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Professor Gates

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National Review: Yuval Levin says that of the entire press conference, "I was actually most struck by his answer to the last question, about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates." It’s the kind of question to which a president would normally reply with something like: “that's a local police matter, I don't know the details and I know it will be worked out responsibly,” and move along.

Obama gave a lengthy review of the facts, called the police officers involved stupid, and implied they are also liars.

Very odd behavior for a president.National Review: Andy McCarthy says "the Gates question smelled like a set-up to me." And it is just shameful for an American president to describe the police as "stupid" and feed into the racializing of the Gates case.

At this early stage, no one has testified, the matter can't possibly have been thoroughly investigated yet, and the real facts simply aren't known.

Obama, moreover, is not just the president, he's a lawyer.

He's supposed to know better — though last night he sounded like exactly the sort of lawyer he used to be back in the good ol' ACORN days.

Washington Post: On the Henry Gates issue, William Kristol asks, "Does [Obama] really know enough about what happened to say that .

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“the Cambridge police acted stupidly”? Maybe it was Professor Gates who behaved stupidly, or at least arrogantly.

He is, after all, a Harvard professor.

I was once a Harvard professor, and my instinct is to side with the Cambridge cops.

But if I were president of the United States, I might pause before casually accusing other Americans of acting stupidly unless I were confident I knew what I was talking about.

Hullabaloo: Blogger Tristero writes: "Last night, the president of the United States said nothing surprising when he observed that members of the Cambridge police 'acted stupidly' in arresting a man in his own home after he had identified himself as the owner." No, the real shocker was the audible gasp from the mostly white press corps as Obama said it.

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America is shocked at Professor Gates' arrest, but, as Soledad O'Brien reported on CNN where she was broadcasting live from Times Square, they cheered and applauded the president's remarks deploring his arrest.

That's the real America of the 21st century applauding Obama, and you'd have to be even dumber than the Washington press corps to conclude that they were - what did Republicans used to call people who decried racist cops? Oh yes - "soft on crime." That's the real America that is slowly, and with great difficulty, regaining a political voice that has been systematically ridiculed and marginalized over the past 40 or so years from the national discourse.

Huffington Post: Norm Stamper says, "I wish he hadn't used the word stupid.

I wish he hadn't, in effect and however inadvertently, accused the whole police force of stupidity." Even raging critics of the institution will occasionally concede: There are more than a few fine, sensitive and caring cops who perform a critical function in society.

Cops who are far from stupid.But .

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would the Cambridge police officer who busted the renowned, revered professor in his own home done the same if the academic had been white? I don't believe so, not for a minute.Which is why, however imperfectly he may have expressed it, President Obama did the cause of improved community-police relations a huge service by pulling no punches this evening.

Young, less poised and polished, less well off black Americans than Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

or Barack Obama just might benefit from the president's "stupid" remark.

Atlantic: Marc Ambinder writes, "The president's response to Lynn Sweet's question about the weekend's arrest of Skip Gates was given celebrity-death-match treatment by the cable news networks (and probably, though not as of this writing) by the network morning new shows." Race.

Class.

Crime.

Harvard.

Now Obama — the story hits all the trigger points.

Obama officials last night conceded that the President might have to clarify his remarks about the "stupidity" of the Cantabrigian police corps.

Obama is within his rights to critiize the officer in question, but cops who know little about the story will wonder why he decided to label an entire police department.

New Republic: Jonathan Cohn writes: "Tomorrow's headline will probably focus on the length of Obama's professorial answers, the small bits of news in his press conference, and the fact that he seemed genuinely pissed off about what happened to his friend, Henry Louis Gates, in Cambridge the other day." But the most striking thing to me was Obama's willingness .

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to speak candidly about his health plan, even if that meant giving openings to some of his critics.Consider that Obama's mission tonight was actually very straightforward: to build support for health reform at a time when it is moving through Congress but, for the first time, running into serious obstacles.

To accomplish this, Obama basically had two options at his disposal.

He could reassure the public by minimizing the scope of change he was promoting or he could persuade the public by convincing them change, even extensive change, was actually necessary.In the past, Obama has frequently emphasized the former approach.

And at times tonight, he did it again.

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But Obama spent most of his time this evening explaining why things had to be different.

Time: Joe Klein on the press conference: "He's good.

You forget that when you haven't seen him in a while." He seemed entirely in command, not at all rattled by the toxic political dust storm swirling in Washington.

His answers were supple, substantive.

The questions were pretty good.

The key point that he hammered was the ugliness of the status quo.

"If you heard there was a plan out there," he said, that was guaranteed to double your premiums, cause more Americans to lose their coverage and create larger budget deficits over the next 10 yearsâ€"would you vote for it? "Well, that's the status quo." Mother Jones: Kevin Drum says "This really struck me as nowhere near his usual performance." Obama avoided giving direct answers, rambled a lot, kept interrupting himself with asides, and didn't explain things in terms that ordinary viewers were likely to understand.

He's supposed to be the communicator-in-chief, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people came away more confused than they were when they tuned in.

Bottom line: There were bits and pieces that were fine, but overall I'd give it a C-.



http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/morning-skim-obama-health-care-gates/
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