Obama Speaks While Ferguson Burns: Iconic Split-Screen Image to Endure Long Past President’s Term


by James Oliphant

It will be an image that may endure beyond Barack Obama’s tenure: The president calling for calm on one side of the TV screen; the scene in Ferguson, Mo. escalating with sirens, smoke, flash grenades, and furious residents on the other.

Obama emerged into the White House Briefing Room shortly after 10 pm ET, a little more than 90 minutes after prosecutors in St. Louis County announced that a grand jury had voted to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the summer shooting death of Michael Brown.

Even as the president spoke, it felt as if the situation on the ground in Ferguson was beginning to spiral. And viewers could be forgiven for becoming transfixed by the pictures and tuning out Obama’s calls for calm.

Obama was who he usually was: reasonable, professorial, trying to present both sides of the controversy over Brown’s death. None of it came as a surprise; presidents stand for law and order—and this president, mindful as always of his unique place in history, walked the line tighter than most. “We are a nation built on the rule of the law,” Obama said. “We need to accept this was a decision that was the grand jury’s to make.”

The police, he said, “put their lives on the line for us every single day.”

If anything, Obama tried to stay too above the fray, perhaps not giving enough heed to the anger raging in African-American communities in Missouri and elsewhere. At one point, Obama seemed to dismiss the violent protests as just cable-news-driven sensationalism, saying the tumult would “make for good TV.”

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SOURCE: National Journal

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