Here in the eye of the storm between the Republican and Democratic national conventions, maybe it's useless to call for rhetorical restraint. But it's seldom been more needed.

Only a week ago, as horrible facts emerged about the slaughter of police officers in Baton Rouge, La., President Obama spoke wisely and gently to a shaken nation. He urged that "everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further. We don't need inflammatory rhetoric. We don't need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts — all of us."

I aspire to follow the president's counsel. What's tricky is that I also feel compelled to pass his admonition along to a few public figures who don't seem to see that their words regarding cops and race could stand some tempering.

Donald Trump, of course, is hopeless, having made an art form of careless accusations and scalding insults, an expertise his followers, at least those bellowing "Lock her up" all last week, too eagerly emulate.

But heedless rhetoric has been spreading in American public life for many years. Trump has raised it to new level. He didn't invent it. His shadowy vision of an American working class encircled by enemies — illegal immigrants, terrorists, trade manipulators ­— finds a parallel in the left's guilty America, conceived in racism and sexism and dedicated to the tyranny of the 1 percent and their killer cops.

In America's agonized debate over police, race and crime, Obama himself has misfired more than once. But he has grown generally more careful during his tenure.

Unfortunately, other progressive politicians from Hillary Clinton on down too often recklessly level what are, if taken seriously, inflammatory accusations against our cops and our courts.

They describe, if often through a gauze of vague abstraction, a system so rotten with "systemic racism," as Clinton has put it, that it routinely harasses, persecutes, imprisons and kills young black males, all without justification.

And then they add that of course any violent reaction against this grotesque injustice would be unthinkable.

But it isn't unthinkable, as we've been tragically learning — especially not in fragile, overheated minds.

Just last week, Clinton addressed a civil-rights convention concerning killings of and by police officers. While denouncing violence against cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge and elsewhere, Clinton went on to say: "We cannot rest until we root out implicit bias and stop the killings of African-Americans. … Let's admit it: There is clear evidence that African-Americans are disproportionately killed in police incidents compared to any other group. And African-American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same offenses. These facts tell us something is profoundly wrong."

Indeed they do. But let's also admit this: It is irresponsible to imply that all of what's wrong, all of what's causing these disparities, results from "systemic racism" — and to ignore the much higher levels of crime and economic distress in black communities and the resulting heavy police presence in those neighborhoods.

Frankly, if our criminal-justice system is as corrupted and unjust as Clinton's rhetoric, taken seriously, suggests, then some kind of revolutionary change may well be needed in this country. And it might well begin by sweeping from public life people like Hillary Clinton, who have been in high office for decades without righting this intolerable wrong, instead vigorously participating over the years in creating today's criminal-justice policies — notably in the tough-on-crime crackdowns of the 1990s.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is another longtime public official who is said to have recently "found his voice" on these issues, in his outspoken response to the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights July 6. In comments that have drawn both praise and criticism, the governor made it clear the very next day that he judged the shooting unjustified, proclaimed that Castile would not have died the way he did if he had been white and said the shooting forces us all "to confront that this kind of racism exists."

Dayton had few confirmed facts to base conclusions on — little beyond Castile's companion's version of events, and nothing from the officer.

Yet what's most telling is to contrast Dayton's snap verdict in the Castile case with the way his voice failed him earlier this year, when he had voluminous facts and expert analysis at his disposal in the case of Jamar Clark.

On March 30, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman presented detailed evidentiary findings supporting his decision that no criminal charges would be brought against two Minneapolis police officers involved in Clark's controversial shooting last November. Freeman offered proof that Clark had never been handcuffed, as had been claimed, and had attempted to gain control of an officer's gun.

Dayton demurred from commenting on that conclusion, saying: "I am not the authority to evaluate evidence reviewed by the Hennepin County attorney and will await findings of the investigation by the United States Department of Justice."

On June 1, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced his findings, which agreed with Freeman's.

I recently checked in with Dayton's staff, realizing I had missed the governor's response to Luger's concurrence with Freeman's decision. They could send me only a quote from a news conference on June 1:

"I'm not going to comment," the governor said, "because I haven't had a chance to read the statements made and those who disagree with that conclusion. So … it's too important and too sensitive an issue for me to talk about when I haven't had a chance to review the facts."

Here, it appears, is one fact: For whatever reason, the governor — the chief law enforcement officer in our state, boss of the State Patrol, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Department of Public Safety, who appoints all of the state's judges — couldn't see the importance of summoning a voice to speak with when police officers accused of heinous acts were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by two respected prosecutors presenting abundant evidence and analysis. But before the Castile investigation had barely begun, he declared a provocative judgment not only about the incident but about the "kind of racism" whose broader existence it reflected.

American law enforcement and criminal justice are flawed and face colossal challenges. But it is truly dangerous for high-ranking public figures, whether intentionally or not —whether by saying too much or too little — to undermine public confidence in the essential integrity of that system.

Let us, as the president advises, temper our words — all of us.

D.J. Tice is at