way – and asking others to help him fix the problem. Help him out of his Obamacare commitment. Help him out of his over-commitment on gun control. Help him out because he could have been Martin. Not only is it a dangerous personality trait, but it weakens his ability as President. Every matter becomes a personal one for him – but not so much that his life is on the line. He risks everything, like a kind of political Muhammad Ali. But when the fight starts, he’s not there.

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