This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," July 20, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," race, politics and the Zimmerman verdict. As protests continue and calls grow for civil rights charges, President Obama weighs in on the controversy in very personal terms.
Plus, remember those rogue Cincinnati IRS agents? New testimony confirms that Tea Party targeting came straight from Washington and involved an Obama appointee.
And the war on Wal-Mart continues. Why the latest push for higher wages could end up hurting the very workers it claims to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Obama on Friday speaking in very personal terms about race in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the murder of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin. The president's comments came as protests continue across the country and pressure grows from some corners to bring federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Jason Riley, joins me with more on reaction to the president.
Jason, that could have been -- Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. What's your reaction to that and his remarks?
JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, Paul, he's right. That could have been him. It could have been me 10, 15, 20 years ago. The question is, why is that? Why have perceptions of black male criminality persisted for so many decades in this country? It can't be because we haven't made progress on race. He's saying that as president. So what's behind this perception? I would argue that it is hard statistical data showing young black males, just like they did 35 years ago, continue to commit a disproportionate number of crimes, and that's what's feeding this perception.
GIGOT: But I thought he responded -- you wrote a column making that point that was controversial in some quarters but got a lot of response. I thought the president was responding to you at one point in that speech where he said that doesn't mean the African-American community is na
RILEY: I think that needs to be the whole discussion. Clearly, I think President Obama wanted to drag other ill-relevant factors into this. But that needs to be the whole debate. If we want to change the black male perception or perception of black males in this country, young black men need to change their behavior.
Again, Paul, this is not just whites who have these perceptions. Remember, Jesse Jackson famously said, "When I'm in a dark alley and I look behind me and see white people, I feel relieved." This is something that permeates both races, all races. And it is common sense. This is not an irrational response given the data on crime statistics.
GIGOT: It is interesting. The president talked in personal terms -- so did Eric Holder -- earlier this week to the NAACP. He said basically I had been stopped in Georgetown as a young prosecutor when I was late to a movie, running to a movie. And they are both saying that this is why this case resonates so much with people in the African-American community. Isn't that -- isn't responding to that sense and it becomes anger at some point, frustration certainly. Isn't that an appropriate role for the president of the attorney general?
RILEY: Well, I think -- the more responsible thing for them to do in the positions that they hold is to say that the black community needs to talk with black leaders, parents, children, ministers, teachers, what have you, but this is a conversation we need to have about black behavior.
But what I saw the president do in this conference, Paul, I saw Barack Obama as community activist here.
RILEY: Real activists typically do not unite people. They divide people. Here we have the president dragging race into a case and giving sort of comfort or justification to the black civil rights leaders and -- who have been trying to racialize this case from day one. I think that Holder and Obama's responsibility here was to cool down the temperature. And, in fact, what they were saying, what they both have been saying, is that there is some justification for what he has been hearing from the Al Sharpton and Jesse Jacksons out here. And that is not helpful.
GIGOT: But he did say that the jury has spoken and that we are -- he did say there is no justification here for any kind of violence.
RILEY: That was a concession there. Because it looks like justice has month case, that they can't go after Zimmerman on a hate crime, which is what some of the civil rights community are hoping the Justice Department - -
GIGOT: I think I heard the president actually say -- at least as I interpret it, I heard him say to his supporters, look, I don't think there is a case here and I don't think that we are going to be able to bring it and, therefore, I'm siding with you. I'm going to show you, demonstrate to you, how much I -- I understand where you are coming from here. You think that was part of the political calculation?
RILEY: Sure. But we also know that the political calculations, speaking of political calculations, that this president has not hesitated to use racial division to further his political agenda. I think this is of a piece of calling, you know, voter I.D. laws throwbacks to Jim Crowe, saying the civil rights -- Voting Rights Act of 1965, every as peck of it, is still relevant today. If you don't think so you are a racist. Of continuing to -- racial preferences and high education. This president and his attorney general and this administration has not hesitated to drag race into issues and divide the country along racial lines when it serves their political agenda.
GIGOT: All right, Jason Riley, thanks very much. Glad to have you here for this.
When we come back, Cincinnati strikes back. One of those rogue agents in the IRS scandal testifies before Congress and confirms that the Tea Party targeting came from Washington and may have involved an Obama appointee. Will it matter?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: The former commissioner, IRS commissioner, Miller, blamed all of this targeting on two rogue agents.
ELIZABETH HOFACRE, IRS EMPLOYEE: Correct.
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: I would suspect that you would be one of those two rogue agents.
HOFACRE: It would refer that I was one of them.
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Is that true? Where you --
HOFACRE: No, it was not. I was following directions from management and they were aware of what I was doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Testimony this week from Elizabeth Hofacre, one of the so-called rogue agents in the IRS Cincinnati office, initially blamed for the improper targeting of Tea Party groups. Both Ms. Hofacre and Carter Hull, a veteran IRS lawyer, testified before Congress Thursday, and confirmed that officials in Washington, including an Obama appointee, had a direct hand in delaying the tax-exempt applications of conservative organizations.
For more, I'm joined by Wall Street Journal assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; senior editorial page writer, and all things IRS, Collin Levy; and editorial board member, Steve Moore.
Collin, give us the summary here of what we learned at the hearing on Thursday.