The videos of what are described as “angry” townhalls around the country keep pouring in. Here’s one from Green Bay, WI.
Of course there are tons of others.
The Democrats and the left have answered the protests by claiming that they’re nothing more than “right-wing extremists” under the control of powerful interest groups. Thus the charge of “astro-turfing”.
These accusations by the DNC seem to ignore the Tea Party movement’s origins which was, on inspection, a true grass-roots movement (and one that has taken both Democrats and Republicans to task for their profligate spending). Notice too that they include the “birthers” in their vid to underline their “extremist” claim.
The White House, instead of trying to calm the waters, has chosen employ Saul Alinsky against the protesters:
A key part of the developing strategy: ridicule the opposition — and portray those who disrupt meetings with loud chants and signs as part of the same ilk of people who showed up at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin right after the 2008 Republican National Convention.
So this turns into a propaganda war. The left will be attempting to turn public opinion against the protesters by portraying them a certain way.
Patronizing opponents is a tried and true tradition in Washington, and Democrats have used the tactic with success. They ridiculed the hundreds of thousands of conservatives who protested the stimulus package as “tea baggers.”
But Republicans are just as responsible for the perception. The folks who tend to show up at protest events tend to be to the right of the mean in the party. And, as the spread of the birther movement demonstrates, not a small chunk of these Republicans are reactionaries. The challenge for the White House and Democrats is that they find a way to separate genuinely anxious conservatives who ask good questions — even if those questions are provided by conservative groups — and the crazies who tend to pack town hall meetings.
Of course, most reasonable people would suggest, upon reflection, that if this was an “astro-turfed” movement, those who are paying for it would have much tighter control and avoid the obviously unhelpful signage and any connection with the birther movement. That’s obviously not the case.
So the right and Republicans have the momentum, at least for now, but it isn’t clear if they have an advantage for the reasons stated.
The challenge for Republicans is to prevent the media from labeling everyone who attends a meeting with a Democratic lawmaker and who calls him or herself a conservative as a crazy person. Some polling suggests that the percentage of Republicans who don’t know whether President Obama was born in the United States is fairly high, although it is hard to say how much of that confusion stems from ignorance or from a generally jaundiced, perhaps racist, view of the President.
A range of smaller, ideologically conservative interest groups are organizing the protests. Finding pockets of activist-oriented arch-conservatives in places like Texas, Missouri and Indiana is easy, especially if the set goal is to defeat Obama-care, which is being sold to these people as the approach of government-run health care, something that these folks have been worried about for years. Add to the mix a desire to hand the progressive President and his agenda a decisive defeat.
And there’s an interesting question about pushing back on the left – where are its activists and organizations?
The more troublesome question for Democratic strategists is why the major Democratic groups, including Organizing for America, the labor unions, Health Care for America Now, seem to be flatfooted and unable to match the much smaller conservative organizing capacity in these critical districts. One answer is that the media pays attention to the loudest voices, which are coming from the right. The other is that organizing around major — even popular — reforms of existing institutions is tough. The Democrats don’t have a single bill right now, and the elite left is worried about what’s not in the cards — a public plan — and is therefore fairly unenthusiastic. If the liberal elite isn’t enthusiastic, the liberal base — less knowledgeable — will be as well.
And of course, there’s the media – which, it seems, leans mostly toward helping the administration. For instance, the conclusion of the article from which I’ve been quoting from Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic:
To focus minds, Democrats are coordinating TV and radio ad blitzes, including the biggest expenditures by the Democratic National Committee to date. President Obama, his cabinet and his vice president will be ubiquitous. Quickly responding to disinformation will be a key goal, an administration official said, pointing to this morning’s release of a video from Linda Douglass, a former television and print reporter who serves as a key White House health care adviser, which rebutted a misleading video posted on the Drudge Report.
Linda Douglass “rebutted” nothing. She made a bunch of claims she’d have difficulty substantiating. But that is how it is being reported. The implication is that what is coming from the right is “disinformation” and the only true source of factual information is the White House.
I think we all know that dog won’t hunt.
But this should be a very, very interesting August.
[Welcome RCP readers]
How to explain what is going on with government today using a horror movie analogy:
Explains it pretty darn well, doesn’t it?
