You can always spot an “inside the beltway” mentality – he or she judges the mood of the rest of the country by what he or she sees and hears in DC and by what those there deem to be imporant.
Marc Ambinder is no exception (and I’m not picking on him specifically – he’s just typical of the type). He has an article out in which he claims that ‘conservatives’ are blowing their chance at stopping the pending health care legislation. Why?
Well, because of the “calmness” emanating from the White House as they gear up for a counter-offensive against the health care protesters found at just about every townhall meeting lawmakers have. And, states Ambinder, Democrats are noticing that opponents have begun “to discredit themselves”.
Really? Is that why the health care numbers continue to tank in every poll taken by every polling organization out there? Is that the reason lawmakers like Sen. Arlen Specter have stated, “there is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember”?
What is clear to those who are outside the beltway and dealing with reality is that those inside the beltway have no clue about the general feeling in this country that has been turning common everyday people with only a passing interest in politics into attendees at townhall meetings with a message. It seems one can sit in DC and write glib op/eds about why “conservatives” are blowing it and apparently be oblivious to that.
The American people remain anxious and confused about health care reform. That is an underlying reality that Republican activists are so eager to exploit. But doing so required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media. The base condition here is an enthusiastic Republican base and a depressed Democratic base. A coherent, organized effort would have recognized that the moment the media began to take sides was the moment that the entire enterprise could be damaged. The media, being a collection of different megaphones, reported on the town hall meetings in one of two ways, both damaging to Republicans. Either they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.
He misses the point of the protests completely. Republicans aren’t in charge of this effort. And it is hard to exploit, control or “message” what isn’t yours.
This isn’t an organized effort by “Republicans” or “conservatives”. It isn’t being done to sway the media or, as he later claims, targeted toward the blue dog Democrats. This isn’t about the politics of this issue. Instead, and all you have to do is watch the various hundreds of videos out there, this is an organic and spontaneous grassroots uprising orchestrated by no real overarching organization. These are people who have sought out the townhall meeting in their district and attended to voice their displeasure with their lawmaker with no organized prompting, no organized email campaign and no preprinted fliers, etc.
And this is what those like Ambinder miss. They’ve quaffed the kool-aid that says it is all astroturf and misjudged the result. To people like him this is all about red and blue, who has the better organization, the best media campaign and timing. As usual, they focus on the wrong things:
As usual, in a pattern that the left patented during the Bush administration, the organized right lost control of its message. Lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were being asked to respond to non-sequiturs (would you support a health care reform plan that grows the deficit? Health care grows the deficit right now, so it’s a nonsense question, one that is easy for politicians to answer); ; they found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes. Both Fox and MSNBC televised Sen. Arlen Specter’s raucous town hall meeting live. It was full of confrontation and protest. There were boos when Specter reaffirmed his president’s Americanness.
Of course, the latter point is both minor and a sideshow and misses completely what is going on. What Americans who are confronting legislators over in these townhall meetings is the pattern of deception and misrepresentation they see as rampant now. My favorite line from one of the townhall meetings was “I’m tired of being lied too. I’m tired of being lied about. And this administration has done both of those”.
Ambinder thinks this is all political theater. He’s missed completely the visceral aspect of these protests. He sure that now that the Obama machine is finally paying attention they’ll overwhelm the relatively disorganized rabble.
Well he needs to get a clue. The people of this country can recognize real astroturf when they see it. The know what real political theater looks like. They understand that a big crowd showing up somewhere with the same signs and dressed alike most likely means they aren’t from around there.
There is a difference between organic anger and manufactured joy and unlike the Ambinders of the world, most Americans know the difference and are not fooled by it. It is one thing to organize political rallies during a campaign that have that manufactured appearance. It’s another thing entirely to bring that sort of nonsense to what a lot of people consider a life and death debate about their health care.
Another thing analysts like Ambinder miss is the cumulative effect of the reaction of Democratic lawmakers have given to these protesters. When you show up at a townhall meeting to confront a lawmaker who is ignoring you and you’re characterized as a “mob”, “political terrorists”, “racists”, “thugs”, “un-American” and finally likened to the KKK, you’re not going to forget it.
Many who have, for the first time in their lives, actually take the steps to attend such meetings and end up being labeled in those terms are not going to forget what was said and who said it. And as has been obvious, many of those attending aren’t Republicans or conservatives.
One of the reasons these eruptions are happening is because lawmakers have rejected the call by the country to slow down and have a real and substantive debate about this pending legislation. But you have to actually listen to the protesters and understand what they’re saying. Instead we get a handwave that dismisses them as rabble and a complete misreading of what is going on in favor of the DC show.
