WASHINGTON – In this heated and deeply divisive campaign year, America’s presidential candidates responded Friday with striking reflection and restraint to the week’s killings of five police officers and two black men.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump quickly scrapped most political events, hours after the officers were killed in Dallas during a protest over the fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. Clinton did go forward with a late afternoon appearance at the African Methodist Episcopal Convention in Philadelphia, where she focused on violence from all quarters and declared there is “something wrong with our country.”
Addressing the shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, Clinton said that as president she would urge white Americans to gain a better understanding of the anxiety many blacks feel in dealing with law enforcement.
She also spoke sympathetically of the police officers who were killed and their families “who lived every day with the fear that something like this would happen and will always be proud of their service and sacrifice.”
She also said Americans must “acknowledge that implicit bias still exists across society and even in the best police departments.” As president, she said, she plans to commit $1 billion “to find and fund” training programs and research to deal with that.
Trump canceled a speech in Miami on Hispanic issues. He instead released a statement calling the shootings in Dallas “a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.” He called Sterling’s and Castile’s deaths “senseless” and a reminder of how much more needs to be done to ensure Americans feel safe in their communities.
The shootings marked the second time the fledgling general election campaign has been upended by violence. Just one month ago, Clinton and Trump also scrambled their schedules following mass killings at an Orlando gay nightclub.
Trump was widely criticized, even by his own party, for taking credit for “being right” on terrorism after the Orlando attacks and for saying he appreciated “the congrats.” He was more measured in his statement Friday but reappeared on Twitter late in the day, taking Clinton to task for her answers to questions in a TV interview about her email practices.
“Isn’t it sad that on a day of national tragedy Hillary Clinton is answering softball questions about her email lies on @CNN?” he tweeted.
The response to the shootings from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans also was notable.
“All of us need to acknowledge that this is about more than just one or two recent incidents,” said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. “The fact is that there are communities in America where black families tell us that they are fearful with interacting with local law enforcement. How they feel is a reality that we cannot and should not ignore.”
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