Before President Obama finally broke his silence about the complete civic breakdown in Ferguson, Missouri, a lot of people—particularly conservative people—were bracing for his remarks to cause a segment of white America to lose its mind, the same way it lost its mind when Obama stepped into the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the killing of Trayvon Martin.
JUST IN: Obama to throw gasoline on the fire in #Ferguson at 12:15. He'll do this from his 1% enclave at Martha's Vineyard.— John Nolte (@NolteNC) August 14, 2014
As it turns out—indeed, most likely because of the Gates and Martin blowback—Obama issued a remarkably mild statement on Thursday. That his supporters are criticizing his statement for being too tepid just underscores how impossibly thin a line he had to walk.
But the story is moving so quickly, and is still so combustible, that it’s easy to imagine something triggering the same kind of panicked white backlash that marked the Gates and Martin stories. And in light of that, it’s worth noting that the right began stoking white resentment over Ferguson well before Obama said anything about it.
Here’s Fox News host Martha MacCallum beginning her segment Wednesday “with this Black Panther issue.”
Republican Representative Steve King told Newsmax TV that there was no reason for the police or anyone else to concern themselves with racial profiling “because they [the protestors] all appear to be of a single, you know, of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that."
This fire was already fueled.
Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic.