Lots has been written and opined on about the meeting hosted at the White House by President Obama for Professor Henry Gates and Sgt. James Crowley. We all know the story and are tired of it. My question is, what came of it all?
"What you had today was two gentlemen who agreed to disagree on a particular issue," a poised and smooth Crowley said during a 15 minute news conference after the session. ("Smooth"?) "We didn't spend too much time dwelling on the past, and we decided to look forward,: Gates said in an interview. "I don't think anybody but Barack Obama would have thought about bringing us together." Those are quotes from The New York Times article from Friday, July 31, 2009. There were no apologies at this summit.
Joe Biden was there, too. That must have been a last minute invitation as he wasn't included in the original guest list by Obama. Originally we were told the three men would sit around a picnic table outside by the swing set. Odd setting, to be sure, just as it was for the initial meeting between Obama and Hillary Clinton as she was newly installed as Secretary of State. So, Biden appears in the photo - maybe he was to balance out the racial quotas.
Gates ended his statements to the press by saying, "We hit it right off from the beginning. When he's not arresting you, Sergeant Crowley is a really likable guy." Cute, right?
Here's what I noticed. Obama and Biden attended this White House beer summit in shirt sleeves. The guests wore suits. It is the protocol of a host to make the guest feel at ease. The two elite politicians in the White House decided to dress down since these were two working stiffs and it backfired. There's a teachable lesson for President Obama: stop with the condescending photo ops.
The meeting moved to a table across from the Oval Office. That was a move in the right direction. Obama feigned surprise that his inappropriate wading into a local law enforcement issue in Cambridge was such a headline grabber. Most interesting is the continuation of the arrogance of Obama on full display.
A photographer snapped a shot of the three emerging for the after-summit press conference. There's Obama walking out ahead of his guests, not a care in the world. His guests are trailing behind, Gates using his cane and Crowley offering his arm to steady him. The white cop accused of racial profiling of Gates, by Gates "are you asking me for identification because I'm a black man in America?", is extending common courtesy of helping an older man using a cane. The photo can be seen at American Thinker. There is an interesting contrast made, using an older photo of former President G.W. Bush holding the hand of Senator Byrd to help his walk at an event. Also, you may remember Bush holding the hand of the Saudi King, his guest at his ranch in Crawford, to steady him as he walked into the building. Democrats enjoyed mocking Bush for holding hands with the Saudi King for months afterwards. They simply don't get it.
A sense of common courtesy and standard good manners are necessary at all levels of society, most importantly at the top. This president is woefully lacking in standard decorum from the White House. The process matters.
The fact that Obama - who promised on the campaign trail to be the post-racial president - felt it proper to wade into the arrest issue of his old friend and then be so surprised that it caused a national debate is prime example. Gates is a prominent black professor, very successful in his field. He is not, however, above the law. When a police officer asks you to produce id as he looks into a report of a break-in at the house, you do it. Period. Doesn't matter what your skin color.
But, no. The first statement from Gates, who should have expressed gratitude that the police were there, doing their job of protecting the property of the public, was to voice the "black man in America" statement. That is an historically divisive cultural statement, as Shelby Steele wrote in the Wall Street Journal. And, then the President willingly stepped into it. You may remember that Michelle Obama used the same phrase when Obama announced his candidacy for President and she voiced some concern for his safety on the campaign trail.
Gates lives in a liberal university city - Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a black mayor. His liberal state has a black governor - also a friend of Obama. Obama is the first bi-racial president. The deck is hardly stacked against Gates in his own world. What if the white police officer simply ignored the call for help from the neighbor? That would have been portrayed as racism, too, right?
And, what about the woman who lived across the street that reported the incident? She did the right thing, looking out for a neighbor's property as that neighbor was out of the country on vacation. The house had already been broken into once during that time. She reported that two men - no race mentioned - appeared to be trying to force open the front door of the house. Period. Where was her invitation to the White House summit? Did Obama take a teachable moment to point out the efforts of a good neighbor? No. The woman has hired Boston attorney Wendy Murphy since now she has been the target of hate mail and threats for her good deed. She is being accused of racism. Incredible.
Gates did finally send the woman, Lucia Whalen, flowers and a note of thanks. After the lawyer got involved.
The teachable moment Obama likes to point to in this incident is lost on him. The teachable moment would have been for Obama to simply say, when asked by the Chicago reporter at the press conference, that he didn't have the whole story and didn't want to insert himself into the matter. And then leave it alone. That is the teachable moment - seeing a President of the United States using discretion and respect for the office he holds.