This is the sort of denial that happens constantly in the happy little bubble within the beltway. The seemingly total disconnect from the reality of the situation in the country is incredible. This is real. This isn’t going to stop. And it isn’t about “influencing the blue dogs” or “Republicans” or “conservatives”. My advice to people like Ambinder is to do himself a favor and actually listen to what is being said for a change or, heaven forbid, attend one of these townhalls and see for himself.
This isn’t about political shows and who shows up with the best organized protesters. This is about a growing fight for the heart and soul of America, and the inside the beltway types are missing it completely.
Part of the reason is the financial situation and part of it is the new evidence that science is producing which is making Americans more skeptical about the AGW crowd’s claims.
Recent Gallup polls carry the news:
Here’s what Gallup found: The number of Americans who say the media have exaggerated global warming jumped to a record 41 percent in 2009, up from 35 percent a year ago. The most marked increase came among political independents, whose ranks of doubters swelled from 33 percent to 44 percent. Republican doubters grew from 59 percent to 66 percent, while Democratic skeptics stayed at around 20 percent.
What’s more, fewer Americans believe the effects of global warming have started to occur: 53 percent see signs of a hotter planet, down from 61 percent in 2008. Global warming placed last among eight environmental concerns Gallup asked respondents to rank, with water pollution landing the top spot.
Another recent Gallup study found that, for the first time in 25 years of polling, more Americans care about economic growth than the environment. Just 42 percent of people surveyed said the environment takes precedence over growth, while 51 percent asserted expansion carries more weight. That reverses results from 2008, when 49 percent of respondents said the environment was paramount and 42 percent said economic growth came first. In 1985, the poll’s first year, 61 percent placed a bigger priority on the environment, while 28 percent ranked economic growth highest.
Scientists have begun to push back against those who have been claiming “consensus” for so long. And, Americans are simply becoming more informed about the matter. Part of that is the effect of the new media which has broken the monopoly hold of the mass media’s ability to shape public opinion. As the poll points out, Americans increasingly think the media is exaggerating the problem. That skepticism has to be based in something, and the only media carrying the skeptical side of the argument is the new media.
Obviously, since the financial meltdown, priorities have also changed. While AGW was apparently never a high priority among environmental priorities, it is dead last now. That’s again because people are becoming more informed about the economic impact of the draconian legislative measures being touted as a solution. And as time goes by, and there is more of a focus put on cap-and-trade legislation, I expect the numbers in opposition to go up even further.
Naturally the opposition disagrees and cites polls from Pew and the National Wildlife Federation that they claim contradict Gallup (no date for those two polls is given). But as you recall, Rasmussen had a very recent poll which had similar results to the Gallup poll.
The radical agenda is in trouble, folks. Whether that means Democrats will “listen” as they claim they do, is another matter entirely. I fully expect them to attempt to ram both health care and cap-and-trade through. But that doesn’t mean we have to give them a pass if they do. Be your “un-American” best and tell them loudly and strongly that cap-and-trade is not a good thing for the US and is not something that should be passed while the science of AGW is decidedly unproven.
Again, what’s the freakin’ rush?
Protesters have been called “angry mobs”, “paid agitators” and recently, “brownshirts” and “unAmerican” – all by Democratic Congressmembers.
You knew it was only a matter of time before the racialists got into the act. And right on cue I give you “WhiffleBall” with Chris “thrill up his leg” Matthews:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Put 100 of these people in a room. Strap them into gurneys. Inject them with sodium pentathol. How many of them would say “I don’t like the idea of having a black president”? What percentage?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Oh, I’m just guessing. This is just off the cuff. I think 45 to 65% of the people who appear at these groups are people who will never be comfortable with the idea of a black president.
Just freakin’ amazing – it’s all about Obama to these folks. Having looked at video after video after video of interviews with the “mob”, the “browshirts” the “unAmerican”, I can only wonder where Tucker and Matthews even pretend to come up with this line of dialog.
Pretty sad stuff, but, for the party which invented identity politics and the politics of personal destruction, not at all surprising.
It apparently was manufactured by lefty blog Think Progress.
Mary Katherine Ham takes a look at the “shocking, secret memo” that Think Progress “”unearthed and the DNC prominently displayed in their ad attacking those who are protesting at townhall meetings as “right-wing extremists” put up to the task by high-profile Republican groups.
As it turns out in this case “high-profile” means no one had heard of him, he is a libertarian and his “group” consists of 23 Facebookers who’ve joined his cause and 5 followers on Twitter.
When the “manufactured” outrage the Left is trying to demonize lines up so inconveniently with public polling, it’s sometimes necessary to create evidence for the “manufactured” storyline.
Enter Think Progress, which unearthed this shocking, secret memo from the leader of a small grassroots conservative organization in Connecticut, which allegedly instructs members on “infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress.”
Right Principles PAC was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008, and has taken in a whopping $5,017 and disbursed $1,777, according to its FEC filing.
