How well is Obama handling the racial divide?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 12, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally. They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn.

When anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.

We ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: Let's bring in our panel. That was the president today speaking at the memorial service for the five murdered Dallas police officers. We're joined now by syndicated columnist George Will, editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham, and Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post.

George, I felt like it was the most full throated defense I've heard the president speaking on behalf of law enforcement and really talking about their bravery and their dedication and the respect that they're due.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He got off to a bad start as president on this subject when six months into his term, there was that episode in Cambridge, Massachusetts, between the Cambridge policeman and Henry Gates, a friend of his, an African-American professor of Harvard, and the president immediately said the police had acted stupidly.

Presidents -- all presidents, I guess, feel obliged to weigh in on almost everything that happens in America. Sometimes they overdo it and do it without information. However, in this case, the president, as he ruefully said, has had a lot of practice at this. And practice, if not making perfect, makes him very skillful at it. I thought he did a good job today. He had the difficult task of following Chief Brown, who is a perfect master. This says something wonderful about the social soil of this country that we produce people like that on occasions like this.

BREAM: He actually -- Chief Brown brought a smile to a lot of people's faces, sort of in a fun way talking about his own efforts trying to get dates as a teenager and using lyrics of songs that he thought was important, which he did today, Laura, in a very moving way today.

LAURA INGRAHAM, EDITOR IN CHIEF, LIFEZETTE.COM: I think George is absolutely right. Out of the carnage and utter despair that we've seen really I think in race relations in the last five or six years in this country, it seems to have gotten worse in many ways, to see someone like Chief Brown come out of this -- he is in deep pain. These are men he knew personally. He knows their wives, knows their kids. And then he gets up there before the entire nation and acts -- and conducts himself with such grace and such poise, a man of deep faith, a man of great discernment.

And yet we kind of separate ourselves, all of us, from those men and women who are doing these tasks every day that keep the order in society.
And he said this yesterday, the day before. People are getting like
$40,000 a year. They're having trouble retaining police and recruiting police in Dallas. I don't know if this is all, you know, going to help all that much. But I agree. We have to focus on the really bright lights in our society today that are making a difference day in, day out.

I agree that President Obama's speech was quite moving. It would be nice if we heard some of that earlier on in this this big controversy about the police. But I think he's almost like a preacher in these moments. He has that pastoral effect.

BREAM: We also heard from former president George W. Bush today. And he -- of course, he does a lot of speaking privately and that kind of thing. But he has really tried to stay out of the limelight, let the next president be the president he is. But that being his own community, his home state and his home city today, his remarks very moving as well today.

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: He had to, I think, step forward, it being the state of Texas. And I think he, like the president, basically rose to the occasion.

Just going back to the points people were making about Chief Brown. It's a reminder that even as there's great loss of faith across the board in this country, and all the polls show it -- in federal leadership, in the Congress, the president, and so forth, there's actually good evidence of people admire their state and local leadership more. Gallup just produced a poll showing people have almost twice as much faith in the state leadership where they live as they do in the federal. And looking at the performance of that police chief, not just today but over the last few days, is perhaps one reason why.

It's also true, if I may add, the police remain, after the military, the one institution in this country that enjoys a majority of popular support. Obviously there's a racial divide on that. But I think that's another reason the president, you know, is constrained to speak as strongly as he did today.

WILL: I would add with regard to state and local officials, the state in this union that has the most African-American elected officials -- not the most per capita, the most -- is Mississippi.

BREAM: That's an interesting fact.

The president starting out today with lauding each of these officers, telling very personal stories of each of their lives, he did also veer into the political. We want to play a little bit of what he had to say, something we see him repeatedly do when these incidents happen to talk then about issues involving guns.


OBAMA: We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.



BREAM: George, your reaction?

WILL: That's an exaggeration, but the president has a metabolic urge to talk about gun control. And I sort of forgive him that on an occasion like this. But I don't think that kind of hyperbole is helpful.

INGRAHAM: First of all, verifiably it's untrue. He says something that is verifiably untrue, and it has no relation at all to what happened.
This was a military-trained expert at combat. And he went in there knowing what he was going to do. He wasn't a teenager. It wasn't some kid who was kicking around, decides I'm going to go get a 9 millimeter or something.

That ruined much of the speech for me, because you don't have to get political. This is not a day really to be political if you're up there on that stage. So I'm glad he quoted Chief Brown and said we're asking police to do way too much in this country. They're not parents and spiritual counselors and finding the stray dogs. There's too many dogs now that are stray dogs. So that was good. But the gun control thing, I think it's like a Pavlovian response. He has to go there.

LANE: Honestly, I agree with both of you that that was a strange exaggeration and not true what he said. But the broader point, speaking of things we ask the police to do too much of, we ask them to go into situations where everybody is armed too often. Indeed what happened in Dallas could have been much worse given that some of the people in the protest were parading carrying weapons, which is, strangely, legal in Texas.

INGRAHAM: Why is it strange?

LANE: Because it shouldn't be.

INGRAHAM: According to whom?

LANE: According to me and a lot of other people. It could have made that situation catastrophically worse. Yet another reason to praise the Dallas police.

BREAM: Important to note, though, that there were no other incidents other than the sniper taking the officers' lives. And, yes, there were a lot of guns in Texas. That's how they roll. But everybody else was peaceable.

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