WILMINGTON, Del. — A difficult political atmosphere for President Joe Biden may have become even more treacherous with the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

Biden was already facing sliding poll numbers with an electorate worn down by the coronavirus pandemic and increasing inflation. Now, the president finds himself caught between outraged Democrats — some of whom were already stewing over Biden’s inability to land police reform and voting rights legislation — and Republicans looking to use the Rittenhouse case to exploit the national divide over matters of grievance and race.

“This is one of the last things Biden wants to be engaging in at this moment as he tries to finish up the big Build Back Better bill and get that across the finish line through the Senate,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “Race and Kyle Rittenhouse is not the space where he wants or needs to be going deep right now.”

The acquittal of Rittenhouse has touched off new conversations about racial justice, vigilantism and policing in America. The Illinois teen armed himself with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle during an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wis., days after the shooting of a Black man by a white police officer. He said he came to small city to help protect a car lot from vandals and provide medical aid.

Rittenhouse would end up fatally shooting two men and maiming a third. Rittenhouse and his lawyers successfully argued he had acted in self-defense during a confrontation in which he feared for his life.

The verdict in the case comes at a moment when Biden is trying to keep fellow Democrats focused on passing his massive social services and climate bill and hoping to turn the tide with Americans who have soured on his performance as president.

The president responded carefully following Friday’s verdict, expressing respect for the jury’s decision. He later added in a written statement that, like many Americans, he was “angry and concerned” with the jury acquittal of Rittenhouse.

Meanwhile, Republicans, who had success in this month’s Virginia election in part by accusing Democrats of promoting critical race theory in public schools, are embracing the 18-year-old Rittenhouse as their newest hero in America’s culture wars.

GOP Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida have said they’d like to hire him as an intern, with Gosar suggesting they arm wrestle for the honor. Another Republican, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, on Saturday predicted that liberal outrage over the Rittenhouse trial would benefit her party.

“It seems liberals want self-defense to be illegal,” Boebert tweeted. “Try running on that in 2022 and see how far it gets you with the majority of the sane American public.”

Former President Donald Trump was quick to stand with Rittenhouse following the verdict. He called the teen “brave” for testifying in his own defense and accused the left of trying “to fan hatred” with its treatment of Rittenhouse.

Trump has spent much of his post-presidency stoking divisions with his frontal criticism of Biden and of any Republican who has not marched in lockstep with his views. And most Republicans, either through silence or direct endorsement, have followed his lead.

In the aftermath of the acquittal, Republicans have highlighted a tweet by Biden during his winning 2020 presidential campaign in which he appeared to suggest Rittenhouse was a white supremacist.

The tweet, from September 2020, excoriated Trump for failing “to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage” the previous night and included a video that contained a still image of Rittenhouse from the night of the Kenosha shooting and footage of torch-bearing white supremacists at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel are among party officials who have called on Biden to apologize.

“He smeared a teenager to score political points and spread lies about this case,” McDaniel wrote on Twitter. “What Biden did was dangerous and inflammatory.”

Asked by a reporter soon after the verdict if he stood by his campaign social media posting, Biden responded that “I stand by what the jury has concluded.”

Borick, the Muhlenberg College pollster, said the results of this month’s elections in Virginia show that driving at cultural issues — including race and transgender rights — could be a good strategy for Republicans trying to energize a segment of the electorate that was passionate about Trump but less enthusiastic about the rest of the GOP. But Borick warned the GOP’s fulsome embrace of Rittenhouse wasn’t without risk.

“I don’t know if it’s a great place to be if you’re trying, come the midterms, to reach suburban voters and educated voters who might not fault the decision to acquit Rittenhouse because of the circumstances but are far from comfortable holding him up as a hero,” Borick said.

Even before the verdict, Biden had been facing increased pressure from some Democrats over the lack of progress on passing voting rights and police reform legislation.

Last month, a day after Senate Republicans filibustered a major voting bill for the second time this year, Biden acknowledged the process of governing could be “frustrating and sometimes dispiriting” but urged supporters to “keep the faith.”

At the same, civil rights leaders have expressed frustration Biden has not used the power of the bully pulpit more to push for a broad police reform bill named after George Floyd, the Black Minneapolis man whose killing last year by police touched off protests around the U.S.

