Donald Lambro

The polarizing racial and legal debate over George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Florida has been turned into a national political issue that's not going away anytime soon.

President Obama's made sure of that in his public plea to the nation Friday to "do some soul-searching" over what led to the killing of this 17-year-old and whether we can "learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction."

I've been one of Obama's persistent policy critics from the beginning of his presidency. But I have to say I found his measured, sensitive remarks very moving as he talked of our nation's racial history and the troubling, personal experiences he endured as a young African-American man making his way through life.

He certainly identified with Trayvon Martin, saying in his earliest remarks on the shooting that if he had a son, he'd look like Martin.

"Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," he said in the White House press room last week.

Clearly, the president felt he had to address this tragic, incomprehensible loss of a young life in much deeper and broader terms that reflected the nation's racial history and the Stand Your Ground law under which Zimmerman was found not guilty.

In the end, a jury of six women concluded that this gun-carrying, self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer's act didn't merit conviction for either second degree murder, nor the lesser manslaughter charge.

There were hints in the aftermath of their decision that some of the jurors believed that Zimmerman was guilty of some crime but in the final analysis they accepted the defense argument that he feared for his life in the fight that occurred before he shot Martin in the chest.

Still, for this reporter, the story that unfolded on the night Trayvon Martin was walking to his father's home in the gated community in Sanford, Fla., is awash with troubling facts that made this killing so senseless.

The defense focused its case on the fierce fight at the end of their encounter and not at the beginning when George Zimmerman decided to follow Trayvon. Stalk might be a more accurate word.

This wannabe policeman -- who has a history of getting into trouble with the law -- was sitting in his car when he spotted Trayvon, then called the 911 police dispatcher to tell her, "He looks suspicious."


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.



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