News cycles come and go. And with lapses in Secret Service protection for President Obama and the first appearance of the Ebola virus in the U.S., it seems like ages ago since protesters were clashing with police in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. But here's guessing it will become a potential election changer in some states by November.
The case in which an African-American man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a local policeman in August is filled with conflicting stories as to whether Brown was threatening the officer or trying to surrender.
But one thing is for sure: There are plenty of entities examining the situation closely. That includes a grand jury in St. Louis County, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department. Notwithstanding a few dust-ups and what appears to have been an unrelated and non-life-threatening shooting of an officer there recently, all things Ferguson have been unusually quiet in recent weeks.
Almost certainly that quiet will not last. The best guess is that in a matter of weeks, we will see one of several scenarios take place.
The first would be a decision by the grand jury to indict police officer Darren Wilson. The indictment might stifle more outcry over the incident, or it might not. Consider that the prosecutor in the case has reportedly chosen not to push any specific charges, but instead has chosen to let the grand jury determine what, if any, crime has been committed. It's possible that even an indictment, particularly one viewed as too lenient, might not be enough to deter serious outrage among civil rights leaders. Or a murder indictment might incite more discontent by validating the earlier concerns of protesters.
The second scenario is that the grand jury decides to hold off on an indictment until later, perhaps after the November elections. That would present an opening for civil rights leaders and political types to ramp up their angry rhetoric toward the authorities involved. While the prosecutor has suggested that he will finish presenting evidence by mid-October, the grand jury has until January to decide what, if anything, to do.
Then there is the matter of the Justice Department. Some believe the decision by the soon-to-resign Attorney General Anthony Holder to stay in office until his replacement is named will delay any civil rights-related investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. Others believe Holder will want to see that the issue is dealt with while he's still on his watch. That would allow for a late October or early November hint, or even a forceful declaration, that a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson police exists.
Virtually every scenario leads to the same likely result. By election time, Ferguson will be back in the news and could possibly be evoking a new round of protests and high emotions.
Whether any of that would be justified or not remains undecided for now. But we know that many of our nation's top African-American leaders, including the attorney general, have reflected upon the difference with which blacks, and in particular black men, are treated by law enforcement and other authorities. It is a topic that can quickly get the attention of African-American voters.
And those voters and their turnout in this election season are critical to any hope Democrats have of holding onto control of the U.S. Senate. In states such as North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Arkansas, a stronger-than-usual turnout of African-American voters could take states once handicapped to go Republican in 2014 and hand them to Democrats, or at the very least throw several contests into post-General Election runoffs.
Racial politics is a tricky thing to deal with. I learned long ago that it is nearly impossible to judge how those of other races and ethnicities feel about their lives or how they are treated.
What is not hard to figure out is that the sticky situation in Ferguson has not gone away and may play a critical role in the upcoming elections.
As we’ve heard countless times by now, airstrikes alone will not defeat and destroy ISIS. And after more than 230 of them, it’s seems, the group “remains a very potent force,” Admiral John Kirby told reporters this week.
But they have forced the Islamic militants to change their tactics, Admiral John Kirby told reporters this week.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. and its coalition partners had conducted nearly 310 air attacks on Islamic terrorist targets, more than 230 in Iraq and 76 in Syria, a Pentagon spokesman said.
And while the air campaign has forced the terrorists to change their tactics, "We still believe ISIL remains a very potent force," Admiral John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.
"Yes, they're blending in more. Yes, they're dispersing, and yes, they aren't communicating quite as openly or as boldly as they once were. That's a good thing, because if they aren't operating as freely, then they aren't as free to achieve their goals.
"That doesn't mean ISIL doesn't still pose a threat. It doesn't mean they aren't still trying and in some cases succeeding at taking and holding ground. No one said this would be easy or quick, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by accurate airstrikes. We will not, we cannot bomb them into obscurity."
The "most significant pressure" on ISIS/ISIL willcome from Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces, who are "doing better," but are not "perfect."
Kirby warned reporters against thinking that air strikes will have an immediate strategic effect. "This is going to be a long struggle," he said. And he urged "a sense of strategic patience about this entire effort."
"This group will adapt, and we're going to have to adapt right along with them. And air strikes alone, you're just not going to bomb them away. It's not going to happen like that."
Kirby, asked about reports that Islamic fighters have come within five miles of Baghdad, said it's nothing new: "We have consistently seen them pose a threat to the capital city." Kirby said U.S., along with Iraqi security forces, "are trying to push them back," and "we're going to do what we can to help Iraqi security forces maintain control of the capital city."