According Boston.com July 23, 2009 the President is ‘surprised’ by the controversy surrounding his remark that the Cambridge police acted ‘stupidly’ in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. No one could be more surprised at the president’s choice of words than the rest of us. |
The President is among other things the chief law enforcement official in the land. It is un-nerving if not completely mind boggling to hear him refer to the actions of a police department as ‘stupid.’ Even if their actions were completely asinine couldn’t we expect a little more self control and reserve from the top law enforcement official in the nation?
While news sources are getting to the facts of the matter as time goes on, no one has yet remarked on the general demeanor of the President as he addressed the incident at his press conference. There was clearly an angry tone and angry rhetoric in use at the press meet but it is far from the first time
Obama has previously displayed this kind of open disdain. The last time he admitted that he was good and angry with AIG and within days officials at that corporation had to stay home or seek personal protection in order to work.
Obama modified his statements later and said that things would have gone better if everyone in Cambridge that night had kept a cool head. Is this the place where we ask the President if he wants us to do as he says; but not as he does?
The President said many things about the incident but when he summarized it succinctly with a one, two, and three that’s when it hit the fan for the media. The President said “Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact,”
Let’s peruse each aspect of the one, two, and three and keep in mind that the President preceded the statement with the words “Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts” and that was followed by “But I think it's fair to say…”
Hasn’t this non-sequitur cancelled any statement that follows it? If you don’t have all the facts then it is not ‘fair’ to say anything about the matter except that you don’t have all the facts. You remember, it was covered in diplomacy 101!
The most basic definition of prejudice is 1. opinion formed beforehand, 2. holding of ill-formed opinions and 3. irrational dislike of someone. In fact, the North American Dictionary of English says prejudice is “A pre-formed opinion, usually an unfavorable one, based on insufficient knowledge, irrational feelings, or inaccurate stereotypes.” Didn’t we hound and lambaste President Bush for not getting all the facts on WMDs before entering into a war with Iraq? Is it time for Barack Obama to also take a little dose of this medicine?
For his number two, the President concluded that the Cambridge police acted ‘stupidly.’ To avoid repeating the same mistake Mr. Obama made let’s not make a judgment call at all until all the facts are in, instead let’s just focus in on his use of the colorful and highly descriptive adverb ‘stupidly.’
President Obama waited a week to condemn the brutal slaughter of Iranian protestors after the recent elections in that country and all but ignored the missile lobbing Kim Jong-Il of North Korea but didn’t waste a minute to slam an entire domestic police department with a single word.
There is more excoriation in this single word than in an entire volume of angry dissertations. The reason is blatantly obvious. It’s not the word but the source; it is the President of the United States putting down the cops, not a late night comedian or political pundit. Whatever happened to Presidential protocol?
For his number three the President said “what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” Not many Americans would dispute this statement but to load the weight, the culpability by association or the raw guilt on Police Sgt James Crowley at a moment when heads were hot and facts were not, is indeed anything but Presidential.
After all the facts are in it will be easier to determine if Sgt Crowley followed police procedure than it will be to determine if President Obama followed Presidential protocol. What is certain is that Obama’s admission of bias because of his friendship with Gates will automatically serve as a negative bias against the Cambridge Police if a law suit is sought against them. This is an unfair disadvantage by any measure.
Gates has called for an apology and Crowley has emphatically stated it won’t happen. In fairness if Crowley is being asked to apologize to Gates should Obama be asked to apologize to Crowley? Is there a protocol for this? Perhaps Obama will create one when he gets a little ‘cooler head?’
The President did say he may have been a bit biased about the whole matter because Professor Gates was a personal friend of his. But in fact Mr. Gates, friend or not, will never be asked to do what Sgt. Crowley or any officer of the Cambridge police force could be asked to do. At any given time night or day they may be asked to stand between a citizen and the criminal intent of another person and give their lives to protect.
One can only imagine a moment of fear that ran through Sgt. Crowley’s mind just approaching the front door of the Gates residence. If there was indeed a burglar or thief in the residence, the knowledge that the person inside might simply kill Sgt. Crowley in order to avoid capture was clearly a possibility. This knowledge did not keep officer Crowley from doing his duty. Use the adverb ‘bravely’ here as it concerns the actions of this police officer.
Such an analogy would not be complete without referencing the fact that Sgt Crowley, the entire Cambridge police department and any other cop in America may be asked to give their lives in a heartbeat to protect the President. Doesn’t that make Sgt. Crowley one of the President’s friends as well? To be ‘fair’ as the President says, the following verse spoken by Christ in John 15:13 clearly says Sgt. Crowley may be one of the best friends a President could have.
“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
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