The White House’s press secretary strongly signaled Tuesday that President Barack Obama will back out of the George Zimmerman controversy, amid public outcry and a handful of violent protests that could damage his chance of winning back the House in 2014.
“The president does believe we should have an ongoing conversation about [race] in our communities and churches and in the public square,” Carney said, pointedly excluding a White House role.
Instead of the talking about the shooting controversy — in which a Florida jury of six women acquitted the Hispanic neighborhood-watch volunteer of murder charges — Carney tried to shift the subject to the president’s economic policies.
“Everything the president stands for has as its focus the need to expand the middle class, the need for us as a country to make sure that opportunity is available to all Americans. And that is the foundation of his economic agenda,” he said. “That opportunity, if broadly shared, will empower this country and move it forward.”
“Conversation is important, but it’s in many ways equally important at the local and community and church level as it is at the national level,” he said.
Carney declined repeated requests for further comments on the trial, merely directing reporters to the president’s carefully worded statement released over the weekend.
“We could parse this a million ways … [but] I’m not going to announce future speeches on this subject,” he said.
The not-guilty verdict and subsequent protests raise the possibility that swing voters — especially suburban women who worry about crime — would disagree with Obama’s role in the dispute.
However, Obama also needs a high turnout from African-Americans, many of whom are angry or dismayed at the not-guilty verdict.
African-American lobbies are pushing the Department of Justice to file new charges against Zimmerman.
So far, Obama’s deputies have not announced whether they will file new charges.
Last March, Obama nationalized the Martin case prior to the 2012 election by declaring that “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
The jury in the Zimmerman trial consisted of six women.
Obama is trying to boost turnout by women in the 2014 election, partly by using shooting controversies to demand demand gun-control laws that will be opposed by the GOP. In turn, the inevitable GOP opposition can be used to portray the GOP as a threat to suburban peace.
One option for Obama’s aides is to portray the shooting and resulting verdict as a caused by racial discrimination, justifying large-scale federal intervention in Americans’ social lives, workplaces and education centers.
Attorney General Eric Holder pitched that claim Monday.
The president has “long opposed racial profiling,” Carney said Tuesday.
Carney’s pivot away from the trial and toward the economy came the same day that Obama met with Spanish-language TV stations to boost a controversial rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws.