Yep, I saw this coming. When President Obama said that Cambridge police officers acted stupidly by arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates at his house, I knew this was going to escalate. Again, notice how President Obama handles this differently than President Bush would. Obama went directly to the press corps and spoke directly to the police officer.
I think that President Obama did an excellent job in acknowledging that both parties could have handled this better (Professor Gates and the Cambridge police). Of course, he could have “calibrated those words differently.”
President Obama just made a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing, taking over the podium from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to make a few comments about the hullabaloo over the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“These are two decent people,” Obama said. He said he spoke by phone with Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, which he said confirmed his idea of Crowley as a good, decent police officer.
But, he said, African-Americans are sensitive to racial issues. “Even when you have a police officer that has a fine track record on racial sensitivity,” he said, the interaction was “fraught with misunderstanding.”
“My hope is this ends up being a teachable moment,” Obama said.
As for those who criticized the president for getting involved:
There are some who say as president I shouldn’t have stepped into this at all, (which) I disagree with. The fact that this has become such big issue is indicative of fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society.
“Whether I were black or white, I think me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive, not negative, (discussion) … is part of my portfolio,” Obama said.
As for the teachable moment, he said we need to spend “a little more time listening to each other, and focus on how we can generally improve relationships between police officers and minority communities.”
He also said Crowley suggested that he, the president and Gates meet over a beer in the White House. Obama said it hasn’t been scheduled, but seemed open to the idea.
Crowley apparently asked Obama how to get reporters off his lawn.
“I informed him I can’t get the press off my lawn. He pointed out my lawn is bigger than his lawn,” he said, to laughter from the press corps. “Sgt. Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass.”
Obama also joked that no one’s been paying much attention to health care because of this story.
Rachel Maddow talks with Professor Melissa Harris Lacewell about this ordeal. What does this say about the President and what does it say about us as a country.