Speaking at an event earlier this week where he signed into law a trio of bills to increase aid to police, Biden only made passing mention of the George Floyd act, asking legislators from both parties to work together to make it law.

“That’s next,” Biden said.

(42) comments

Khal Spencer

Michael Shermer on this.


Khal Spencer


In the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, a liberal guns’ right activist explains why she thinks both sides got this trial wrong.

One of the biggest questions to come out of this trial is over guns’ place at protests and in public spaces. Lara Smith is an attorney as well as the National Spokesperson for the Liberal Gun Club, an alternative gun owner’s advocacy group and Second Amendment forum that doesn’t subscribe to right-wing rhetoric, like the NRA. Smith believes that it’s time liberals—“America’s least likely gun owners”—embraced their right to defend themselves, too. Smith, who sees the trial as a wake up call, talked to me about her first impressions of the verdict, the threat of political violence, and the inevitability of a Rittenhouse copy-cat. Our conversation has been edited for clarity.

Q. Do you have any problems with the way the media covered Kyle Rittenhouse and his trial?

"I had a terrible problem with how it turned into a morality question more than what had actually happened. I think that was really hard to see through. I think the discussion should have been about what on Earth are we doing when we say that it’s OK to arm a 17-year-old to go out and defend property against legal protests? But I also think that if you attack somebody, you might get shot. And self-defense is a real defense. And even if we don’t like the person who was defending themselves, it shouldn’t be about whether you like or don’t like the people involved. Being there doesn’t automatically get rid of your right to self-defense."

Q. As an attorney, did you have any thoughts on the way the trial was conducted?

"I have my own law practice. They’re lucky there wasn’t a mistrial in the case. From what I was watching, I feel like the prosecutor didn’t believe in their case. The prosecution was doing a prosecution on moral values instead of law. That was a problem."

Mike Johnson

She is partly right, but to say this: "I think the discussion should have been about what on Earth are we doing when we say that it’s OK to arm a 17-year-old to go out and defend property against legal protests?" This was a legal case, not a political or moral "discussion", she should save her anti-gun "discussions" for places outside of a legal proceeding. This was solely about self-defense.

Russell Scanlon

It’s a beautiful day. There are millions of people going on with their lives and enjoying every moment. And then there are those who see themselves as infallible and righteous and are therefore doomed to live in bunker surrounded by firepower to protect themselves against a phantom army of liberals, BLM, and “Socialists”. I remember after the obelisk incident all the predictions in these pages of how Santa Fe was on the cusp of being overtaken by godless progressives and riots and chaos. Today the commentariat are celebrating the fact that a 17 year old took a gun illegally and drove to a neighboring city and acting as a completely self trained and uninformed vigilante helped to create a situation where he ended up killing two people. What are you guys really supporting? Armed insurrection and chaos? Why don’t you ask a real cop or anyone who is actually trained to use deadly force what an incredibly fraught and difficult decision that really is? Do you any of actually know a 17 year old who you think is mature enough and qualified to use deadly force in ANY circumstance? There was nothing heroic or brave in those videos of Rittenhouse at the scene of the riot—just adolescent, macho strutting followed very quickly by chaos, fear, and panic. And I don’t want to hear another word about the criminal history of the victims. They were not on trial.

There is nothing here to celebrate here for anyone. And if you think there is, maybe it is YOUR politics that is the problem.

Khal Spencer

I was going to point readers to the definition of a straw man argument, but I think yours is better than most.



"A straw man fallacy occurs when someone takes another person’s argument or point, distorts it or exaggerates it in some kind of extreme way, and then attacks the extreme distortion, as if that is really the claim the first person is making."

