Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama Capitulates On "Stupidly" Comment. Sorta.

Ya'll know my feelings about Skip Gates vs Cambridge Po-Po, whether you agree or not. One thing I actually liked that happened as a result of this incident was Obama not cowering down in the presser the other night, and tellin' it like it was. Whether or not the Gates incident is such an example, racial profiling does indeed exist, and it's a real problem yet to be solved. A problem that Obama successfully pushed legislation to deal with while in the Illinois state legislature.

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.

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.
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.

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]

28 AverageComments™:

itssonicetobenice said...

Apologizing was the right thing to do. In all honesty, as President of the United States, he shouldn't have said anything until he got all the facts. Yes, Professor Gates had his ID, but was he acting decently and in order? No one really knows unless they were there. In addition, to go so far as to call the police officer's behavior 'Stupid' was a bit extreme and could potentially undermine the work they do. That was absolutely an improper choice of words, especially when you are Commander and Chief. For the money they make and the work they do, he should have apologized. Yes, they, black and white officers, should criticized for abuse of power, but only when you have the facts.

In addition, his passion for fairness and friendship with Dr. Gates clouded his judgement during his response. He's usually quite thoughtful and articulate with his word choice. Wednesday night he was not. His emotional response just took the focus completely off his health care plan. We're talking about this two days later, when he should have been able to deflect the question and bring it back to the reason why he was addressing the nation for one hour.

So he saw the error and apologized.
Personally, I thin khe should be given credit for that. It's good modeling for both kids and adults.

Wave said...

The president wasn’t there personally to witness what happened so it was probably a good idea to apologize for that choice of words. It’s better to put to apologize for a poor choice of words and make it a one day story. I guess this should be a learning experience for the president next time when some hack reporters tries to bait you into an issue which you don’t have all the facts. I can only imagine this president will be asked to weigh in on every racial issue that happens in the next 3 years in order to stoke up racial tensions. Yes the officer in question is most likely not a racist cop but on the other hand there was no good reason to place professor Gates under arrest.

Along with racial profiling this issue should start a dialog on what “disorderedly conduct” is. As of the moment the definition is way too vague and can basically be anything the cop dreams up in order to place you under arrest. State legislatures definitely need to revamp and clarify what exactly is disorderly conduct so cops don’t have an open book to place people under arrest for trumped up charges. Asking a sworn police office his badge number even rudely should not be adequate charges for being arrested.

Marbles said...

I say good for O. I get what you're saying about diluting the point that "that sh*t is real," but any attempt to end this amicably for all parties is the right move in my book. Because, frankly, I don't enjoy watching tempers flare---not Rush ("Obama's a MILITANT!!!")** Limbaugh or his ideological and melaninial opposites. Especially over such a dead-end stalemate as this situation that no one else witnessed and can never be conclusively analyzed.

Life sucks. You only get one chance to say something, and if it comes out wrong, you can't unsay it. I knew he was gonna catch some hell for "stupidly". Luckily he had the sense to qualify it in the next sentence. (Not saying he wasn't right, though.)

You have the regressives salivating over what they see as this juicy piece of dripping red meat, and it has to be put down, and with all parties satisfied. So I say kudos to O for the gesture. Of course, the salivaters will continue to chew the red meat anyway, but at least they'll probably stop getting traction in the mainstream.

THIS time.

**Yes, he really did say that just now in response to the "stupidly" thing.

ebonygentleman said...

I'm happy Prez-O owned up to his comments, but I don't think he should apologize for speaking his mind.

Because if he makes a habit of this, he's going to become fodder for the haters.

And we all know that he's breaking Guiness World Records in that department.


adinasi said...

"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."

Get it straight, young bro: you're an engineer, which makes your 'intellect' much more discerningand resolute than any of those waffling, 'nuanced" ivy-leaguers. The world needs lots more of us, and way less of them runnin' things.

Monie said...

Officer Crowley is now king of all White people.

Obama using the word stupidly to describe the actions of the police was appropriate as far as I'm concerned. But as we all know cops will defend and stand with other cops no matter what so Barry had to appease them otherwise every cop in America would have been anti-Obama.