“We’re just trying to shake this state up and make a difference up here,” MacGuffie told me during a telephone interview. He’s surprised at his elevation to national rabble-rouser by the Left.
Read all of MKH’s story about this elevation of a absolute unknown to an evil political manipulator by a blog, a national political committee and a willing network (naturally MSNBC jumped on this like a duck on a junebug).
In the meantime Jake Tapper has a report by Steven Portnoy about a townhall meeting in Mardela Springs, MD:
There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school’s auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats’ health care reform plans is “manufactured.”
“I went to school in this school,” a man named Bob told me. “I don’t see anyone in this room that isn’t from Mardela Springs right now.”
“We’ve been quiet too long,” said a woman named Joan.
So much for the “manufactured outrage” meme. Oh they’ll keep trying, but it appears the outrage is genuine and the only thing being manufactured is a story line by the left.
This sort of grassroots dissent obviously makes them very uncomfortable. And, of course they’re in denial right now – how could it turn around this fast to where they, who were on the offensive for at least 4 years, are suddenly on the defensive? The easiest thing to do is hand-wave the troubles away and deny their importance.
Well, they do that at their own political peril. This seems to be far more than a few angry right-wing dissidents as was evident when a registered Democrat called Steny Hoyer a liar the other day in a townhall meeting.
People are rightfully worried about the direction this current government has taken, and, apparently, they’re not going to sit quietly by as they tax and spend us into penury.
This is fascinating. You’ve probably seen this popping up. It first appeared in LA:
The UK’s Mail Online says:
The right-wing editor of the American Thinker website, Thomas Lifson, wrote today: ‘It is starting.
‘Open mockery of of Barack Obama, as disillusionment sets in with the man, his policies, and the phony image of a race-healing, brilliant, scholarly middle-of-the-roader.’
But the President’s supporters have condemned the image, calling it ‘mean-spirited and dangerous.’
A spokesman from the Los Angeles urban policy unit said that depicting the president as demonic and a socialist ‘goes beyond political spoofery.’
“Mean-spirited and dangerous?” “Goes beyond political spoofery?” Really?
So what was this?
I don’t know about you, but I call it “free speech”. Funny though – now that the shoe is on the other foot, this sort of spoofery is “mean-spirited and dangerous” as far as the left is concerned. And, of course, the first reaction of some is to try to make it a racial thing (the same publication which published the cover above, naturally).
And then there was this from Vanity Fair. Seems there was no problem at all with Joker parodies in July of 2008:
As one of the commenters at Vanity Fair said:
Poor Joker, he doesn’t deserve this. Bush isn’t good enough to wear his face.
Quit whining. Save your outrage for someone who hasn’t seen your act before.
New York Magazine has an article about Barack Obama which begins:
Since occupying the White House, Barack Obama has hosted fifteen town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency. He’s sent a video message to the people of Iran. He’s given an address in Cairo that was translated into fourteen languages. He’s sat on Jay Leno’s couch, where he riffed about the supreme strangeness of having his own motorcade (“You know, we’ve got the ambulance and then the caboose and then the dogsled”), and he’s walked Brian Williams through the White House, where he introduced the anchor to Bo the dog. Two weeks ago, when he made a controversial comment at a press conference (that the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” toward Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.), he followed up with yet another press appearance in the White House briefing room—and an exclusive interview on Nightline. And that was before he sat down for a well-publicized beer with Gates and the offending officer …
Such are the president’s media habits. It’s gotten to the point where one expects to see and hear from him every day. He’s in the information business almost as much as the policy business. “This is president as content provider,” says Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to George W. Bush. “It’s like when Rosie O’Donnell had a show and a magazine and a blog.”
The obvious and not very subtle point of Gillespie’s comment is people tired of Rosie O’Donnell rather quickly, especially when she was overexposed at that time, and her star quickly faded.
The question I’ve been pondering for some time is whether Obama risks overexposure to the point that people just start tuning him out? For a political junkie like me, I’ve mostly tuned him out already, since after listening to a couple of the town halls, I’ve realized that what’s going on with him now is not much different than during his campaign. He has a set of talking points, depending on the subject, and you can depend on him repeating them. During questions, he’ll repeat them again. Knowing the talking points, I see no need to watch them delivered again and again – especially when I know most of them are nonsense.
As things develop and more and more people who aren’t in the “political junkie” category pay closer attention, will they too end up having the same reaction I have had? Especially when they see the talking points (“your taxes won’t go up by even a dime”) turn to political dust?
And here’s another point from the article’s subtitle:
Barack Obama’s ubiquitous appearances as professor-in-chief, preacher-in-chief, father-in-chief, may turn out to be the most salient feature of his presidency.
It may indeed end up being “the most salient feature of his presidency”, but I wonder how long Americans are going to stand being lectured about almost every aspect of their lives, especially as the economy continues to tank? At what point do you suppose the majority will say, by tuning him out, “why don’t you concentrate on governing the country and we’ll take care of running our lives?”
