President Bush's speech to the nation on Los Angeles Friday night was a day late but worth the wait. The president thus had time to digest and mull over conflicting advice by political advisers. Some (including top aides to Vice President Quayle) wanted him to go hard line, strictly law-and-order. Others more wisely pushed for a reference to the need for racial justice. He chose both themes, and he humanized his speech with a reference to his and his family's being "revolted" by the Rodney King beating tape and the jury verdict.
Gov. Bill Clinton's remarks on the tragedy in Los Angeles showed the importance of thinking it through before taking a stand on such an event. In his first public statement Thursday, he condemned the verdict and expressed sympathy for the outrage that resulted in rioting. He blamed "the nation's leaders," by whom he clearly meant the Republican presidents of the past 11 years. That was a mistake, as even many of his fellow Democrats told him. He corrected himself on Friday to say it was no time "to be casting stones."
Ross Perot, who has been cautious and non-specific when asked about other issues, saw the need to be direct and said (on Sunday, after having thought about it) exactly what he would have done if he were president. He said he would have immediately announced a federal civil rights investigation of the beating and flown to Los Angeles. He was not criticizing President Bush for not having done so -- just showing how their styles differ.