On Violence, Obama Obfuscates As Usual

As Paul noted earlier, Democratic critics have unanimously painted Donald Trump’s acceptance speech as “dark.” (I’m a little surprised they didn’t also say, in unison, that as he approached the podium he was lithe and fierce like a tiger.) President Obama commented on Trump’s speech yesterday in a joint appearance with Mexico’s president, Peña Nieto. Asked about Trump’s speech, Obama responded with his trademark dishonesty.

I think it is important just to be absolutely clear here that some of the fears that were expressed throughout the week just don’t jibe with the facts.

So let’s take two specific examples. When it comes to crime, the violent crime rate in America has been lower during my presidency than any time in the last three, four decades.

That is true. The violent crime rate has been falling since it peaked in the 1990s, and it continued to fall during the early years of the Obama administration. What is causing concern, however, is that after decades of decline the homicide and violent crime rates are rising again.

And although it is true that we’ve seen an uptick in murders and violent crime in some cities this year….

What Obama fails to mention is that the homicide rate jumped alarmingly in 2015–up by 6.2% over 2014, according to the FBI. So this year’s “uptick”–the homicide rate is increasing again–is on top of that jump last year. And it isn’t just in “some cities,” the national rate is up significantly during the last year and a half.

…the fact of the matter is, is that the murder rate today, the violence rate today is far lower than it was when Ronald Reagan was President — and lower than when I took office.

What’s with the gratuitous reference to President Reagan? The more relevant comparison is with the Clinton administration, when the homicide rate peaked. Actually, for what it’s worth, the Reagan years saw homicide rates that were generally lower than those during the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush and Clinton administrations:

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I don’t attribute any particular significance to that, other than the fact that Barack Obama can’t make the simplest point without trying to work in a political angle. He continued:

[T]he fact is that the rate of intentional killings of police officers is also significantly lower than it was when Ronald Reagan was President. Those are facts. That’s the data.

Once again, one wonders, what’s Reagan got to do with it? Police murders were generally declining in the 1980s, consistent with the improving peacefulness of that era. This is from the Department of Justice, showing police officers killed by felons from 1976 through 1998:

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Some have pointed out that for the most part, murders of policemen have been down in recent years, and have argued that therefore, the “war on cops” is a myth. But here again, the trend has gone negative. In 2015, 56 police officers were murdered in the line of duty. Already in 2016, 43 have been killed, a fact which Obama simply ignored.

But those bare numbers aren’t the real point. Ten years ago, there was not a movement dedicated to attacking, and sometimes killing, police officers–worse, a movement supported by the President of the United States himself. Ten years ago, police officers were sometimes killed in shootouts with felons, but we didn’t have ideologues hunting police officers on the streets, and shooting them en masse.

The same is true with regard to terrorism, which is a major part of Trump’s safety theme, but which Obama didn’t address yesterday. Reportedly, Obama likes to tell his aides that more people in the U.S. die in, say, bathtub accidents than terrorist attacks. This is the “nuisance” theory of terrorism, as famously enunciated by John Kerry.

But most Americans don’t see it that way. They observe a rising tide of terrorist attacks not only in the U.S., but in Europe and Africa, and they believe, correctly, that the Obama administration has no plausible strategy to deal with the sources of terrorism or to prevent the problem from continuing to grow. They know that the potential exists for terrorists to do vast damage, economically as well as in human terms. These are not irrational fears, they are legitimate concerns.

Rather than respond in any meaningful way to voters’ worries about violence, in the form of both crime and terrorism, President Obama offers meaningless comparisons and misleading statistics. No wonder voters are attracted to Donald Trump, who at least understands what the problems are and why people are worried about them.

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