New York Magazine, unsurprisingly, thinks that this seemingly deliberate strategy of “ubiquity” isn’t the same as overexposure and is thus a good thing:
It’s a large helping of Obama, surely. But those who think the White House has overdone it are missing the point. In today’s media environment, ubiquity is not the same as overexposure. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s critical to any understanding of the Obama presidency.
What they’re referring too is this country’s celebrity culture. And Barack Obama was certainly a political rock star on the campaign trail. But this premise that his “ubiquity” now is going to be a good thing seems to ignore the ubiquity of George Bush in terms of media exposure, especially in the last 4 years of his presidency. Few will argue that exposure was a “good thing” for him. Most of it, however, was media driven and mostly negative.
New York Magazine is arguing this is different (and I’d agree since much of Obama’s “ubiquity” is also media driven and mostly positive).
But just as Americans tired of George Bush, doesn’t this seeming overexposure of Barack Obama, especially this early in his presidency, risk the same will happen to him? New York Magazine may find referring to it as “ubiquity” somehow makes his constant appearances on just about every subject something other that overexposure, but I’m not ready to buy into that just yet.
I’m already tired of seeing him. I’m just wondering if the same thing will happen to the majority of my fellow citizens – and, if so, what political effect that might have.
From my favorite drama queen:
Rather called on President Barack Obama to form a White House commission to help save the press Tuesday night in an impassioned speech at the Aspen Institute.
“I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media,” the legendary newsman said.
Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive.
At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy.
“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said in an interview yesterday afternoon. “This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.”
Here’s a novel idea Dan – why doesn’t the “public media” commission its own commission on saving itself without dragging the government into it?
For such an advocate of a “truly free and [an] independent press” why are you courting the government as your savior? No strings in that approach are there?
In effect, this is Dan Rather implicitly trying to lay the groundwork for a government bailout of the press – and then he’d demand afterword that we all consider the product a “truly free and independent press”. Yeah – like GM is a truly free and independent car company, huh Dan?
That’s what the Guardian is saying. And, it claims, that will “silence” global warming skeptics.
You mean man’s link to warming has finally been proven and we will now reap what we’ve sown?
Well, not exactly. Here’s the reason they give:
[The] [n]ew estimate [is] based on the forthcoming upturn in solar activity and El Niño southern oscillation cycles.
They then trot this out:
The hottest year on record was 1998, and the relatively cool years since have led to some global warming sceptics claiming that temperatures have levelled off or started to decline. But new research firmly rejects that argument.
The research, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, was carried out by Judith Lean, of the US Naval Research Laboratory, and David Rind, of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The work is the first to assess the combined impact on global temperature of four factors: human influences such as CO2 and aerosol emissions; heating from the sun; volcanic activity and the El Niño southern oscillation, the phenomenon by which the Pacific Ocean flips between warmer and cooler states every few years.
The analysis shows the relative stability in global temperatures in the last seven years is explained primarily by the decline in incoming sunlight associated with the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle, together with a lack of strong El Niño events. These trends have masked the warming caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
Notice anything in there that sounds familiar? Remember the report on this peer reviewed study? The Guardian apparently doesn’t:
Three Australasian scientists have published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research claiming that virtually none of the observed temperature increases in the Earth’s atmosphere in recent years can be attributed to man-made factors.
And to what did the 3 scientists attribute recent warming?
“The surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that made warming El Niño conditions more likely than they were over the previous 30 years and cooling La Niña conditions less likely” de Freitas said.
“We have shown that internal global climate-system variability accounts for at least 80% of the observed global climate variation over the past half-century. It may even be more if the period of influence of major volcanoes can be more clearly identified and the corresponding data excluded from the analysis,” he added.
Again, what was it the scientists the Guardian are trumpeting included in their analysis?
“…volcanic activity and the El Niño southern oscillation…”
And the sun – something we’ve been pointing out for a while has a huge impact on heating or cooling on the earth. It has also been very quiet for a few years.
We have obvious agreement between the two studies that three natural activities over which man has absolutely no control are driving the climate. And the Guardian gives us nothing – absolutely nothing – that supports the AGW connection which it implies the inclusion of man-made CO2 emissions and aerosols. No percentage of cause or contribution to the warming, no idea if the inclusion has any effect at all, nothing. The Australians reached pretty much the same conclusion but found no connection with man-made emissions.
One final word – I’m not a “global warming” skeptic. The globe warms and cools. Its a natural thing that the globe has been cycling through since its formation.
I’m an AGW skeptic. And this study does nothing to change that. In fact, it reinforces what the Australians did. The globe my very well warm in the next 5 years. But I still am not seeing anything that definitively links that to man. I’m seeing a lot that links it to nature though.