And we all know that the meanest people in America, beside Republicans, are cops.

adinasi said...

Just today I had some new 9th graders say things that if I weren't in my 'Yoda-mode' I would have made a cop-type move to 'put them in their place' to 'make them respect the position' of teacher. Great teachers must learn how to not fly off the handle and adhere to your procedures (provided you have them!) to handle student behavior. Since it appears Gates was acting like a 12-13 year old in his own home, which is his right, the police officer at that point needed to be the bigger person, maybe warn Gates what could or could not happen in a future situation as this, and move on.

There is a small, small tug in my gut that wonders if this cop was looking to 'put this uppity Harvard ni!#$% in his place; Gates certainly didn't help this, and if he's so knowledgeable about being 'Black in America' he, too should have sensed this 'disturbance in the Force' and managed his behavior a little better, too. Instead of this haphazard frontal assault, Gates needed to channel his inner Sun Tzu and make a more indirect approach at a time and place of his own choosing to better win this war.

spool32 said...

+1 adinasi

@OneChele: 2008 GOP Convention wasn't enough? I'm still waiting for the apology from the New Orleanians who ran the crime rate in Houston up like 20% in 2 months.

Did you forget your own link from the other thread, the one where the cop was an instructor, hand-picked by a black chief of police, to teach officers how to avoid racial profiling?

I give Obama small credit for walking back a screwup like this. The POTUS should not be talking greasy because his Harvard friend caught a (misdemeanor) case. He's supposed to be everybody's President, and in the absence of facts (especially when the Prez came right out and said "I'm basically talking out of my ass, but let me continue"), benefit of the doubt for the members of his own branch of govt. ought to be part of the deal.

When the unions got involved, I knew Obama was going to back off. I think we got a nice glimpse into his thinking though.

Yes. There's a problem here, but it's not racial profiling... it's overbroad police powers in general. Don't taze me, bro!


I tweeted about this, but it deserves re-linking. If Obama wanted to talk about a black man suffering from a travesty of justice, he ought to talk about this one instead.

spool32 said...

@Adinasi's second comment:

The whole thing seems more about class privilege than about race, despite the racial lens Obama's off-the-cuff remark was filtered through.

spool32 said...

Final note: The police report from The Smoking Gun indicates that Gates's chauffeur helped him break in... so it was two unidentified men when the call came in, but one of them was missing when the cop arrived.

Marbles said...

@ spool:

No, I didn't forget. I had thought it was an interesting and bizarre wrinkle to the case. It made me more sympathetic to Crowley, but it didn't change my mind that actually ARRESTING Gates was completely uncalled for. I really can't imagine what he was thinking, especially given his background. Couldn't he have just left, leaving Gates hollering at his back on the way out?

ddadmin said...

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Denise said...

Frankly, I think there's a little too much of this vibe on both sides.

Prez Obama's comment today was appropriate. Let's move on.

Marbles said...

Watching this unfold from day one up to now, it's clear that this entire thing is being driven by the media. The first day this story broke, there wasn't much of a ruckus that evening. It wasn't until the next day that people began really pushing it. And it got the big boost ratings watchers dream of when that reporter at the press conference CHANGED THE SUBJECT away from health care to trap Obama in a corner of having to say something about the situation, and his regrettable use of "stupidly" was the answer to these vultures' wet dreams. Really, the only thing that would have made them happier would have been him saying "Racist ass white mothafucka gonna PAY!" Can you imagine? (Limabaugh would have creamed himself.)
This really is ridiculous. The media always acts like they're just responding to inevitable events like the weather. No. THEY are making these things happen. THEY are making this as big as it is. And THEY are responsible for some of the flared tempers on both sides. Tools.

runescape gold said...

What we have seen from this latest incident is that the President is the racist! I mean we knew Gates was...he is just another link in the loop that places Obama right in middle of their faction!
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ch555x said...

As usual with protocol, once all the facts come in, you clarify previous remarks. This happens all of the time, especially in law enforcement. By the way, a health care reform bill is still in the works along with the rest of the mess still being cleaned up. Focus!!!

