May 3, 2024

Biden on Campus Protests

President Joe Biden on Thursday rejected calls from student protesters to change his approach to the war in Gaza while insisting that ‘order must prevail’ as college campuses across the country face a wave of violence, outrage and fear… ‘There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,’ Biden said…

“Tensions on college campuses have been building for days as demonstrators refuse to remove encampments and administrators turn to police to clear them by force, leading to clashes that have seized widespread attention.” AP News

Here’s our previous coverage of the protests. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left is generally in agreement with Biden’s comments.

“There was nothing particularly contentious or surprising about the mini-speech. It boiled down to: Peaceful protests, good. Chaos, intimidation and violence, bad. This is more or less the position several colleges have been spotlighting in recent weeks. It is, admittedly, a bit simplistic, inviting questions about when civil disobedience becomes unacceptably disruptive and at what point uncomfortable speech tips over into threatening. Still, it’s a decent foundation for schools trying to muddle through this mess…

“That said, it seems unlikely Biden’s words will impress much of anyone, and certainly no one already worked up about the situation. Plenty of young people, upset by his policies in Gaza and further upset by the rough response to protesters by some colleges, are likely to see it as a weak dodge…

“People freaked out by the upheaval and the chaotic images circulating online may ask: And? What are you going to do about it?… And even folks who share Biden’s middle-of-the-road view may think: Sensible! But what now?”

Michelle Cottle, New York Times

“Even in a short speech… the tensions within Biden’s approach were apparent. As he accused opportunists of turning up tensions, he said that ‘this is not a moment for politics,’ a Strangelovian paradox when discussing, you know, political protests. He also tried to draw a line between peaceful protest and violent protest, but ended up eliding the difference. Vandalism is violence; disrupting graduation ceremonies, another example he cited, is not…

“Biden may have picked his timing well. By speaking now, he doesn’t take responsibility for the sweeps by police that have already occurred. Because classes will soon end at colleges, the protests are likely to peter out, and he can try to claim credit for that. A slow release is probably Biden’s best hope here.”

David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Some argue, “U.S. politicians, starting with President Joe Biden, accused the protesters of antisemitism… [But] Thousands of American students across the country are not protesting, risking their own futures and very safety, because of some pathological hate for the Jewish people. They are doing so in a complete rejection of, and justifiable outrage over, the mass killing carried out by the state of Israel against defenseless Palestinians…

“The older generations of American politicians, who have built and sustained careers based on their unconditional support for Israel, are overwhelmed by the new reality. Their language is confused and riddled with falsehoods. Yet, they are willing to go as far as defaming a whole generation of their own people—the future leaders of America—to satisfy the demands of the Israeli government.”

Ramzy Baroud, Common Dreams

From the Right

The right criticizes Biden for not condemning the chaos earlier.

The right criticizes Biden for not condemning the chaos earlier.

“Seventy-eight percent say Hamas must be removed from running Gaza; 67% say Israel is trying to avoid casualties; a majority in every group 35 and up says a cease-fire should happen only after Hamas has released hostages and been removed from power. Few Americans feel a connection to indulged college students directing invectives at Jews and erecting ‘intifada halls.’…

“Most politicians got it and quickly condemned the agitators and the hate speech. Republicans and Donald Trump got it. Even many Democrats got it, including governors and mayors who’ve assisted in clearing encampments. But Mr. Biden? He initially felt obliged to pair his condemnation of antisemitism with a condemnation of ‘those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,’ whatever that means…

“Mr. Biden finally, briefly and hastily on Thursday condemned the campus ‘chaos,’ yet notably refused to make the moral case for his support of Israel and its war against terrorists—the policies sparking mob chants of ‘Genocide Joe has got to go.’… [Protestors] are already gearing up to descend on Democrats’ Chicago convention in August. This recalls the party’s 1968 convention, the violence of which cemented a view of a lawless country under Democratic rule and aided Richard Nixon’s election victory.”Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal

“Many who oppose what Israel is doing in Gaza also oppose letting protesters run amok on college campuses. A new Morning Consult poll has found that 76% of those surveyed support colleges ‘asking the police to protect campuses from violence.’ Seventy-six percent is a pretty persuasive number. It means that a very solid majority of people want to see order in the nation’s cities and campuses despite whatever they might think about Gaza…

“And that is perhaps the reason Biden decided to speak Thursday morning. Just a few hours earlier, NBC News reported that Biden’s advisers ‘believe that tensions over U.S. support for Israel in the war in Gaza spreading through college campuses will soon flame out and that there is neither a need nor an upside for him to weigh in more directly.’ The next morning, Biden was giving his statement. It happened slowly, and then quickly, and it appears Biden has finally gotten the message.”

Byron York, Washington Examiner

“President Biden made all the right noises about campus protests Thursday morning — weeks too late… A timely and full-throated condemnation of the antisemitic protests raging at college campuses across America should’ve come at least a month ago. Or at least a week ago, when the madness kicked into high gear.”

Editorial Board, New York Post

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