President Donald Trump is under fire from the left for his initial failure to specifically condemn white supremacy, the KKK, or the violent Alt-Right after a white nationalist drove his car into a group of counter-protesters in Charlotttesville, Virginia on Saturday. Instead of singling out white supremacy, Trump condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides." But while Democrats and the mainstream media have suggested Trump is tacitly condoning white racists by failing to call them out by name, the reaction from the same folks to President Obama's similar response to the racially motivated Dallas massacre was very different.
In the summer of 2016, at the height of the public outrage over the high-profile police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, black nationalist Micah Xavier Johnson took his sniper rifle and shot and killed five Dallas police officers. President Obama's responses to the sequence of events was widely praised by the press.
Responding to the outrage over Sterling and Castile, President Obama said their deaths were "not isolated incidents" but were "symptomatic" of a criminal justice system plagued by "racial disparities." That evening, during a Black Lives Matter rally, Johnson opened fire on Dallas police officers, shooting a dozen officers, five of whom died from their wounds. Before the police were forced to shoot him dead, he told them that he was deliberately targeting "white people, especially white officers" and that the Black Lives Matter movement had inspired his actions.
"The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter; he said he was upset about the recent police shootings. The suspect said he was upset at white people. The suspect stated he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers," Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters.
In his initial response, Obama, like Trump, did not single out black nationalists or the movement associated with the heinous act. Instead, Obama said that he was "horrified" by the "vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement."
"There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement," said Obama. "Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done."
Obama also used the moment as an opportunity to push for more gun control. "Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices they make for us," Obama said of police officers. "We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately, it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic."
(Then-presidential candidate Trump did not mention black racists or BLM in his initial statement to the massacre either, tweeting instead, "Prayers and condolences to all of the families who are so thoroughly devastated by the horrors we are all watching take place in our country." In other words, he handled it similarly to the white supremacist terror attack in Charlottesville. As for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, she also did not specifically mention the racial movement in her response; in fact, she made sure to include the phrase "peaceful protesters" as a nod to Black Lives Matter activists, tweeting, "I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families & all who serve with them. -H.")
When Obama was given more time to address the Dallas massacre at the funeral of the five officers, he not only did not condemn black nationalists or radical Black Lives Matter activists, he used the platform as a way to double down on his gun control agenda, reiterate his claim that systemic racism plagues the criminal justice system, and push for more public investment in minority communities and schools. The media largely fawned over the "Lincolnesque" speech. A few excerpts from his highly political remarks:
"I understand how Americans are feeling. But I'm here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America.
"Centuries of racial discrimination didn't simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation. We know it. Although most of us do our best to guard against it, none of us is entirely innocent. No institution is entirely immune. That includes our police departments. We know this.
"Also, as a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.
"We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.
"We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.
"We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.
"And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.
On Monday, after being hammered for his initial response, Trump again addressed the heinous attack in Charlottesville, this time condemning white supremacists groups by name:
Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.