Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stop That Cop! Well--Maybe Not

Yesterday I wrote a column discussing the Henry Louis Gates Jr. flap in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cop checks out burglary. Unidentified man inside the residence refuses to talk to cop, calls cop a racist, then goes ballistic on the front porch when he finally steps outside to identify himself and continue the racial rant. Cop arrests man for disorderly conduct. At a press conference on health care, President Obama takes a question about the Cambridge incident, and all hell breaks loose afterwards.

What a difference a day (or two) makes. The Obama machine is in turbospin cycle. Obama himself has been surrounded so long by "yes" men that it never occurred to him that he could make a remark that wouldn't bring oohs and aahs from a grateful American public. The President has learned, much to his chagrin, that being the first "post-racial" President doesn't include stirring up racial animosity and taking sides in an issue about which he knew next-to-nothing.

Obama has issued the standard liberal non-apology apology. He never admits he was just plain wrong in what he did (messiahs can't be wrong, can they?). It boils down to "I'm sorry you ignorant fools didn't understand that when I touted a black out-of-control suspect over a white police officer who was just doing his job I was simply asking everyone to be more sensitive." In other words, he admitted that he hadn't articulated his message as brilliantly as usual, but the sum and substance of it was right. I'm not mollified, and I'm not alone.

Said Obama, "This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute to ratcheting it up. 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 and Sergeant Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently." Not good enough, Mr. President. You managed to take a minor kerfuffle and turn it into a national standoff. Had you kept your big mouth shut, this would all have gone away with most of the participants feeling a little foolish and a little wiser.

It didn't help Obama's cause that a few hours prior to his surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, a very multiracial group of Cambridge and Harvard police officers stood together and publicly demanded that Obama apologize to Sergeant Crowley. He had so badly misjudged his earlier remarks, that it has turned into another nail in his "health care before the August recess" coffin. The officers also demanded an apology from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who added fuel to the fire.

In the spirit of silly equivalency, Obama attempted to stem the rising anger by backpedaling and saying now that "both sides overreacted during the incident." How so, Mr. President? Give us some specifics. And didn't you make the big boo-boo of taking one of those sides in a national address? So far, we have a self-important black professor deciding that the police had no right to investigate a reported break-in at his own house, thereby providing him with the opportunity to go on a loud and public rant about racist cops. To go with that, we have a white cop who calmly and reasonably asked simple questions which would have resolved the whole misunderstanding quickly and privately.

Gates demanded to know why he should have to identify himself. "Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Answer: "No, it's because you're an unidentified man in the house where there has been a reported break-in." I would have added "you moron," but Sergeant Gates was far more diplomatic and professional.

So the President decided it was time to mend fences, and get down with the common folks. He called Sergeant Crowley to explain (not to apologize). He joked about how big the controversy had become (yeah, very funny, sir), and then asked Crowley if there was anything he could do for Crowley. My answer would have been, "Well, Mr. President, you could resign soon." But Crowley simply asked if the President could get the news reporters off his lawn. Although Obama believes he is entitled to control every facet of every American's life, he admitted he couldn't get the reporters off Crowley's lawn. In fact, he said he couldn't get the reporters off his own lawn (if by "his" he meant the White House lawn).

Obama then told the press that he believed the arresting officer was a good man and invited him and the professor to the White House for a beer. Sergeant Crowley would probably enjoy having a brew in the White House, but I'm sure Professor Gates would much prefer a French pinot noir (as opposed to his earlier American whine).

Continuing to soft-pedal his gaffe, Obama said, "The fact that this has garnered so much attention, I think, is testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America." Mr. President, that's called picking at a scab--it will never heal. Just ask your friends Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright. If the wound ever heals, what will you have to talk about? At least you didn't call the black officer who assisted in the arrest an "Oreo."

