Are GOP leaders missing a ‘Sister Souljah moment’ on Ted Nugent rants?

How has a rock musician who hasn’t topped the charts for decades – “Cat Scratch Fever” was back in 1977 – become a media-ready presence, relevant and, in certain circles, respectable?

For Ted Nugent, frequent and heated statements about President Obama, guns and race have done the trick. Nugent has always been an outrageous rocker, boastful about his exploits – sexual and otherwise. Headlines and notoriety in his business are gold, especially if, as it’s being reported, he has a live album in the works. But why are Republican leaders either encouraging the “Motor City Madman” or tacitly going along?

Rather than seeing an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” – named for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s 1992 public repudiation of someone perceived to represent extremist views as a way reassure the middle — Nugent has been elevated on conservative news outlets and is a sought-after guest. He’s become the foul-mouthed bard of the right wing.

The not-guilty verdict in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin has given Nugent new material.

Zimmerman juror says he ‘got away with murder’ in case that continues to divide

Juror B29 is the anti-Juror B37. The only minority among the six women who found George Zimmerman not guilty of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Trayvon Martin said Zimmerman “got away with murder.” She said on Thursday that she feels she owes an apology to Martin’s parents. “You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty.”

Her sentiments contradict Juror B37, who in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper expressed empathy with “Georgie,” and the armed neighborhood watchman’s frustration with crimes committed by “these people.” And while the words of Juror B29, a 36-year-old nursing assistant and mother of eight, won’t bring Trayvon Martin back, they publicly help to restore individuality and humanity to the unarmed 17-year-old and to his grieving parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.

In the midst of politicians and pundits standing their ground, sometimes with seemingly little regard that a child was lost, Juror B29 talks about how she feels. “It’s hard for me to sleep, it’s hard for me to eat because I feel I was forcefully included in Trayvon Martin’s death. And as I carry him on my back, I’m hurting as much [as] Trayvon’s Martin’s mother because there’s no way that any mother should feel that pain,” she said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, to be broadcast on “World News” and “Nightline” on Thursday  and “GMA” on Friday.

In conversations on race, everyone has to listen

CHARLOTTE — If President Obama’s personal and heartfelt speech on race reached only the ears of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, it would have been enough. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” the president said, leaving unsaid a parent’s dream for a child, the unspoken other side of the equation, that Trayvon Martin could have become him in 35 years – an educated man, a husband and father and, perhaps, president of the United States.

“We are thankful for President Obama’s and Michelle’s prayers, and we ask for your prayers as well as we continue to move forward,” the parents responded. “President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy.” They will never have their son back but it must have been sweet relief to hear kind words from the president in a week when so many were trying to turn a 17-year-old into someone the people closest to him did not recognize.

The trial in Sanford, Fla., that ended with the acquittal of George Zimmerman for all charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin quickly turned into a debate on gun restrictions, Stand Your Ground laws, racial profiling and the justice system. Even for those who agree with the trial’s conclusion, Trayvon Martin’s life should matter.

That’s why it’s a good thing that the president’s Friday message was intended for more than an audience of two. “I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” he said to everyone. As people listened, they heard what they wanted to hear.

What chance did Trayvon Martin, the ‘suspect,’ have in court?

To George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin was never just a teenager who could possibly have belonged in the Sanford, Fla., gated community. He was always the “suspect.”

I’m not putting words into the mouth of the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Martin and was found not guilty on Saturday. That’s exactly what Zimmerman called Martin in his post-shooting statement to police, though the 17-year-old wasn’t a suspect in any crime. Martin was walking from the store to his father’s house. Zimmerman was armed with a gun and Martin with candy, and then Martin was dead, unable to tell his side of the story.

That’s when the narrative took over, the subtle but very real judgment that makes people clutch their purse closer or cross the street when young black men stroll by, that makes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with his city’s police department stop-and-frisk policies being challenged as discriminatory in court, feel comfortable saying, as he did recently, “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”

It’s why comments after the Zimmerman verdict mention Chicago teens killing one another and O.J. Simpson. What happened in Sanford, Fla., wasn’t about any of that. But it was, in a way, about all of that, feelings so ingrained we might not even know they are there.