This is pathetic.
Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- At least 47 school-age children in Chicago have been killed in homicides, mostly by guns, since the month President Barack Obama took office.
The latest youth homicide in his adopted hometown was different only in that the attackers used splintered railroad ties and were captured on video broadcast globally.
The Sept. 24 attack prompted Obama to send his attorney general and education secretary to Chicago today after the killing tarnished the city’s drive to win the 2016 Olympics.
“The savage beating of Derrion Albert, recycled on television, embarrassed Chicago and the nation,” said the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a civil-rights activist and founder of the RainbowPUSH Coalition. “You can’t ignore the case.”
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plan to appear at City Hall with Mayor Richard Daley in what the Obama administration described as a search for solutions to youth crime. They also will meet privately with students and parents.
Chicago’s violence has long burdened Obama’s political career, including the embarrassment of a missed vote as a state senator that hurt his 2000 bid for Congress. Duncan, 44, a Chicago native and Obama friend, admits to “total failure” in curbing violence during his seven years as chief of the nation’s third-largest school system, which serves more than 400,000 students, 85 percent of them living below the poverty line.
Some gun-control advocates question the administration’s timing as Duncan and Holder arrive after a highly publicized beating that didn’t involve a gun.
“Where there have been opportunities for the president to speak out about the issue of firearm violence, he has missed any number of opportunities,” said Thom Mannard, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
Doing so in the Albert case “provides the cover” to address youth violence without confronting the gun lobby, said Mannard, whose group’s board of directors included Duncan until he left for his current post.
The administration defended its record.
“President Obama is committed to combating violence on our streets and in our schools, both in Chicago -- which has been particularly hard hit -- and around the nation,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement. “The administration has focused on the issue of youth violence from the outset.”
The beating death of Albert, 16, an honor student, renewed outrage and prompted a call to action in a city where 398 students were shot in the past 12 months, said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Schools. Four teens have been charged in connection with Albert’s killing.
The incident happened less than five miles from a church where Obama gave a sermon in July 2007 challenging the government, the gun lobby and the public to stop gun violence.
“Our playgrounds have become battlegrounds,” he told a standing-room congregation. “Our streets have become cemeteries. Our schools have become places to mourn the ones we’ve lost. The violence is unacceptable.”
Obama at the time called for better enforcement of existing gun laws, tighter background checks on gun buyers and a permanent assault-weapons ban.
Some of the students involved in the recent fatal fight live in Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project where Obama worked in the mid-1980s as a community organizer.
Like Obama, 48, Duncan is familiar with youth violence in Chicago. Duncan was replaced as Chicago schools chief by Ron Huberman, a former Chicago police officer and transit official who is experimenting with a $30 million project to focus on about 1,200 high school students in danger of being shot.
The district identified those students based on grades, attendance and serious misconduct. The analysis suggests the 200 high school students most at risk have a 20 percent chance of becoming a victim of gun violence.
One of Obama’s first high-profile brushes with the anguish associated with gun violence came amid his unsuccessful primary campaign for Congress against Representative Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther.
Rush’s son was shot in October 1999 and died four days later, producing an outpouring of support for the incumbent.
Later that fall, the Illinois legislature was called into special session to consider gun-safety initiatives that Obama supported.
When a crucial vote came earlier than expected, Obama was in Hawaii visiting the grandmother who helped raise him. The legislation failed by five votes as he remained in Hawaii to help care for a sick daughter, sparking criticism.
Daley initially played down the impact of the Albert case on the city’s Olympics bid. Still, his first public comments upon his return from Copenhagen were to address the violence and the “code of silence” surrounding it.
Gun issues in Chicago will remain in the national spotlight following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Sept. 30 announcement that it will hear a challenge of the city’s handgun ban, implemented in 1982 to combat urban crime.
Duncan said earlier this year that his attempts to curb violence were ineffective when he oversaw Chicago’s schools.
“I thought I had made things better in some areas,” he said April 14 in Chicago. “This is an area where I was a total failure.”