In his just-concluded (mostly) health care press conference (read the live-blog here), President Obama was asked about the arrest of his friend Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on quickly-dropped disorderly conduct charges. Obama’s response was important in two respects:
First, he said that once Gates had produced ID showing that he lived there (and there seems to be no dispute that he did so), the police “acted stupidly” in arresting him for disorderly conduct.
Second, he said that the episode reflects the fact that race remains a factor in society, and referred back to his work in the Illinois Senate on racial profiling.
There is likely to be a run on Rolaids in the vicinity of Cambridge police headquarters — here’s hoping the local drugstores are well stocked!
UPDATE: Curious. Rachel Maddow is talking with Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs right now about the Gates Q&A. Maddow, I think, seriously misinterpreted one of Obama’s comments. Obama went over some of the facts — he said that Gates had locked himself out and forced his way in, and that there was a call to report a possible break-in. He then said, “so far so good,” and he then started to comment that “if I were trying to break into my house…” and then he caught himself, saying that “well, I guess this [the White House] is my house now, so that probably wouldn’t happen…. maybe at my old house in Chicago.” Everyone laughed. I think where he was going, though, was that he would hope that someone would call in a possible break-in at his house in Chicago. He then made another joke, saying, “if I tried it here, I’d get shot.” More laughter. But I do not think that Obama was saying that he’d be shot because he is black. I think he was saying that anyone trying to break into the White House would be shot — that’s what’s consistent with his previous comments, and it also happens to be true. Maddow, however, thought that Obama’s joke was an incisive comment about the state of race relations in America. I think she’s wrong about that.