Friday, July 24, 2009

Barack Obama, The Educator

I may be jumping the gun- or, as the shills from the NRA would put it, jumping the constitutional right to bear arms- but this begs for comment.

On Friday, President Obama appeared unexpectedly before the White House press corps during Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' daily briefing. He explained (transcript here) that he called Sgt. James Crowley, the officer who had arrested Henry Louis Gates at the latter's home after a confrontation deriving from a suspected burlary. Crowley and Obama discussed "about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House." (Later, Obama called Gates, who agreed to join them.)

Prior to that surprising announcement, the President issued the standard non-apology apology of celebrities and politician, conceding

I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I unfortunately gave the impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sergeant Crowley specifically....

I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to Sergeant Crowley....

My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.


Citing faulty relations "between police officers and minority communities," the President continued

My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what’s called a “teachable moment,”

A "teachable moment?" If you wonder who the President anticipates doing the teaching, you may stop wondering. Mr. Obama continued:

There are some who say that as president I shouldn't have stepped into this at all because it's a local issue. I have to tell you that that part of it I disagree with. Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive -- as opposed to negative -- understandings about the issue is part of my portfolio.

No. If you flunk Civics 101 (or History 101 or Basic Math- you get the idea), you don't get to be an adjunct professor teaching that class. And Obama did fail in what he said Wednesday night. He said as much himself: "I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I unfortunately gave the impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sergeant Crowley specifically- and I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to Sergeant Crowley."

No apology, but he did acknowledge that he had used the wrong words, which seems to mean that he shouldn't have said what he said. And with it came serious ramifications: "the impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sergeant Crowley specifically...."

President Obama may have merely expressed himself carelessly.

But read those words again: President Obama may have expressed himself carelessly. Barack Obama rarely expresses himself carelessly and his facility with the English language is nearly unsurpassed.

And now this same man believes it "is part of my portfolio" that he be "contributing to constructive- as opposed to negative- understandings about the issue."

And might this President be reconsidering his own views, in light of the controversy justifiably aroused by his remarks two days earlier? Think again:

There are some who say that as President I shouldn’t have stepped into this at all because it’s a local issue. I have to tell you that that part of it I disagree with. The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society.

Translation: I was right to wade into this issue because race (no problem of crime here, folks, move on) "is still a troubling aspect of our society." Additionally, "as I said at the press conference, be mindful of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African Americans are sensitive to these issues." White Americans must, you know, "be mindful of the fact" amidst their ignorance and insensitivity. (And he's going to make this "a teachable moment?")

Could the President really be that patronizing? Here is how began his bit:

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, it’s a cameo appearance. Sit down, sit down. I need to help Gibbs out a little bit here.

Q Are you the new press secretary?

THE PRESIDENT: If you got to do a job, do it yourself. (Laughter.)


The good news: Gibbs need not worry because (a)Obama wasn't suggesting his Press Secretary wasn't up to the job; (b)Obama's remark wasn't about Gibbs. The bad news: see (b).

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