President Barack Obama makes a face after talking about how Congress voted to sue him before signing an executive order titled “Fair Pay and Safe Workplace” Thursday, July 31, 2014, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds in Washington. The executive order requires prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, informing federal agencies before they award federal contracts. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(Politico) – It’s a paradox of Barack Obama’s presidency: The first African-American to run the country finds himself in the tensest racial confrontation of his tenure but is constrained from addressing the nation’s original sin in anything but the loftiest, most dispassionate terms.

“We’ve made extraordinary progress” in race relations, Obama said on Monday, addressing the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of Michael Brown, “but we have not made enough progress.”

That observation is so obvious as to be anodyne, but Obama has good reason to confine himself to Joe Friday generalities in the face of the discordant street demonstrations, belligerent police tactics and unfinished official investigation in Ferguson.

Ever since he first judged that the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police had “acted stupidly” in 2009 by arresting Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his own doorway, Obama’s most candid comments on race have been just as likely to inflame a significant segment of public opinion as to soothe it.


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