The Eclectic Quill

July 24, 2009

Rush and the Media Rush to Judge Obama on Rush to Judgment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:26 am

The rush to judge Obama on his calling out the Cambridge Police department is both wrongheaded and hypocritical. It’s wrong in its projection of what Obama meant when he said “I don’t have all the facts,” it’s wrong in how it is portraying the police department as doing its job and it’s wrong in what all of this actually has to do with race relations. All of this can be summed up in one rhetorical question: Does anyone really believe that Gates would have been arrested if he were white?

Let’s face facts. If he were white and the police had arrested him, there wouldn’t have been any kind of confrontation when he showed his ID, there would have been an apology, a have an nice day and that would be the end of the story. So let’s take a look at what facts are apparent. Firstly, we know that Gates and his limo driver broke into his house because he’d forgotten the key. Second, we know that the arresting officer was aware of this when he made the arrest because he was arrested for creating a public disturbance, not for breaking and entering. Thirdly, and most importantly, we know that the charges were dropped. It’s not hard to draw a line from charges that are dropped to charges that had never been made. In other words, for Obama to draw a reasonable conclusion that it was stupid to arrest someone for breaking into their own house, when in fact they have proven that it was their own house is, to say the least, reasonable. Also, Obama didn’t actually call the officer stupid, he called his action stupid. While some will say this is parsing words, it isn’t, it’s understanding English. All people do stupid things from time to time, but not all people are stupid.

One has to be aware of the smoke and mirrors surrounding this issue. Some argue there were break-ins in the area and the officer was just doing his job. That’s fine. Doing his job ended when he confirmed that Gates was the legal resident of the house he was in. Some argue that Obama shouldn’t be attacking police officers and men in uniform. He isn’t. He’s saying that in a specific situation, in which men in uniform acted stupidly, that they acted stupidly. That’s not attacking men in uniform, it’s criticizing specific men who happen to wear uniforms. There’s a mountain of difference between these two things, but it’s often a conflation that the Republicans are often guilty of. Some say that Gates, perhaps, acted angrily and for this reason he was arrested. First, in all of their casting of dispersions at Obama’s feet for “rushing to judgment” on the police, aren’t they in turn rushing to judgment on Gates? Particularly when you pause to consider that the charges were dropped almost immediately it seems that perhaps the officer in question, not Obama acted to hastily. Furthermore, when you consider that Gates is one of the top legal minds in the country and a professor at the best university, it should cause one to pause one to consider if that station really befits a man who is so hot-headed that he’s going to fly off the handle to the point that it requires detention. Finally some are pointing out that the officer taught about racial profiling. That’s fine, this isn’t a case of racial profiling, so it’s a red-herring.

It’s not unreasonable to draw a conclusion that the officer had at least his own part in causing the situation to escalate—and it’s in fact his job to try and do the opposite. Additionally consider that Obama has a personal relationship with Gates, and has himself shown a sometimes almost irritating habit of gathering all the facts before he makes statements on it. Remember “I like to know what I’m talking about before I say anything?” So what makes this situation different for Obama, who literally talked about it without gathering all the facts first? His personal knowledge about the person and character of Gates is the distinction. While he doesn’t know “the facts” he does know Gates and he apparently knows him as someone who isn’t going to fly off the handle screaming “It’s because I’m a black man isn’t it?!” when the police came. To me it’s apparent there was something beyond the police doing their job and making a reasonable inspection of the people breaking into the house that provoked the incident. Again I ask, does anyone really believe that the situation would have arrived at the same destination were Gates a white man?

Consider the two possible scenarios. First, Gates starts screaming and bellowing for no reason whatsoever, and in order to maintain the peace the officer has to put Gates in custody. The other is that Gates says something that offends the offends the officer and then a power play ensues consummating with the officer placing Gates under arrest. If we don’t’ know either of the players then it’s not really fair to speculate, but if you do know one of the players, it’s not unfair to draw a conclusion. Obama knows one of the players. Logic suggests that there was, at the very least, a level of civility and respect that was not afforded Gates that should have been afforded. It’s not a matter of whether someone is being racially profiled or not. It’s a matter of whether police exercise the same disposition in how they treat all citizens. We have a long history in our country that suggests they don’t, and the media, in rushing to their own judgment, have blithely ignored this fact most of all. We often excuse such treatment by saying “he brought it on himself.” Clearly this was not the case here. Clearly race was involved, and clearly race is involved in much of the way the right wing media is responding, and effecting the response of the mainstream media. Furthermore, if a white President had made the comment, then there wouldn’t be the same kind of reaction to it. In all of this hoopla about how this isn’t about race it’s being proven just how much it is



  1. Thank god somebody is finally talking about this! 😉

    Comment by Kurtis — July 24, 2009 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  2. Mahr said he was arrested breaking into his house

    just revolting actions by the “police”

    those types of officers make America look stupid

    let alone the fact the victim is one of the top scholars on earth

    Comment by 3rdStoneFromTheSun — July 29, 2009 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

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