Michael Crowley has a post at The New Republic’s blog (“The Plank”) in which he works is hardest to push a new meme. Yes friends, we’re now in the “post-Bush” era of “the aggrieved white guy”.
Apparently the Gates/Crowley (no relation I’m sure) dustup provided him the final and definitive proof. Apparently it wasn’t a cop and an increasingly hysterical man pushing each other’s buttons and, as usual, the guy with the badge and gun winning. Oh no, it is a “teachable moment” that was ripe for our teacher-in-chief, sans all the facts, to conclude it was the cop’s fault. And, of course, the cop being white and the homeowner who was misidentified as a burglar being black and a FOO, well what more needs to said, hmmm?
And, as proof, Michael Crowley offers one of the left’s favorite punching bags – Joe the Plumber. Yup, Joe was the guy who began to clue Crowley into this phenomenon – “the aggrieved white guy”. Uh, sorta:
This is the third time in the past year that Obama has squared off, directly or indirectly, with working-class white men. First, there was Joe the Plumber. Last fall, John McCain’s campaign became, to an astonishing degree, connected to the grievances of an (unlicensed) Ohio plumber. JTP’s message wasn’t explicitly racialized–he complained primarily that Obama was leading America down the path toward socialism. But it was impossible to ignore the way he embodied a working-class white everyman who has traditionally felt threatened by minority groups in America. Although McCain lost badly, JTP did allow him to abandon his ineffective emphasis on foreign policy issues like Iraq and Russia and focus his message late in the campaign around Obama’s social spending–a preview of the GOP’s most potent line of attack today.
Well Joe, you know, he wasn’t “explicitly racialized” (I mean when you’re trying to make a point about race and you can’t even figure out a way to brand one of the main figures you’re using to make your point as racist or “racialized”, maybe you ought to hit the “delete” button and try something else). Nope, Joe complained mostly about “spreading the wealth around”.
But, concludes Crowley, even though Joe wasn’t racialized and mostly complained about socialism, he “embodied” – emfreakinbodied – “a working-class white everyman who has traditionally felt threatened by minority groups in America.
Really? Where did you make that point, Mr. Crowley? Where did you even get close to it? Talk about trying too hard.
Second “aggrieved white guy” moment? Sotomayor:
Then, there was the Sotomayor nomination. His Supreme Court nominee was controversial for a recent court ruling which denied promotions deprived a group of white firefighters, coupled with her ill-advised advised assertion that “a wise Latina” might reach a better decision that a white male judge. Senate Republicans and conservative pundits clobbered Sotomayor for the implication that she was biased against white guys. Their point was illustrated with potent stagecraft, in the form of uniformed white firefighters–the losers in the New Haven case–who attended Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearings in their dress uniforms. They were icons of the heroic working-class white guy. Sotomayor’s hearings went about as smoothly as possible, but the GOP did use them to lay the groundwork for a narrative that the Obama administration gives special preference to minority groups.
Smoothly missing from Crowley’s analysis is the fact that the racist phrase in question here came from the Supreme Court nominee, not some “aggrieved white guys”. You have to wonder if her example of a wise Latina woman making a better choice had instead used a black male judge. I’m sure we all know how that would have worked out.
Instead, it is apparently assumed, in the post-racial Obama era, we’re just supposed to let what appeared to actually be a racist statement slide. Or, when exception is taken too it, hand wave that away as “the aggrieved white guy” thing. Had Sotomayor never uttered those words, they’d have aggrieved no one, regardless of race. That is the salient “post-racial” point.
And now we come to the point of this “analysis” which will try to hand us “the aggrieved white guy” label to play with over the next few years:
Now comes Sergeant Crowley. Conservatives could hardly ask for a more effective vehicle for this burgeoning narrative. While Joe the Plumber was an obvious moron, and Sotomayor too sympathetic and skillful to demonize, Crowley (no relation, sorry) is political gold.
Clever, huh? He must have stayed up late trying to figure out how to stitch Joe the Plumber, Sotomayor and Sergeant Crowley together to make this rather lame attempt at launching his AWG meme. Get ready for it, here comes the “thud” as it hits the floor. Speaking of Crowley, the other Crowley says:
He is the hard-working white man who wears a uniform and risks his life for his country. Note that such a uniformed civilian hero is especially valuable for a Republican party which, through the fiasco in Iraq, has largely lost its monopolistic claim on representing the uniformed American soldier. And while it’s hard to defend Crowley’s arrest of Gates, he does seem to be winning the spin war over character and temperament (particularly after African-American members of the Cambridge police force came to his defense last week). Crowley also plays into the only theme conservatives like more than race, which is class. For Obama to be in the defense of a Harvard professor who summers on the Vineyard against a police officer who attends neighborhood softball games at night–particularly after Obama admitted during his first comments about the case that he did not know all the facts–is almost too good to be true, from the GOP’s perspective.
