Friday, July 24, 2009

VERITAS TD&F: FUMBLE- TOO MUCH INFORMATION, MR. PRESIDENT

Barack Obama makes so few communications Fumbles (and I have fawningly given him so many Touchdowns to date) that any time the U.S. President makes a mis-step, I’m gonna call him on it. Case in point: this week’s (latest) prime time news conference and, as is often the case, his mishandling of the final question of the night. A reporter asked what he thought the arrest in his own home of Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by a white police officer. The incident began when Gates apparently realized he had forgotten his keys and was locked out of his house. Someone spotted him trying to jimmy his way inside and called police, thinking it was a burglary in progress. Gates refused to come out of the house when police arrived, but did provide his driver’s licence and Harvard ID card to prove that he was, in fact, standing inside his own home. He also reportedly asked the officer if the fact that he is black was underlying the interrogation. When Gates stepped out onto the porch – and outside of the constitutional protection against arrest afforded by being in his own home, he was promptly arrested and charged with disorderly conduct (charges which were later dropped). Obama, who declared at the start of his answer that he is a friend of Gates, had a number of comments he wanted to make on disproportionate arrest rates of blacks and Hispanics, and how despite the racial progress in America of which his presidency is a testament, there still remains a long way to go. That was all well and good – but in getting there, Obama went through a blow-by-blow description of his understanding of the chain of events surrounding the arrest. Gates is considering laying charges against the police. Having the President of the United States give the White House Press Corps and the millions watching on TV his take on what went down will surely be an issue if those charges ever go to trial. Obama could have made his broader points quite effectively without turning it into CSI D.C. And he really should have known better than to have weighed in far enough to declare the actions of the police “stupid,” which fast became the headline on the story (and, in many cases, got bigger play than his real news conference primary message about health care reform). That’s a Fumble, Mr. President.

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