Predictably the left has had a field day on social media with former president George W. Bush's physical appreciation of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" yesterday at the Dallas memorial service for five slain officers. They should be ashamed.
Yes, the former president, arms locked with the current first lady and the previous one, swayed to the strains of Julia Ward Howe's famous lines, but he then delivered powerful remarks, focusing on the sacrifices of the officers and their families. He made sure to call them by name:
Today, the nation grieves, but those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family. Laura and I see members of law enforcement every day. We count them as our friends. And we know, like for every other American, that their courage is our protection and shield.
We’re proud [of] the men we mourn and the community that has rallied to honor them and support the wounded. Our mayor, and police chief and our police departments have been mighty inspirations for the rest of the nation.
These slain officers were the best among us. Lorne Ahrens, beloved husband to detective Katrina Ahrens and father of two. Michael Krol, caring son, brother, uncle, nephew and friend. Michael Smith, U.S. Army veteran, devoted husband and father of two.
Brent Thompson, Marine Corps vet, recently married. Patrick Zamarippa, U.S. Navy Reserve combat veteran, proud father and loyal Texas Rangers fan.
With their deaths, we have lost so much. We are grief stricken, heartbroken and forever grateful. Every officer has accepted a calling that sets them apart.
Although he notes that tragedies of last week exposed ideological blind spots at both ends of the political spectrum, Jonah Goldberg saw that for a moment we had all come together:
It seems almost ghoulish to look for a silver lining in the dark cloud that blanketed the nation last week. But I think there was one. The killings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, quickly followed by the killings of police in Dallas, knocked the lazy certainty out of almost everybody. At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points.
Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably House Speaker Paul Ryan and former speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America. Gun-rights activists were dismayed that Philando Castile, the man shot by a police officer in Minnesota, had followed all of the rules — he had a gun permit, cooperated with the officer, etc. — and was still killed. Liberals who insist that rhetoric from their political opponents inspires violence were forced to consider whether rhetoric from their allies might have helped inspire the shooter in Dallas.
It was a welcome change. “National conversations” are usually efforts to bully everyone into accepting a single narrative when the reality is that, in this country of more than 300 million, many narratives can be in conflict and still be legitimate.
President Obama was so right to go to Dallas, and his speech started off magnificently. Like the former president, he called each of the slain officers by name. And then he swerved into the political. (See Charles C. W. Cooke's "Who Thought that Politicizing Obama's Speech Was a Good Idea?") George Will said on Fox last night that the president has a "metabolic" urge to bring up gun control, and we're never going to get him to move past this. As usual with a speech by the president, it was self-referential–he mentioned himself forty-five times.
I was quite struck by something the president said:
When anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased, or bigoted, we undermine those officers that we depend on for our safety.
Unlike the president, most of us would instinctively think that somebody who paints a picture of al police as biased and bigoted does not have good intentions.
There are undoubtedly some racist police men and women in the country, but Heather Mac Donald reports that the evidence doesn't bear out claims that paint police as racist and describes the toll taken on the police and society by two years of demonizing law enforcement.
For the many Americans who are less than pleased with the choice confronting us in November, the presence of Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown reminded us that there are so many public servants of whom we can be proud. He has been pitch perfect in the face of his all too real grief.
The Chief pointed out that the police are called upon to do everything from finding lost dogs to responding to violence. I want to leave you with words from the Chief (spoken before yesterday's memorial service):
Brown, speaking into the world media's bullhorn that magnified a plea into a shout, noted that Dallas police have been asked to shoulder every single "societal failure," from mental health to drug treatment to, even, the failure of the public school system and the fact that kids in southern Dallas are being raised by single moms. . . .
"Policing," said Brown on Monday, "was never meant to solve all those problems." Policing, he said, is hard enough without having to do everyone else's work. And it's harder still, given the low pay and the shrinking ranks as officers decamp for better-paying jobs in other cities surrounding Dallas.
Earlier this year, Brown told the City Council he's being forced to "do less with less," and reminded it the force is down 200 officers since 2010.
"Officers have been leaving because we're the lowest-paid in the area," he said. "We have a $44,000 starting pay" — $44,658, to be precise, for a police officer trainee just putting on his newly starched uniform. Officers, he said, are "not feeling appreciated." They are "committed to their profession," he said, but also struggling to provide for their families."