Have you picked up on it yet? Are you aware of how Crowley is using the words “Republican party” in this? As a pretty obvious code phrase for – heh, yup, you’ve got it – “aggrieved white guys”. See they’re obviously not taking offense at the President of the United States using a nationally televised news conference to call the cop stupid even while admitting he didn’t have all the facts. Nope they’re trying to develop something which the President had every opportunity to avoid and didn’t. Who was trying to develop what? And if Obama considered it a teachable moment as Crowley contends, why isn’t it a teachable moment for Obama as well?
Frankly that’s how it came out as I’ve observed it. Obama stuck his foot fully in his mouth and paid for it. He hasn’t yet learned what is or isn’t appropriate in his new office. Crowley of course, seems to have forgotten the glee of Democrats each time Bush did something like that – but I don’t remember him trying to push some “aggrieved” meme then although I believe for some at the time, “aggrieved loon” might have fit nicely.
Obama and his advisors surely realized this. They understood that Crowley represented something far more dangerous to their post-racial narrative than either Joe the Plumber or those uniformed firefighters. For once, conservatives stood to gain real traction on both issues of race and class in one simple episode. It wasn’t going to ruin his presidency, but it was too volatile to be ignored. Obama had to take control of the story before it took control of him.
Nonsense. Utter balderdash. All Obama had to do was look at the questioner and politely say, “I don’t have all the facts and prefer not to say anything until I do,” and then call on the next questioner.
In fact he caused the ruckus and managed to overshadow the message he was trying to push that night – health care. As it turns out, I’m glad he did.
However let’s not pretend that Obama exercised any “control over the story”. He reacted to his own stupid statement and tried to cover it up like a cat trying to cover, well, you know.
And, by the way, Mr. Crowley – it didn’t work.
“Aggrieved white guy”, my rear end.
Justified anger is a wonderful thing. It allows one to act like a complete ass with little, if any, impunity. For example, I recall once while backpacking my way through Egypt when a taxi driver I made a deal with for a ride ditched me for some other riders. We were in a sleepy, seaside town on the Sinai peninsula, separated by several miles of harsh desert terrain from the local bus stop. The driver wanted to maximize the trip, understandably, and sought out a few more riders (there was only two of us) before leaving. Of course, when he returned the taxi was full and we were left without a ride, stranded in Dahab. Needless to say, I was a bit miffed.
Luckily, I had consulted my trusty, Harvard-drafted “Let’s Go: Egypt” prior to entering the country, which suggested throwing a loud and boisterous fit if put in a situation where you are likely being cheated. So, I did. And it worked like a charm. I threw luggage, cursed at the top of my lungs, and glared menacingly at the taxi driver causing him to quickly exit the situation as a crowd of onlookers gathered. But suddenly, something wonderful happened; the crowd sympathized with my plight, took me under their care, and within a few minutes I was being treated to warm food, cold drink and a new taxi (driven by someone’s cousin as I recall) was summoned to take us on our journey. By acting like a spoiled child, just because I was screwed out of a ride, I was treated as a victim in need of comfort, and not a damned fool in need of discipline.
My tantrum was quite effective and confirmed to me that “justifiable anger” is a powerful, and intoxicating, thing. It is the “castle doctrine” of emotional responses which places blame for any incident squarely on the shoulders of the instigator, leaving you with unquestioned moral authority. However, like any intoxicant, it also tempts overuse and abuse.
By now you are probably aware of Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.’s arrest in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What should have been a non-story became a huge imbroglio because of Dr. Gates’ stature, and the media’s endless pursuit of “Racism in America” stories. Even so, it was likely on its way to dying on the back pages of Boston newspapers until Pres. Obama resurrected it with his rather careless and admittedly ill-informed denunciation of the police officer involved.
After spending most of an hour patiently reiterating his arguments for changing the health insurance system, President Barack Obama turned his press conference sharply toward an iconic moment in American race relations: The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. earlier this week by the Cambridge Police.
“I don’t know – not having been there and not seeing all the facts – what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two that he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,” Obama said in response to a question from the Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet.
Gates, Obama allowed, “is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don’t know all the facts.”
In other words, despite not knowing all the facts, the President decided to weigh in anyway on the side of his friend and to assume the worst about the police. Unfortunately, Obama is not alone in his ignorance or willingness to castigate someone without questioning the actions of Dr. Gates.
If anything is clear about the situation, it is that escalation was not necessary and could easily have been avoided. Dr. Gates apparently has a huge chip on his shoulder with respect to white cops, in the very least, and reacted poorly to Sgt. Crowley following up on a breaking and entering call. Indeed, Pres. Obama, among many others, opined that Gates was perfectly justified in being angry (“but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry”) because he was being accused of robbing his own house.
