Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday morning quarterbacking from the Oval Office

President Obama was way out of line in Wednesday night’s press conference when he said that Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in arresting Obama’s friend Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for disorderly conduct.

The facts of the case as we know them seem to support the belief that the officer acted according to appropriate protocol. A cop has to be abundantly cautious when responding to a report of a break-in — and Gates forced the front door of his home. Cop didn’t know it was his house.

If the officer was responding to my home he’d have done the same thing. In fact, I’ve been checked out when closing up The Nugget after delivering papers on a dark winter night. I appreciate that the cops are paying attention.

It certainly does not appear to be a “black in America thing.” Whether The officer had to arrest Gates for disorderly conduct or not is questionable, but the man was railing at him loud and long and was warned twice. Again, seems like a behavior thing, not a race thing.

What is really out of line here is the President of the United States weighing in on the issue in a nationally televised press conference. The president should not be second-guessing a local cop in a local matter on national TV, especially in an unfortunately and unnecessarily racially charged incident. Especially when he prefaces his comments by saying he doesn’t have all the facts.

Irresponsible behavior.

If anyone is owed an apology here, it’s Sgt. Jim Crowley, who did his job and now has to deal with second guessing from City Hall and Monday morning quarterbacking from the Oval Office.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Now with the video out...the 911 tape...the clear presence of black and hispanic officers at the scene...what is clear is that this is a case of elitism, not "color". That President Obama weighed in as he did is pure novice...not his lane unless you're an elitist as well. Now the suspect, the arresting officer, and the President of the United States are supposed to "meet" it any wonder we are the laughing stock of the world and can't get anything done of relevance when time and energy is spent in this manner?

  2. response to anonymous:

    I love people who think they have clarity on murky stuff. There is nothing clear about this at all:

    It now appears that the officer lied in his official report when he claimed to have spoke to the 911 caller. What does that mean? I dont is anything but clear..

    One thing that is true is that black men are detained more frequently and for less cause than white men, and according to his own biography, this has happened to President Obama.

    What is the definition of elitist? Someone who thinks there is a problem with race relations in this country? How is this a case of elitism? only the Uppper class black men complain about being arrested for no good reason?

    Spending energy on race relations in this country is more than relevant, it is essential. This discussion just shows that this country will forever pay for the sin of slavery -- which is the direct cause of the relationship bewtween blacks and whites today.

  3. Its simple, the the President made a mistake, most likely because of his friendship with Gates. His attempt several days later at an apology was feeble at best. It appears he is incapable of an apology, you know, "I guess I rushed to judgement without all of the facts". He is not alone, virtually all of our recent Presidents have had the same problem. I believe its called power and arrogance and when you are the President you have, by definition, both.

  4. Oh boy...

    Quote your source that regarding the officer lying in his report...and that source's Source.

    I often called 911 callers back and talked with them regarding their initial call and information while investigating an allegation - again, name your source and Source, please.

    Is it true black men are detained more frequently and for less cause than white men? State your source and the source's Source, please. Please note there is a difference in legal terms between "stopped" and "detained". Don't know the difference, call the local Chief of Police or County Sheriff and get educated.

    Back up your general observations with current stats based on region and coming from an authority on the subject such as the Oregon Department of Justice or the FBI.

    Look up the term elitist in any good law or social sciences text. Don't make up your own definition...use what is properly defined by an acknowledged source.

    The professor screwed up; the cops did their jobs; the President screwed up; the Media had a field day; and now all three are going to have a beer at the White House while CNN and FOX debate what kind of beer they're drinking.

    Finally, the "sin of slavery" is not the direct cause of what you state...that is simplistic and historically incorrect. It is far more complicated, dynamic, and interconnected than "the sin of slavery" - many cultures and colors have enslaved others and each other - to include African cultures, some which directly contributed to the capture, sale, and export of black slaves throughout the ancient and modern world.

    Native Americans, historically, captured and enslaves tribal enemies to include whites.

    The English (considered a white race) enslaved other white races while occupying their lands, stripping them of their human rights, denying them due process of English law, conducting murderous military campaigns against them...take some time to study the history of the Irish People up to and including the situation in Northern Ireland today.

    Break the law, go to jail.

  5. The President did make a rookie mistake, unless he wants to weigh in on every cop vs black person confrontation. Is Obama just a black President who needs to correct every little perceived slight? I think not.

    Obama is not a racial President. He is THE President with much more important things to do. Move on already.

  6. Frankly, I was stunned when I heard the President call the police stupid. The more I hear Mr. Obama speak without a telepromter, the more convinced I am that he is the most naive man to sit in that office.

  7. Simple message to law enforcement. " Don't mess with friends of the Obamas." Welcome to Chicago politics on the national level!

  8. Response to Anonymous #4:

    It is very simple and not complicated: Black people were forcibly brought to this country and enslaved by white people. That is the basis of the relationship between blacks and whites in this country.

    Our founding fathers committed a very great sin by enshrining slavery in our constitution. It took a civil war and over 800,000 dead to get The 13th amendment to abolish slavery.

    I don't care to parse the difference between "stop" and "detain" and certainly could care less what the legalese is that you are hiding behind.

    Fact is that black men are stopped, detained, arrested, harassed ...whatever... far more often than white men and for less cause. If you dispute that. then Cite your sources sources sources sources source... and then get it notarized, certified and galvanized. It still doesn't change the reality that we have a race relations issue in this country, that it has its roots in the institution of slavery established by our founding fathers.

  9. There seems to be an argument here over what the police officer might have learned from the 911 caller.

    The New York Times has a post covering her news conference today. She has a different story than the officer of what she said to him.