An interesting video here – you could entitle it “What The Hell Is The Rush?!”
It is Arlen Specter at a healthcare townhall meeting being given whatfor when he says that they have to rush on the health care bill. Also speaking is Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. It would be hard to characterize the crowd as “warm and welcoming”.
The one thing I think politicans will hear almost universally is the public demands they read and understand the bill they’re voting on – not their staffers. And until they do and can discuss it rationally and actually bring it to the floor and debate it – giving debate all the time it needs – they don’t want them voting on it.
Now, that’s not to say that some of those making this demand don’t want to see health care reform passed as a result. But I think even they understand that there is no crisis and their is no rush to pass such legislation quickly. That’s a self-imposed political desire – passing it quickly – because Democrats understand that not doing so risks getting nothing passed at all.
We’ll see if politicians heed this message or, when they head back into the atmosphere prevalent inside the beltway, again fall into line with party leadership and try to rush this turkey through.
If the video is any indication, doing so could end up being a very big electoral mistake.
I have not posted much lately. Busy. Very busy. I don’t see how McQ does it. He’s a machine.
But I have been paying attention, and I must say Obama is as amusing during his first six months as I had hoped, and maybe more. Here’s a brief summary of where he’s at as far as I’m concerned, categorized into various types of success and failures on the political front.
Charles Krauthammer nails it today in an editorial in the Washington Post (and not just because he and I agree that something called “health care reform” is going to pass):
Yes, Obama’s aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year’s end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they’ll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.
That’s party politics (which we’ve come to learn from both parties, usually means putting the party first and the country second). They are not going to be responsible for killing the presidency of a Democrat. But they’re also not going to pass anything like what they started out to pass.
So what will it be?
But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama’s curious reference — made five times — to “health-insurance reform” during his July 22 news conference.
Thus the beginning of the campaign to demonize the insurance companies as “the villains”. And it is going to be a long and loud campaign until the “something” is passed.
Reforming the health-care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered not by Republicans, not even by Blue Dog Democrats, but by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.
Krauthammer have a slight disagreement on this. Not that the CBO is the primary entity that put a lance through the heart of “health-care system” reform – and that is what Obama referenced repeatedly and, when you talk about type of care and changing the behavior of doctors, is obviously more than “insurance reform”.
Our disagreement stems from my belief that health-care system reformation isn’t at all dead, it’s just delayed. One things the Democrats are adept at is incrementalism. They’ve worked diligently for decades to expand relatively modest programs into huge, wasteful bureaucratic monstrosities that hand out money – at least that which finally works its way through the bureaucracy – like a political party handing out “walking around money”.
This, unfortunately will be no different. And even more unfortunately something on which the Democrats can begin their incremental construction will be law by this fall.
If this NPR poll has any validity, it removes, once and for all, the “I inherited this mess” meme from Obama’s rhetorical quiver. Americans see this as his mess now and they’re not particularly happy with how he’s handling it:
In another part of the poll, respondents were asked which of two statements on the economy came closer to expressing their view. The first statement: “President Obama’s economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis and are laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery.” The second statement: “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.” A plurality preferred the second statement, 48 percent to 45 percent.
Another indicator of the point:
Greenberg and Bolger found that 38 percent considered the country to be going in the “right direction,” while 54 percent saw it on the “wrong track.” But that 15-point negative reading was the least negative of any NPR poll in more than year. The portion saying “wrong track” had been nearly 90 percent in the NPR poll done in the fall of 2008.
The principal reason for negativity appeared to be the economy. Asked to assess the current state of the economy, 49 percent called it poor while 42 percent opted for “not so good.” Only 8 percent said it was good and only 1 percent said excellent.
While NPR tries to soften the news, the fact remains that a solid majority think the country is on the wrong track. As mentioned above, there’s a 15 point difference between right and wrong track polling.
The so-called generic ballot question was also very close. Asked whether they would support a Democrat or a Republican for Congress in 2010 if the election were held today, 42 percent said they would choose a Democrat and 43 percent a Republican, a difference well within the poll’s margin of error (plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for each number in each question).
All three areas show a trend that has to be troubling to Democrats and the administration. In political terms, 2010 is right around the corner. And yes, it’s still early in the administration, but after the honeymoon, it appears those polled are not happy, for the most part, with what they’re seeing from either Congress or Obama.