Mike Johnson

Yes indeed Khal, a perfect example. How about this: "...the fact that a 17 year old took a gun illegally.." Then there is this: "Myth: Kyle Rittenhouse illegally brought a gun across state lines. But Rittenhouse's possession of the firearm at the time was technically legal. " And other myths in this straw man: https://www.insider.com/6-myths-surrounding-the-kyle-rittenhouse-trial-debunked-2021-11

And then this one: "Do you any of actually know a 17 year old who you think is mature enough and qualified to use deadly force in ANY circumstance?" How about Audie Murphy? Entered the US Army just as he turned 18, and before his 19th birthday, he did this: "In late January 1943, Murphy shipped out to North Africa. Assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division, he was sent to the island of Sicily on July 10. It was there that he began to compile his remarkable service record. Aggressive and audacious, yet levelheaded, Murphy proved to be the ideal soldier." My uncle had his Mom lie about his age, 16, and at 17 he was landing on Iwo Jima, getting wounded and killing the enemy too. So, yes, and in Vietnam, there were several 17-18 year olds who were quite good soldiers I knew. And here: https://mediamilwaukee.com/special-projects/vietnam-james-calvin-ward-a-17-year-old-goes-to-war

But Mr. Scanlon is never interested in facts, only his political opinions.

Khal Spencer

All that true, Mike. But what Kyle Rittenhouse lacked was the boot camp, training, and military unit cohesiveness and structure that someone like Audie Murphy or many others had when they were in their late teens and in a combat situation in uniform.

Rittenhouse was a fish out of water. If there were adults at that car dealership, they should have packed him off to go home or at least kept him on a short leash. Still, once people attacked him, he had a right to defend himself. Trouble is, once shots were fired it was probably hard to know who was the aggressor and who was not. Hence massive reasonable doubt for the jury to deal with. Rittenhouse never should have had those charges filed against him without serious thought by the DA. Instead, the state filed them within days. This was, as Lara Smith (see above) said, more a morality play than a court of law. And therefore flawed from the get go.

The August 27th NY Times piece laying out the timeline of what happened was excellent reporting and that piece alone should have caused people to temper their comments, regardless of whose side they were on. Nope.


Mike Johnson

I agree Khal, but Mr. Scanlon was basing things solely on age. My son, who I and others trained to shoot and handle firearms from shotguns to high powered rifles since he was 12, was also proficient at 17. I have no idea what Kyle's training was, but a blanket rejection of abilities based on age alone is wrong. The entire issue was self-defense, not race, not guns, not anything else. The defense focused on that, the prosecution did not and tried to make it about race and gun control, which it was not. and the NYT piece is good. But as you point out, making this about political issues and not the actual case was what most did, like Mr. Scanlon.

Khal Spencer

"...But as you point out, making this about political issues and not the actual case was what most did..."

Uh, yep.

Russell Scanlon

To compare the actions of this young man to the scores of men (including my father) who enlisted to fight in WW II is pathetic.

And as you celebrate this victory for ”gun rights”, parse every single facet of the case to justify killing people, and accuse the prosecution of political motivation, you accuse ME of only being interested in politics. Pathetic and incredibly lacing in self awareness. But not surprising.

Russell Scanlon

There is a difference between what is “legal” and what is right and wrong. And those who are confused about the latter will hide behind the former.

Mike Johnson

You stated in your challenge: "Do you any of actually know a 17 year old who you think is mature enough and qualified to use deadly force in ANY circumstance?" You were wrong in that statement, you never mentioned any qualifiers, I can't read your mind as to what you really meant, but sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking, as Orwell said. And then you state: "There is a difference between what is "legal" and what is right and wrong" Indeed Mr. Scanlon, there is, and this case is about the law, not right and wrong, remember it was in a court of law, tried by lawyers and a judge, and decided by a jury. The law does not recognize whatever concept you think is "wrong", but it is duly noted that you think what Rittenhouse did was "wrong". I'm sure that makes a difference to ....well....no one.

Russell Scanlon

Khal—you have admitted twice that Rittenhouse shouldn’t have been armed and shouldn’t have been there. Is there no punishment for that lack of judgement or does he just go directly to a good paying job in Matt Gaetz’s office?

And Khal—to answer your last sentence from 11/23 9:31am.— read Mr. Johnson’s remark posted 11/22 11:11am.

Russell Scanlon

Khal—your condescension is duly noted.

Khal Spencer

Russell, you have gone out of your way to recreate those who disagree with you in your own words rather than ours. I realize a few in these pages have indeed "celebrated" this outcome as some sort of Second Amendment Victory and I for one have disagreed with them--it was a case where the jury did not deem the evidence showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury did not validate what happened. I ended up being a jury foreman in a case were we thought the defendant was pond scum, but we had to go by the law and acquit. Judge debriefed us afterwards and said she agreed.

