CLAIM: President Barack Obama could have sent federal help to Chicago to stop violent crime, but he did not.
VERDICT: TRUE. President Obama ignored the pleas of local residents; he proposed gun control instead.
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he was expanding Operation Legend to send additional federal law enforcement resources to Chicago to help quell a spike in violent crime in that city.
After his remarks, a CNN reporter pointed out that he had blamed his predecessor for the crime wave in Chicago, and asked whether he bore similar responsibility. Trump replied that Obama “could have gone into Chicago. He could’ve solved the problem, and he didn’t.”
Trump is right.
Many Chicago residents expected that when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he would bring the resources of the federal government to bear against the crime wave in his adopted home town of Chicago. Unfortunately, he did not.
In 2009, the Guardian (UK) reported, 42 young Chicagoans had been murdered “within a short drive of Barack Obama’s home” in the space of a year. Reporter Ed Pilkington described the problem in detail:
The centre of the blood-letting is the city’s poor and overwhelmingly black South Side, precisely the spot where Michelle grew up and Barack set out on his self-proclaimed “improbable journey” as a community organiser in his 20s. The geographical compactness of the carnage is spelled out inside the offices of the Black Star Project, an education programme for young black people. On the wall is a big map of the city. In the middle of the map, close to Lake Michigan, is a letter “A” pinpointing where the Obamas live. Yellow stickers cluster around the “A” like darts around the bullseye. Each one stands for a child under 18 who has died violently. The stickers all lie within black neighbourhoods of the city, while the white neighbourhoods are sticker-free. It is as if there are two Chicagos, two Americas, superimposed on the same map.
Local resident Aisha Latiker, who was 18 at the time, was outraged that President Obama had done nothing to help:
She has written two letters to the White House pleading for help to stop the killing. She is angry that she hasn’t heard back: “I ask President Obama can he not see what’s going on? Is his staff not relaying the message to him? Does anybody want to know why the youth are killing each other?”
Pilkington noted that “since entering office [Obama] has been largely silent over the issue of African-American youth violence,” and that there was an “absence of federal help.”
That remained true for the next seven and-a-half years of the Obama administration. President Obama was well aware of the crime in Chicago, but seemed incapable of dealing with it except through the lens of gun control, or education.
In 2013, Obama came back to his neighborhood in Chicago to deliver a speech that touched on the issue of violent crime. He mourned the dead, touted his gun control and education proposals, and that was it.
When First Lady Michelle Obama commented on crime in her hometown, she described it as the result of a lack of opportunities for young people.
Few in the Obama administration took the death toll seriously enough to intervene.
Far from offering support for local law enforcement, the Obama administration cracked down on the Chicago police after the 2014 murder of teenager Laquan MacDonald, adding Chicago to the list of cities subject to federal supervision under consent decrees.
Though there was some media coverage of the murder rate in Chicago, the media rarely asked why Obama did nothing.
Now that President Trump is intervening, the Democrats and the media are raising objections.
“In our case, they don’t want us in. We can solve the problem very easily. We’re equipped with the best equipment, the best people … Chicago should be calling us,” Trump said.
He is calling Chicago’s bluff — and doing what Obama would not.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.