  10. Jim~
    Regardless of any dispute of the facts about the situation, if the professor had not been a friend of the Obamas, there would've been no Presidential intervention into a local law enforcement affair. This is less about race than it is about the President's power.

  11. Anonymous - you clearly don't mind any other cultures and races having been part of the enslavement process, blacks included.

    And if you don't care to parse (meaning to be finely accurate) definitions of terms...or historical record...then your argument is purely an emotional one with great leaps between historically relevant events (such as President Washington freeing his slaves and his commentary on slavery) that led to where we find ourselves today.

    It is hot out...put some more ice into your pitcher of Kool Aid.

  12. Joe, I agree, the President commented because it was his friend. It's good to be a friend of a President, but I don't think the President and all his power delivered much. Thus in the end I think it is not about Presidential power but it get back to the question of whether Gates or Crowley, or both, acted stupidly. I say both.

  13. To Anonymous #4:

    Slavery in the United States of America was the enslavement of black people. It wasn't about other cultures and races.

    It doesn't Matter that George Washington freed his slaves. Does it matter if a child molester releases his victim? It doesn't change the original offense. Further, Washington did nothing what so ever to abolish the institution of slavery when he was president.

    The issue is highly emotional, but my argument is factual. It is a fact that Black men receive different treatment in our country than white men by numerous measures including their treatment by the police and the criminal justice system. Yes yes i know cit e my sources what are the facts and figures blah blah blah...

    Ok then here is a source: When Collin Powell says that he personally has experienced racial profiling and says further that "There is no African-American in this county who has not been exposed to this kind of situation.." we should stop and consider the profound impact of that statement.

    Listen to what Black people are saying about this issue...listen... clear your mind and listen.

  14. The police officer was doing his job. He behaved professionally. Gates' behavior was disorderly-- disorderly conduct toward a law enforcement officer performing his duties. The person who called 911 was being a "Good Samaritan" trying to help her neighbor. She has since been trashed and harassed. I fear that in the future, the officer will think twice before carrying out the duties he is sworn to do, and the "Good Samaritan" will step over the next person she finds in need.

  15. While some continue to flog the USA over slavery, a little reasearch shows that less than 5% of the world slave trade took place in America. Yet who led the world to put an end to this cruel practice? That would be us, along with the British.

    Slavery goes back thousands of years on this planet, but in less than a century we ended it in this country. That doesn't justify our allowing slavery to exist in the first place, but maybe we should get a little credit for doing something right here?

  16. Reply to Anonymous -

    Question - Do you presume I am by color, culture, and ethnic background non-African American?

    Question - Why are you (apparently) so dismissive of providing or respecting a factual, academic source to support your opinions? For example, using GEN Powell's name and attaching a quote to it is not a source. Nameing where you found the quote by title, date, publisher, and page is academic work and supportive of statements of fact, not simply opinion.

    Question - From what you have provided this forum is it fair to presume you could care less about any other race, ethnic group, culture, and their challenges throughout history for equality, fairness, and just dialogue than the African-American? This to include the LGBT communities throughout the country.

    Finally, if I may ask, what do you do personally to bring about change in this area? Or is this simply your opinion and an activist you are not?

  17. 5% of the slavery in the world was in the US? so it is ok for us to do it because everybody else was? Rape has existed for thousands of years, that doesn't make it ok. And the United states did not lead the world in the abolition of the slave trade. Britain abolished slavery 42 years before the US did. We never did anything to stop slavery outside of our own country after abolition in this country.

    In fact the persistence of state sanctioned segregation and Jim Crow laws well into the 2nd half of the 20th century shows how little the US did to lead the world on these issues until the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

    You can put what ever decoration you want on it, but the fact remains that slavery is a huge stain on our history and rotten spot in the moral foundation of this country.

    Note to Anonymous who wants sources and citations:

    1. The quote from Colin Powell was from the interview he did with Larry King on CNN on Tuesday July 28, 2009

    2. I am focusing on the issue at hand. That t does not mean that I don't care about the other issues you mention.

    I try to bring about change by directly confronting racism and bias in whatever form I find it. The reason I am writing this blog is because I believe there is never going to be reconciliation between black and white America until people, all people, recognize that roots of the race relations and the issues that i ensue are grounded in the institution of slavery that was part of the founding of this country.

    The damage to our society will continue to unfold until we, as a country, come to terms with that. Just telling people to get over it wont accomplish that.

    To those who insist that the police were just doing their job: I don't think that is clear at all. there are a lot of conflicting accounts about what happened, and the fact remains that the Man was in is his own home. Why haven't we heard anything from people on this blog about the sanctity of the home? Since when is arresting people in their own home, absent a crime OK.

  18. Final to Anonymous:

    Ghandi wrote "Compulsory obedience to a master is a state of slavery." (The Wisdom of Gandhi, Pg 28, 1967). Clearly there are many masters and many forms of slavery.

    "When you're struggling for something you deeply believe in, it becomes particularly difficult to have an understanding, attentive attitude toward those who oppose you. I often find myself looking down on the opposition from a rather lofty moral height. Deep down I know that I'm right __ and maybe that the crux of the problem, because it is not I that am right, it is the cause of justice, peace, and love. I wonder if this is not a common problem for most of us involved in racial and economic justice, environmental and peace movements. So I try not to talk down to opponents, hoping to reach them as fellow human beings who are in their own way interested in fairness, in justice, in the future of the Earth and in peace. I blunder and miss communicating sometimes, but I keep on trying." -Author Unknown