Yet such reaction completely ignores the reason for Crowley being there in the first place: to protect Dr. Gates’ house. Why would a policeman acting in defense of Dr. Gates’s own home upset him? Because Dr. Gates has a huge chip on his shoulder and succumbed to that sweet temptation of justifiable anger to grab the moral high ground. In doing so, he elided right past the justifications for Crowley’s visit, as well as his questions, and instead went right into victimization mode.
Crowley, for his own part, also seems to be carrying a chip or two. One, that is not uncommon to policemen, appears to be a distinct aversion to challenges to his authority. After all, yelling at a cop in your own front yard hardly seems like a criminal offense. In addition, and more understandably, Crowley carries a big chip on his shoulder regarding being called a racist. Here’s why:
The Cambridge cop prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. claims is a racist gave a dying Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a desperate bid to save the Celtics [team stats] superstar’s life 16 years ago Monday.
“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being,” Sgt. James Crowley, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, said of the forward’s fatal heart attack July 27, 1993, at age 27 during an off-season practice at Brandeis University, where Crowley was a campus police officer.
It’s a date Crowley still can recite by rote – and he still recalls the pain he suffered when people back then questioned whether he had done enough to save the black athlete.
“Some people were saying ‘There’s the guy who killed Reggie Lewis’ afterward. I was broken-hearted. I cried for many nights,” he said.
Surely someone who faced such criticism, despite administering his best efforts, is going to be a little sensitive to being called a racist. I wouldn’t be surprised if “oh no, here we go again” was the primary thought running through Crowley’s mind while Gates was delivering his tirade.
Unfortunately, Crowley’s chips may have caused him to ignore the obvious (if unwarranted) source of Gates’ ire, and instead to grab for that justifiable anger high ground himself. The end result is that a normally routine procedure becomes a huge production that serves the interests of no one.
Of course, to be fair, Gates’ reaction was quite confusing to the officer.
Consider for a moment, how you would assess the situation had you been in Crowley’s place. You receive a call about a B&E in progress and immediately respond, asking the caller who reported the incident to meet you at the front door to the residence. In all likelihood you’ve responded to similar calls before only to find that the either it’s someone breaking into their own home, or that an estranged girlfriend/wife is calling for backup in a domestic situation, or something other than an actual robbery. Therefore, you request the caller to be there just to be sure.
Upon arrival, you have to assess the situation without having any knowledge. You meet the caller who tells you that two black men with backpacks were observed trying to “wedge” the front door open with their shoulders, thus raising suspicion and precipitating the call. OK, now you can be reasonably certain that it’s not a domestic situation, but there still may be an innocent explanation. You notice someone inside the house, looking out at you as you approach the front door. Who could it be? The owner? A friend? Or perhaps a potential burglar? You don’t know but the only way to find out is to question the person.
Now, stop and think for a moment. If the person you are about to question is the home’s owner, wouldn’t you expect a rather cooperative attitude? You are defending their home after all. In contrast, if the person inside is someone who shouldn’t be there, then you would expect a more evasive, or possibly hostile reaction. But how do you deal with the rightful owner calling you a racist (pdf)?
As I turned and faced the door, I could see an older black male standing in the foyer of [redacted] Ware Street. I made this observation through the glass paned front door. As I stood in plain view of this man, later identified as gates, I asked if he would step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied “no I will not.” He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was “Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police” and that I was “investigating a report of a break (sic) in progress” at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed “why, because I’m a black man in America?”. I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was non of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer. I assured gates that I was responding to a citizen’s call to the Cambridge Police and that the caller was outside as we spoke. Gates seemed to ignore me and picked up a cordless telephone and dialed an unknown telephone number. As he did so, I radioed on channel 1 that I was off in the residence with someone who appeared to be a resident but very uncooperative. I then overheard Gates asking the person on the other end of his telephone call to “get the chief” and “what’s the chief’s name?”. gates was telling the person on the other end of the call that he was dealing with a racist police officer in his home. Gates then turned to and told me that I had no idea who I was “messing” with and that I had not heard the last of it. While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me. I asked Gates to provide me with photo identification so that I could verify that he resided at [redacted] Ware Street and so I could radio my finding to ECC. Gates initially refused, demanding that I show him identification but then did supply me with a Harvard university identification card. Upon learning that Gates was affiliated with Harvard, I radioed and requested the presence of the Harvard University Police.
The statement above if from Sgt. Crowley and, most likely, is self-serving. Then there is Gates’ version of events:
When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside. Professor Gates remained inside his home and asked the officer why he was there. The officer indicated that he was responding to a 911 call about a breaking and entering in progress at this address. Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard University. The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and turned to walk into his kitchen, where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver’s license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates’ photograph, and the license includes his address.
Professor Gates then asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’ request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’ home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates.
