1970s ‘Moral Paralysis’ on Display in 2014 in Ferguson; Moral Befuddlement in Ferguson
By Patrick J. Buchanan —
In July of 1967, after race riots gutted Newark and Detroit, requiring troops to put them down, LBJ appointed a commission to investigate what happened, and why.
The Kerner Commission reported back that “white racism” was the cause of black riots. Liberals bought it. America did not.
Richard Nixon said of the white racism charge that there is a “tendency to lay the blame for the riots on everyone but the rioters.”
The Nixon-George Wallace vote in 1968 was 57% to Hubert Humphrey’s 43. In 1972, Wallace was leading in the popular vote in the Democratic primaries, when he was shot in Laurel, Mayland. In November 1972, Nixon and Agnew swept 49 states.
Among the primary causes of the ruin of FDR’s great coalition, and the rise of Nixon’s New Majority, was the belief in Middle America that liberals were so morally paralyzed by racial guilt they could not cope with minority racism, riots and crime.
And so they lost the nation for a generation.
That same moral paralysis is on display in the aftermath of the grand jury conclusion that Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense when he shot Michael Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, Mo.
When initial reports came in, that a police officer had confronted an unarmed black teenager on a main street at noon and shot him six times, it seemed like a case of a cop gone berserk.
But, day by day, new facts emerged. The “gentle giant” Brown had, 15 minutes earlier, pulled off a strong-arm robbery, grabbing a store clerk half his size by the throat while stealing cigars. And Brown was in the middle of the street, and maybe high on marijuana, when he refused an order to move onto the sidewalk.
Then came leaks from the grand jury that the 6’4”, 292-pound, 18-year-old punched the officer in the face in his patrol car and went for his gun, which fired twice, wounding Brown in the hand.
Wilson got out and told Brown to get on the ground, as Brown walked away. After this, what happened is in dispute.
Several grand jury witnesses perjured themselves by testifying that Wilson shot Brown in the back. All of Brown’s wounds were in the front. Others said Brown turned and faced Wilson, with four of them saying Brown moved toward or charged the officer.
The pattern of shells from Wilson’s gun indicates he was backing away while firing at Brown.
The grand jury concluded that not only did most witnesses support Wilson’s version, but the forensic evidence was consistent with what Wilson said had happened, and contradicted Brown’s lying companion.
Hence, no indictment, and wisely so.
No jury, based on the known evidence, would conclude “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Wilson committed murder or manslaughter.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch concluded he had no case and would not prosecute unless a grand jury, which had seen and heard all the evidence, concluded otherwise. It did not.
Yet, Michael Brown’s death, whatever the grand jury decided, is an irreversible tragedy, horrible for his mother and father.
But what happened last week was not a tragedy but a national disgrace, a disgusting display of adult delinquency.
Monday night we witnessed in Ferguson a rampage of arson, shooting, looting and vandalism, with police and National Guard ordered not to interfere. Stores and shops, the investments of a lifetime for their owners and the livelihood of their employees, were firebombed and pillaged as police looked on.
For a week, mobs blocked highways, bridges and commuter trains from New York to Oakland. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was disrupted. On Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, moms and their kids at malls had to climb over unruly protesters to do their Christmas shopping. The civil rights of law-abiding Americans were systematically violated.
And where were the president and his attorney general?
Neither Barack Obama nor Eric Holder has yet to stand up and declare, unequivocally, that, in America, the full force of law will be used to halt, prosecute and punish those guilty of mob violence, no matter the nobility of the “cause” in which it is being committed.
America is a democratic republic, a free society of 320 million. That society and that republic will not survive if a precedent is set that masses of people can organize and attempt to shut it down when what happens within that system displeases them.
Make no mistake. The Ferguson riots of recent months were like neighborhood cookouts compared to Watts in ‘65, Detroit and Newark in ‘67, and Washington, D.C., and a hundred other cities after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But the reaction of our political, media and moral elites seems even more irresolute than that of the liberals of the 1960s.
Only three weeks in office, Eric Holder called us “a nation of cowards.” Observing his and his boss’ performance in the wake of the Ferguson riots and other rampages, the same words come to mind.
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After suffering stinging defeats in the 1960 presidential election against John F. Kennedy, and in the 1962 California gubernatorial election, Nixon’s career was declared dead by Washington press and politicians alike. Yet on January 20, 1969, just six years after he had said his political life was over, Nixon would stand taking the oath of office as 37th President of the United States. How did Richard Nixon resurrect a ruined career and reunite a shattered and fractured Republican Party to capture the White House?