I ran across this today and got a good chuckle:
Liberal frustration started to boil over in the House on Tuesday as negotiations over healthcare reform with centrist Blue Dog Democrats dragged into a second week.
The delay prompted Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to lash out at the Blue Dogs as hypocritical and even hint that more liberal Democrats might challenge them in primaries.
Apparently Ms. Waters doesn’t quite understand why they’re called “Blue Dogs”:
Asked if she would recruit more liberal candidates to run against Blue Dogs, Waters said, “That’s normally not done.”
But she added: “There may be people out there listening and observing all of this who may get motivated based on what they’re seeing and throw their hat into the ring.”
Yeah, well, unless they too are “Blue Dogs” its unlikely they’ll be able to take a conservative district. And the present BDs know that if they’re a party to a liberal government program being stood up on their watch and with their support they’re not long for DC either.
But I’m sure Republicans would love to see a more liberal type take on a BD and help spend their war chest in the primary effort. It would only make the mid-terms a little brighter for the GOP in those districts.
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.
I’m not keen on many taxes to begin with, but as a practical matter, some are more destructive than others. Some are so bad that they’re a train wreck even by their proponents’ stated standards.
President Obama has proposed a package of tax hikes on the overseas operations of American firms. The supposed benefits sound like political winners: over the next decade the feds get $210 billion to shovel into the yawning budget hole, and at the same time discourage those companies from outsourcing jobs. Congressmen who promise more jobs but are wary of mounting deficits might think they’re hitting two birds with one stone.
But there are more appetizing birds than the goose that laid the golden egg.
See, there are just a few things that offer relief from the fact that the US is one of the few countries to tax its companies’ operations all over the globe. One is “deferral” – companies don’t pay taxes on most earnings until the money is returned to the US parent company, so they can delay getting slapped with the double tax by reinvesting their foreign earnings in foreign operations.
Another big relief is being able to claim credits on the taxes they pay to foreign governments.
Obama is proposing, among other things, to place new limits on deferral and clamp down on tax credits. These changes won’t work as advertised: they won’t reduce outsourcing (they may increase it) and won’t raise nearly as much revenue as originally claimed.
First, most American companies that expand overseas do it to get around trade barriers and get close to their customers. When a new KFC opens up in China, that’s not an outsourced American job; that’s an American business getting to expand into a growing market. The vast majority of sales made by foreign affiliates – think 90 to 94 percent – were to foreigners, not exports back to the US.
Second, the roughly 2,200 US-based corporations with overseas operations either employ or support the employment of 22 million Americans, and those companies create half of all American exports. Jobs here rely on providing direction to foreign workers (managers, engineers) and producing goods for affiliates to sell in foreign markets.
The growth of US foreign affiliates is “consistently accompanied” (PDF) by the growth of their parent companies, the opposite of what you would expect from a zero-sum perspective on “outsourcing”. More expansion abroad means more jobs, compensation and investment at home.
So making American firms uncompetitive abroad not only threatens jobs at home but even encourages businesses to headquarter themselves outside the US.
And as a result of that, the policy changes won’t raise nearly as much revenue as Obama claimed.
- The global downturn has been worse than Obama suspected back when that $210 billion figure was calculated.
- We’ve tried cutting back deferral before: in 1986, the government repealed deferral for the shipping industry, and consequently we lost half of our shipping capacity, taking a bunch of jobs and tax revenues with it.
- Even still, never underestimate the creativity and industriousness of tax lawyers.
That last part might not be such a problem if Obama’s proposals simplified the tax code, like he claims. But they make things worse on that score, not better.
As a note to my fellow Virginians: these companies with overseas operations are responsible for over half of the private sector jobs in the commonwealth (PDF source), and they tend to be the better-paying jobs (averaging over $70k compensation) like computer systems design and telecommunications. Is that going to sit well with the likes of Sen. Warner?
Bills that hurt this many people are loaded with political liabilities, yet I got word a few days ago that a bill with Obama’s proposals may come up for consideration in the House in September.
Get the word out. The more people know what this is going to cost them, the harder it will be to sell. By all rights, Obama’s Globo-Hike should fail politically before it has a chance to fail as policy.
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.