When I heard the jury was coming back, I thought everything was on the table. They acquitted. Many of us simply think the jury did its job and in a court of law, that is the jury's job. I've seen very few actual trial lawyers screaming foul.

As a morality play, this was a disaster. A wet behind the ears 17 year old should not be out at night, armed, trying to control a riot. Unless of course it was his home being firebombed. For that matter, a city should not be having riots. But when things get out of control as badly as they have done in various riots, there are very few, if any, who hold the moral high ground. Apparently, guns were a dime a dozen according to the Kenosha Police. What could possibly go wrong?

If you want to point to specific people who are dancing on the graves of those who Rittenhouse shot and killed, please be specific. Otherwise, I get a sense you are painting with too broad a brush.

Take care,


Mike Johnson

Well said Khal, and I have to honestly admit the only celebrating I have done about the verdict is watching the left wing types head's explode about it all. That is enjoyable.

Richard Reinders

I was trained on M16 , m60’s 45 apc , 50 cal. and 8in Howitzers at 17 by the US Army. My Command Sargent Major and father in law joined at 16 served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1974. Many before the so-called modern Army served at 17 and took on the responsibility of defending this country from the enemy.

Mike Johnson


Mike Andredi

Typical liberal behavior... don't get your way so burn the place down. The same justice system that found Derik Chauvin guilty found Kyle Rittenhouse innocent... so were they both wrong? Or just the trial that didnt go your way was wrong? The court system is not racist, there are just too many stupid people on earth to be able to understand that you dont always get your way. Kyle is innocent and people who were not part of the jurry that are complaining done have all the facts of the case to base any opinion on. Just because you think he should be guilty doesn't mean the facts prove that he is. The facts and the law proved that he was innocent...obviously.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup] Well said, and an ABC legal analyst, who was present at the trial, said the jury and judge focused on the law around self-defense, not guns and certainly not race, as it should have been. This was about self defense, period. Those who object want it to be about race or guns, it isn't. Get over it or get used to it, justice was done.

Joe Brownrigg

Mike J., review the actions and decisions of the judge!! Awful, illegal and immoral.

Khal Spencer

Really? And you are a legal expert?


Joe Brownrigg

Mike, the TWO justice "systems" were NOT the same. Evidently you did not watch the judge in the Rittenhouse case. He broke judicial rule after judicial rule. I have never seen a more NON-neutral judge in all my life!

Mike Johnson

The judge was a hero, you are just politically in the tank for convicting Kyle. I loved it when the judge did this: "Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder first warned Binger when he questioned Rittenhouse on why he chose to remain silent about the incident until now. “The problem is this is a grave constitutional violation for you to talk about the defendant’s silence,” Schroder said. “You're right on the borderline, and you may be over it. But it better stop.”

Later in cross-examination, Schroeder admonished Binger after defense attorney Mark Richards accused Binger of trying to provoke a mistrial.

An argument then ensued after Binger appeared to bring a matter before the jury that Schroeder was previously inclined to not allow."

It was the prosecutor who violated many rules, and luckily the judge didn't let him succeed in getting a mistrial declared, as Binger wanted since he was losing the case. Justice was done superbly.

Russell Scanlon

My heroes are people who actually try to advance peace and justice through non-violent methods. But you are certainly free to live your own dystopian fantasies.

Mike Johnson

The judge continued:“I was astonished when you began your examination by commenting on the defendant’s post-arrest silence,” Schroeder said. “That's basic law. It's been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that.”“I was astonished when you began your examination by commenting on the defendant’s post-arrest silence,” Schroeder said. “That's basic law. It's been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that.”

“Don’t get brazen with me,” the judge fired back. “You knew very well that attorneys can't go into these types of areas when the judge has already ruled without asking outside the presence of the jury to do so. So don’t give me that.”

No wonder it was a slam dunk acquittal on all charges.