In The Greatest Comeback, Patrick J. Buchanan—who, beginning in January 1966, served as one of two staff members to Nixon, and would become a senior advisor in the White House after 1968—gives a firsthand account of those crucial years in which Nixon reversed his political fortunes during a decade marked by civil rights protests, social revolution, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., urban riots, campus anarchy, and the rise of the New Left.
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The Greatest Comeback is an intimate portrayal of the 37th President and a fascinating fly on-the-wall account of one of the most remarkable American political stories of the 20th century.
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Moral Befuddlement in Ferguson
By Patrick J. Buchanan —
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
Edmund Burke’s insight returned to mind while watching cable news coverage of the rampage in Ferguson, Missouri, after St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
The rioting, looting, arson and gunfire that began after McCulloch relayed the grand jury’s decision, a decision long predicted and anticipated, revealed the unspoken truth about Ferguson.
The problem in Ferguson is not the 53-man police department. The problem is the hoodlum element those Ferguson cops have to police, who, Monday night, burned and pillaged the stores on the main streets of their own community.
The police were portraits in restraint as they were cursed and showered with rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails. If the police were at fault at all, it was in their refusal to use the necessary force to stop a rampaging mob that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of honest businessmen and women of Ferguson.
Many will not be able to rebuild their stores. Many will not be able to get insurance. Many will give up and move away, the investment of a lifetime lost in a night of thuggery.
One recalls that the Detroit riot of 1967 was the beginning of the end of Motown. And it was decades before D.C. fully recovered from the riot and arson that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the wake of the Ferguson riot, some seek absolution for the rioters by redistributing responsibility to police and prosecutor.
Why, they demand, did McCulloch wait until 8 p.m., St. Louis time, to report the grand jury findings? Why did he wait until after dark?
Well, perhaps it was to give time for kids to get home from school and off the playgrounds, for businesses to close and shutter down, for rush hour to end. Hoodlums from Ferguson earlier stormed onto I-70 and shut down the Interstate—the way home for tens of thousands of St. Louisans.
Whatever reason McCulloch had for waiting until 8 p.m. does not explain or excuse the rampant criminality that lasted until midnight.
“No justice, no peace!” has been a howl of the protesters.
What they mean is strikingly clear: Michael Brown, one of us, is dead. Therefore, this cop, Darren Wilson, must go on trial for his life.
But this is not justice in America. We have a legal process to determine who was in the right and who in the wrong, and whether a crime has been committed by a policeman in the use of deadly force.
“No justice, no peace” is an encapsulation of the lex talionis, an eye for an eye. Do we really want to go back to race-based lynch law?
That 10 o’clock split screen of Obama in the White House briefing room calling for peaceful protest and greater efforts by police to understand “communities of color,” side by side with graphic video of mob mayhem in Ferguson, tells a sad truth.
America’s election of a black president has not closed and, for some, has not even narrowed the racial divide.
We are now half a century on from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Blacks have risen out of poverty and the working class to become successes as actors, artists, athletes, executives, politicians, TV anchors, journalists, scholars, generals, authors, etc.
But if the hate we saw on the streets of Ferguson, and heard from many voices on cable Monday night, are a reflection of sentiment in the black community, the racial divide in some parts of America is as great as ever.
Indeed, we may be slipping backward.
“Where is the black leadership now?” asked Juan Williams of Fox News. Indeed, where?
Unfortunately, many are openly pandering to the crowd, denouncing the prosecutor, denouncing the grand jury, denouncing the Ferguson cops, but tongue-tied when it comes to denouncing the thuggery of black youth on the streets of Ferguson.
The morning after the riot in Ferguson, President Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP called the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson “salt in the wound of a brutal injustice. . . . The people in this community and across the country are . . . saddened and outraged.”
Where, from the president on down, do we hear any thunderous condemnation of what went on in Ferguson Monday night and of those responsible, coupled with a clarion call for the restoration of law and order in Ferguson, as an essential precondition of any civilized society?
Here is Attorney General Eric Holder’s venture into moral equivalency when the grand jury decision came down:
“It does not honor [Michael Brown’s] memory to engage in violence or looting. In the coming days it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tension by avoiding extreme displays—and uses—of force.”
Now there’s a lion of the law.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book THE GREATEST COMEBACK: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.