Apparently Obama had also missed a couple of other tidbits about Sergeant Crowley. Crowley is in charge of the Cambridge Police racial sensitivity training, putting special emphasis on proper behavior for officers when the officers are white and the person of interest belongs to a minority group. He has deplored racial profiling. Even more significant, Crowley was the officer who in 1993 rushed onto the basketball court to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to black Celtics player Reggie Lewis who collapsed at practice. Some racist.

Obama sums it all up by saying, "My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in a way that it should have been resolved." Had the President said that at the original press conference, it's likely the situation would have gone away on its own. And now some reports (unconfirmed) suggest that Obama had actually invited the question about the incident so that he could give exactly the response that subsequently blew up in his face.

Although this incident by itself is not going to bring the Obama presidency down, it is indicative of the awakening of the American people to the kind of man they really elected, not the one that too many thought they had elected. He's not post-racial at all, but they're also discovering that he is an arrogant promoter of government in every corner of the economy and government regulation of just about everything of any importance in the lives of every American.

Today, two polls showed the results of that awakening. For the first time, the President's popularity has slipped below the 50% mark (49% to 51%). Although 83% of likely Democratic voters still support him, it's not enough to overcome the negatives with Republicans and independents. Of the last twelve Presidents, only two have slipped below 50% at this point in their first presidencies (Clinton and Bush II were both lower, but Clinton didn't get a majority of the vote in the first place, and Bush actually lost the popular vote, so the drop for Obama is particularly significant). By slipping to 49%, Obama is losing the votes that put him in the White House--independents and cross-over Republicans. Only the awful events of 9/11 restored Bush's popularity, and then only temporarily. And unlike Clinton, the likelihood of a Republican sweep in the off-year election which brings the economy back to health is fairly slim. Obama is beginning, for the first time, to look like a one-termer.


SQT said...

Great article LawHawk. This is an incident that would have simmered down pretty quickly if Obama hadn't put his foot in it. I haven't been watching the liberal media but I hear they've been trying to find something on Crowley only to have his excellent credentials come out and make their efforts to dig for dirt seem like a big mistake.

But ultimately, this ends up being about Obama's blunder doesn't it? It shows the tendency of the community organizer to jump on the race bandwagon every time. It's probably too much to ask that the kool-aid drinkers will see this for what it is. But there are a lot of swing & Independent voters that are likely to notice.

Unknown said...

SQT: Obama is getting desperate. All his plans are beginning to fall apart, and now he's making rookie mistakes. Let's wish him success in that endeavor. Race is the third-rail that he should never have touched. He still had that "post-racial" thing to cling to, and now it's gone, and he'll never be able to convince any thinking person that he is truly race-neutral. Lose the squishy RINOs and the independents, and your career is on the skids.

Writer X said...

I listened to President Obama's non-apology apology at Friday's press conference. This guy just can't help himself, but what I can't stand more than anything is when he turns it into a teachable moment. Huh? He's the one with the big mouth and somehow, at least in his mind, it's everybody else's fault. And then he tries to wave it off by grandiosely announcing he's invited everybody over for a beer, like they're all frat brothers now? Please.

In a way, I'm glad this happened. It shows people who he really is and it's not pretty. Obama is always at his finest when he's unscripted. At the rate he's going, he should have a 10% approval rating by December.

Unknown said...

WriterX: That's part of Obama's problem. He's so convinced of his own brilliance that he's been "teaching" since he was ten years old, but forgot to learn something along the way. If he can just get the two sides to come to the White House to bask in his brilliance and sing kumbaya, all differences will be resolved. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he thinks about his foreign policy as well, and we'll all be lucky if that foolishness doesn't end up creating worldwide chaos and mass destruction.

CrisD said...

I was wondering if Obama is going to invite our local tax assessor and me over for a beer at the WH. It would go a long way to improve race relations (I think from his last name, now, I don't know all the facts, that we might be different races...) He has been acting stupidly about the price of our house in this down economy and we have a history ongoing difficulties.

