Saturday, July 25, 2009

Damage Controller-in-Chief

Nobody ever accused the President of being a slow learner.

"President Obama tried Friday," says the New York Times, "to defuse a volatile national debate over the arrest of a black Harvard University professor as he acknowledged that his own comments had inflamed tensions and insisted he had not meant to malign the arresting officer.

"Mr. Obama placed calls to both the professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and the man who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, two days after saying the police had 'acted stupidly' last week in hauling Professor Gates from his home in handcuffs. Mr. Obama said he still considered the arrest 'an overreaction,' but added that 'Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.'

“'I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up,' the president said in an appearance in the White House briefing room. 'I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically, and I could have calibrated those words differently.'"

Now can we get back to talking about health care reform?

Update: Now Professor Gates thanks the President for his support and ducks behind an elder statesman of the civil rights movement to suggest a larger meaning for his rowdy behavior:

"It was very kind of the President to phone me today. Vernon Jordan is absolutely correct: my unfortunate experience will only have a larger meaning if we can all use this to diminish racial profiling and to enhance fairness and equity in the criminal justice system for poor people and for people of color."

Kumbaya and to all, a good night.

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