Let's face it, the only thing notable about this entire exchange was the word "stupidly". I will agree that this wasn't the right choice of words, perhaps, but Obama (for once) was clearly talking off the cuff about something clearly very close to him. I admired the candor, but I knew it wouldn't last long. Barry is the President, and apparently this means not pissing off potential voters.
Cue the quasi-apology.
President Obama said Friday that he “could have calibrated” his words more carefully in the controversy over the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. but added that he believed there was an “overreaction” by both sides in a case that has inflamed racial tensions across the country.I don't know exactly how to feel about this. While I agree that Obama's choice of the word "stupidly" was a little off base, I don't think that it necessarily warranted an apology. I mean, even I, a guy who thinks Gates overreacted, still agree that the cops were in the wrong for arresting him over what essentially amounts to a pissing match between two grown assed men. By not falling back, apologizing (how often has a President had to do such a thing?) to the cop, and bringing him and Gates to the White House for a photo-op, I sorta kinda fear that the real point that was being made ("Negroes get their heads busted by the cops! That sh*t is not fiction, that sh*t is real, sonn! Sh*t is real!") is being diluted to make some folks feel better about themselves, and pull Obama back into the "postracial" candidate mode that made him so acceptable to America in the first place.
Mr. Obama said he hoped the case became “a teachable moment” to be used to improve relations between minorities and police officers.
The president conveyed his sentiment to the police sergeant, James Crowley, in a telephone call earlier Friday. Mr. Obama said he disagreed that he should not have stepped into the issue, saying it is the job of the president “black or white” to contribute to improving relations.
At the end of the call, Mr. Obama said, there was a discussion about the sergeant, Professor Gates and him having a beer at the White House.
“I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I wanted to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, I think, gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically,” Mr. Obama said. “And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.”
“I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station,” Mr. Obama added. “I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well. My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.”
The five-minute call between Mr. Obama and Mr. Crowley took place Friday afternoon. One hour after calling Sergeant Crowley, Mr. Obama reached Professor Gates by telephone. An administration official said the call was “a positive discussion,” that ended with an invitation for the professor and the police officer to meet at the White House. There was no immediate word on whether Professor Gates accepted the invitation.
And that ain't right.
Then again, given the firestorm of criticism over the final question in a press conference about healthcare, did he have any choice but to put this to bed?
I'm clearly not of Ivy League-calibre intellect, so I'm not saying how Barry could have put this genie back in the bottle, but I gotta think there was a better way than this.
Question: After initially "goin' hard" on Wednesday, is Obama being a bit too apologetic and possibly watering down his initial point? Does the President ever owe a private citizen an apology?
Obama Expresses His Regrets On Gates Incident [NYTimes]