Richard Reinders

The liberals want to defund police and eliminate self defense so they can break into your businesses and steal with no resistance. This trial really exposes them for the criminals that they are. The trial exposed the five people one Kyle civic minded citizen trying to protect businesses vetted by the FBI with no criminal record or radical ties, Rosenbaum was a child rapist, the guy that kicked Kyle in the head would only testify if he had lessor charges on his multiple outstanding warrants, Grosskreutz burglary and domestic violence , Huber a felon with strangulation charges.They want your hard earned money while they couch surf on free government money during the day and breaking into and burn your businesses at night. The business community and hard working public are done with this movement.if the liberal want to say this is not them they need to step up and separate their movement from this criminal activity. My mother use to say “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”

Emily Hartigan

Sigh. So much condemnation and misinformation.

A fleeting slogan from the far Left, "de-fund the police" is so fringe 2020. No mainstream "liberal" or progressive wants to do away with police. Reform them, yes, including paying them more.

They used to call this a "straw man" but now it's "straw person," Richard.

Blessings for Thanksgiving.

Barry Rabkin

I don't watch Fox. I didn't vote for Trump (either time). But I for protecting property (both private property and public property) during so-called free speech demonstrations (yes, even protecting them by deadly force). People own those properties or work in them or both - they shouldn't lose their means of income because of a police killing. No police action, even killing a minority, can ever be the reason for burning, looting, or vandalization. Free Speech should never equate to property damage. I also believe that the 'jury spoke'. If civil actions are brought against Kyle, we'll see what his defense lawyers identify about the people who wanted to kick him in the head, hit him in the head with a skateboard, or tried to take his gun away. Regardless, I have a hunch the US Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of open-carry of guns when their decisions are made and announced next year: perhaps to stop or slow the spread of more "Kyles" cities will have to invest in more police and tell them that "yes, property needs to be defended against looting, burning, or vandalizing."

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup]Excellent, thank you Mr. Rabkin.

Richard Reinders

[thumbup] well stated, I have no problems with peaceful protest but in the last year I have yet to see one. Peaceful protest are camouflage for criminal to infiltrate.

Richard Reinders

Are you kidding me, it may have been 2020 but it was the liberal progressive party leading the charge, now they are walking it back because they got as*’s handed to them by the constituents because they had a sharp spike in crime especially in the poorer neighborhoods. You have good Thanksgiving as well

Joe Brownrigg


Russell Scanlon

What a sad fearful person. I can’t imagine living with FOX phantoms in my head all day long. Seek help.

Mike Johnson

Well said Richard. The profiles of the "victims" in the shooting are all too typical of those kind of people who go out to riot, loot, and burn down people's businesses, property, and livelihoods. Yet Americans are addicted to doing nothing when they see this kind of thing going on, and making excuses for the perps, they see anyone who is concerned enough to actually act as the problem.

Joe Brownrigg

Mike, you forgot the judge's order NOT to call these people victims. But it was ok to call the other side "rioters, etc."

Mike Johnson

Yes, and that is the correct legal call, call a spade a spade, but don't use emotional words that are not justified to influence the jury.

Khal Spencer

Only if the defense could prove they were in fact committing riot or arson.


Mike Johnson

Richard, maybe Biden will think about this parody and go after people like Kyle...."The Biden administration hasn't seemed too concerned about border security. But now, they have a newfound passion for defending state lines, as Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines to defend businesses during the Kenosha riots.

Thankfully, out-of-work border patrol agents and their horses were re-deployed to defend the southern Wisconsin border."


Richard Reinders

Mike , private citizen Biden is going to find himself in court for slander, calling Kyle a WS without even looking at or knowing the circumstance to try and get the progressive vote, which is a familiar MO for Biden.

Joe Brownrigg

Biden isn't concerned about border security? Pay attention to the real news!!!

Mike Johnson

Joe, have you even read the news about the border chaos over the last 10 months??? How about this: "How optimism turned to chaos" (AP):https://apnews.com/article/immigration-coronavirus-pandemic-donald-trump-joe-biden-health-af698c3434cc31dfbce43a66fbf43b49

Or this: "The U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2021 fiscal year, more than quadruple the number of the prior fiscal year and the highest annual total on record.


Of course this is not surprise since Kamala was put in charge by Biden, and you think he is concerned about border security???? Astounding.

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