BevfromNYC said...

I will never understand why everyone thinks he is such a savvy politician. A savvy politician would have said either "I cannot interject myself in a local matter" or with a patronizing chuckle said "Helen, you know I can't comment on that" and let it go. No politician with half a brain would ever lead with "Well, I don't know any of the facts, but I will comment anyway". A good executive knows the value of "I don't know" and "I need the facts before I can comment" or that old standby "I have no comment at this time".

But take heart, even my most ardent Obama-supporting friends are growing weary of seeing him everywhere all the time commenting on issues that do not concern him. One even said that it's time for him to shut up and stay at the White House and listen for while. For me this is a huge step forward.

Unknown said...

Bev: I've been mystified by his appeal from the very beginning. He's like a popular movie star who can't say anything sensible without a script. Better to look at than to listen to. Let's hope he's more like the Titanic--unsinkable, until he hits and iceberg. As one of the passengers is reputed to have said, "I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous."

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, another great article. Like Writer X, I saw his non-apology press conference and it felt like he knew he'd been caught and he was ticked off about that, so he was going to kind of, sort of say the things he needed to say and still take a few jabs. He is clearly his own worst enemy.

P.S. Let me also compliment you on the speed with which you got your first article up. I think you "scooped" many of bigger news sites -- the ones with staff. . . who get paid. Nice work!

Mike Kriskey said...

I read a New York Times article this morning about Friday's "apology." It claimed that the president spent quite some time before Wednesday's press conference in discussions with his staff about how to comment on the Gates incident. Now, that's not proof that the question was planted, but it points in that direction. And it's telling that saying the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" is where those discussions ended up.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I guess we've come to expect the MSM to ignore stories like this, at least until they're forced to print something. But I was rather amazed at how long it took the more conservative publications and blogs to jump on it. You are so right about Obama being his own worst enemy. When he isn't lying, he's shucking and jiving. And the thin veneer of civilization is slipping off his messianic persona.

Mike Kriskey: I'm really coming to believe that the question and answer were planned. If so, it proves just how completely Obama has misread the feelings of the American people. As a slip, it would be foolish. As a plan, it would be utterly idiotic. If whites are really that bigoted, why would a President want to irritate the ethnic group that has a numerical advantage of two-to-one over all the others combined? It simply makes no sense, and it isn't true.

DCAlleyKat said...

My sense is we have a no-class community organizing hustler in the White House.

I also think the question was a plant, right out of the Bill Clinton playbook...if it made it to MSM good ole Bill had to find a way to insert himself. It was as if he had to convince us that the President was needed in every facet of our lives.

LOL, the teachable moment...whether you're BH Obama or BJ Clinton sometimes the people just want you to shut up and get out of their way.

Unknown said...

DCAlleyKat: There seems to be a consensus forming that the whole thing was a plant, and it went terribly wrong. He got exactly the opposite reaction from what he was expecting.

The reports talked about "two older black men" breaking in, so the spin was that the witness was mistaken or lying. Turns out that she saw the actual break-in, and it was Gates and his chauffeur. The latter left after the door was breached but before the police arrived. I should also add that it is standard procedure for the police to stay outside the residence and demand the person inside come out to talk with them. They have no idea who else might be inside or whether the person they're seeing is an angry former spouse or the victim of a home invasion robbery. It is as much for that person's safety as that of the police that they ask the person to come outside. The actual robbers might still be inside, threatening the owner. Sgt. Crowley was actually taking a risk by compying with Gates's demand that the officer step inside the residence.

Mike Kriskey said...

This morning, on Fox News Sunday, press secretary Robert Gibbs admitted that Obama had been prepped for the Gates question.

So this gives the lie to the complaint that this was a distraction from the health care focus the president wanted. (He could have said as much in his response to the question, too.)

So it seems that President Obama saw this as a "teachable moment." Well, we certainly learned a lot about him.

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