In comparing the two statements, they contain a lot of agreement on how the events unfolded. Both accounts state that Crowley asked Gates to step outside and that he explained the reason for his visit. They also both agree that Crowley asked for verification that Gates belonged in the residence, as well as that Gates provided at least his Harvard ID. They further agree that Gates asked for Crowley’s identification, although they differ as to why.
In fact, Gates never suggests why he wanted the officer’s ID, nor what could have possibly prompted the request. If Gates’ statement is to be accepted as true, we would have to believe that he was a perfect gentleman throughout the process until his request for Crowley’s ID was ignored. Indeed, Gates’ entire story depends on the idea that he only became outwardly upset when Crowley refused to give him identification. And even if that were true, it does not explain how the charges of racism and racial profiling came to be leveled. It’s not as if refusing to show official ID has some racially disparate component to it.
Gates has further problems with his story as well. According to Crowley’s statement, he radioed into ECC with pertinent information as he got it and requested the presence of Harvard Police. In addition, he observed Gates making a phone call to someone and asking for the “chief” while declaring that a racist police officer was in his home. All of these statements are verifiable by looking at the radio transmissions from Crowley and the phone records from Gates. Oddly, Gates makes no mention of the phone call, nor offers any explanation as to how the Harvard Police came to be at the scene. That tends to lend credibility to Crowley’s version of events.
On the other side of the ledger, however, it sure does look like Crowley lured Gates outside in order to arrest him and show him who was boss. His claim that he went outside to speak with Gates because the acoustics were inhibiting his ability to communicate with ECC sounds just a little too perfect. Crowley further neglects to explain why he could not have offered to write the information down for Gates, or even better, simply handed him a business card (which every cop I’ve ever dealt with has had plenty of). That would have presumably satisfied Gates for the time being and allowed Crowley to exit the situation without any further ruckus. Instead, both parties claim that Crowley asked the professor to step outside, in full view of the poor crowd who’s tender mercies were then violated by Gates’ tirade, and voilà Crowley then had a reason to arrest him.
Despite all the foregoing, and regardless of whose version of events you believe, there is simply no indication of why this has been turned into a racial incident. Some suggest that the original caller was racist for immediately assuming that two black men trying to force a door open were criminals. But that’s just absurd, and I would hope that if a passerby sees anyone of any color breaking into my home they call the police. Others hypothesize that a white professor would not have experienced the same treatment at the hands of the police, but that ignores (a) the agreed upon facts, and (b) the fact that police would be derelict if they did not verify who was in the home, and whether or not they belong there. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have run into similar circumstances regardless of race (I know I have). To date, no one has offered a reasonable explanation as to how the incident justifies charges of racism and racial profiling, although plenty of people are perfectly willing to assume such is the case.
I may as well get the ball rolling for turning what could have been a succinct piece into a meandering tome. So, sorry about that.
Next up is Officer Crowley who is adamant that no apology will be forthcoming.
Crowley himself, speaking to the Globe yesterday and again last night in Natick, said he will not apologize and asserted, “I am not a racist.’’
Crowley’s police union issued a statement saying it had reviewed the arrest of Gates and expressed “full and unqualified support’’ for his actions.
“Sergeant Crowley is a highly respected veteran supervisor with a distinguished record in the Cambridge Police Department,’’ said the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association. “His actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the Department, and with applicable legal standards.’’
I guess you can forget about the Police Department delivering one either.
As for Gates, well he hasn’t been asked for one, and it does not appear that one will be forthcoming, especially now that the President of the United States has backed him.
Obama acknowledged that Gates is a friend and that since he was not there, he cannot know exactly what role race may have played in the incident.
Gates’ daughter and attorney said they were pleased by the president’s comments.
Charles Ogletree, Gates’ attorney and a fellow Harvard professor, told “Good Morning America’s” Dan Harris today that Gates “was simply pleased that Barack acknowledged he was a friend and what he had read and heard and understood to have been reported that Professor Gates did not violate the law.”
Perhaps the media will apologize for turning this into a major story, and perceptibly backing Gates’ version by playing up the racism angle, not to mention raising the issue at a prime time news conference on health care. Hmmm … no, I guess that’s just silly.
Once the tempting fruit of justifiable anger is consumed, it almost impossible to give up. Should Crowley apologize for arresting Gates? Yes, he probably should, but I’m sure he feels too justified in his anger to do so: Gates shouldn’t have berated him for protecting Gates’ own home, and certainly shouldn’t have called him a racist.
Should Gates apologize for his tumultuous behavior and unwarranted accusations? Most definitely, but that isn’t likely to happen either because Gates feels justified in his anger as well: Crowley shouldn’t have arrested him, causing him embarrassment and extreme discomfort, simply because he was yelling and screaming while on his own property.
So, nobody will apologize, nothing will be fixed, and no wounds will be healed. Welcome to post-racial America.