Chris N. said...

Good for Barry. The facts have yet to be determined, and the President's wording gave the Right more ammo than they've had for a long time. And the fact that, based on what's come out so far, Gates played every facet of the uppidy negro stereotype, just makes the GOP gift even richer.

But what bothers me the most isn't that the reporter went off topic, but that it was such a blatant Black President question. Even with the tenuous personal connection between the two men, I can't see a reporter using his coveted prime time question to draw any other president into what was essentially a local issue.

I've always thought that some of AB's best writing was during the Jenna 6 affair. Like that case, too many people jumped into the pool way to fast on this one.

If media reports about Cambridge Police having unreleased audio and/or video footage are true, my gut tells me that it will be the usual White guy being assertive and steadfast, while the Black guy is being angry and beligerant.

Anonymous said...

He went off script and forgot what the press conference was supposed to be about--healthcare.

RiPPa said...

I liked the way you broke this down AB, and I agree with you. I'm still little heated that Obama sorta caved in.

I'm just sayin...

what the hell is it about wait till the facts are all in about? The hole world saw Rodney King get his ass beat, but yet those officers were originally acquitted.

F*ck some facts!

I guess we have to wait for the facts to come in about the Oscar Grant shooting as well or else we'll owe that cop an apology as well, right?

*drops the mic and walks off stage*

Anonymous said...

That BS was all planned from the tool reporter to the right wing media attacks on Obama from all the racists who can not stand having a Black President. No white person has had to go through what It Is like being a Black Person In this country and until they have, they should keep their silly ass mouths closed. Any normal person knows in their hearts and minds that the racist police in the Boston area tried to f over Gates because he was a Black Man. If this had been a white man this never would have happen period.

Lady M said...

For Obama it's damned if you do, damned if you don't. Since the reporter asked that question, he had to answer it with some semblance of decorum. If he hadn't called out the cop, people would get angry. But now, because he did, the right wing idiots are pissed off, with their "how dare you call me racist, I have 2 black friends!" attitude. On the other hand, Obama can't keep straddling the fence, because no matter what he does, somebody's going to get angry. I kind of wish he hadn't said anything at all. He could've just been like, "Yeah I said it. So what?" But then I guess that's why he's president and we're not :)

Shady_Grady said...

If I were the President of the US, leader of the "free world" LOL and all that I do not think I would be apologizing for or otherwise "clarifying" any statement I made regarding the Gates incident.

I'm the PRESIDENT and I'm going to worry about some Cambridge cops's feelings? Nah.........

Marbles said...

@ Shady Grady:

Nuh uh.

It's precisely BECAUSE he's the President that anything he says is going to be more than just about "some Cambridge cop's feelings." As president, he doesn't get the luxury of talking about one person and having everyone say, "Oh, okay." Stuff is going to be read into it and interpreted in all these crazy ways.

Marbles said...

All I know is, if we're still hearing about this on Monday, I'll scream.
Gates has accepted the invitation, so let's see that as a good thing. But if the media insists on dragging this out, a pox on them and their firstborn.

Last night, Sean Hannity was whining that Obama should apologize. Lord, how cultural divides (and/or jerkassery) can color one's viewing lens. While some of you guys are complaining that Obama apologized, Hannity was complaining that he DIDN'T.

And that is the kind of dysfunctional country we're living in right now. Yet again, right before our eyes, two parallel realities are being constructed. Neither will recognize the other as legitimate.
Wash, rinse, repeat. Shoot me.

spool32 said...

Yeah Shady, he's not the King of America. If he called me out with some bull like this at a prime-time press conference, I'd want an apology and a beer at the White House, at minimum.

Better be good beer too, or we'll be having another week in the media about what a cheapskate the Prez is. :)

cinco said...

I agree with the first response.

The President was wrong to respond before he had all the facts.

Why must an apology be seen as a weakness. I agree with those indicating he is an example. He was the bigger person, he made a mistake, confronted it and is trying to move on.

The President can't fight all these secondary issues. He has enough to deal with and he has no magic or miracles he can perform.

Ge must never forget he will always be Watched.
This is the life many people of color live...

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