One reader request

by on July 23, 2009 at 7:40 pm in Law | Permalink

Tim Gray asked:

You rarely write about race, yet I can't help but wonder–as a fellow
prof and a social scientist–what your thoughts are about the Henry
Louis Gates flap in Boston and what, if anything, you think it says
about the larger questions of race relations and psychology of
authority.

My view is simple: everyone involved will come out of the "flap" looking worse.  Most of all, engaging with the incident has been one of the few major tactical mistakes of the Obama Presidency.  Presidents (and many others) make big mistakes when they "respond" to people with much lower status than themselves, in this case the policeman and his ilk.  The net effect is to lower the status of the Presidency and this will prove especially important when Obama is trying to pass a controversial health care plan.  Today he looks less "post-racial" than he did a week ago and although it was only one slip it won't be easy to reverse that.

On the substance of the altercation I do not know the details but some time ago we decided, for better or worse, to give policemen a lot of discretion in intimidating individuals, including innocent individuals and especially African-Americans.  I don't think we chose an optimum but it is disingenuous to be suddenly shocked by what happened.

One reason I don't cover "race" more is because it often doesn't make for a very good discussion in the comments.  It's also hard to add to the material covered on other blogs.  It is a topic I read a good deal about, especially in the areas of the history of slavery, race and popular culture, race and sports, the economics of discrimination, and the history of Africa.  But I don't expect to do a lot of blogging in these areas anytime soon, interesting though they may be.

1 phillips July 23, 2009 at 8:17 pm

“It is a topic I read a good deal about, especially in the areas of the history of slavery, race and popular culture, race and sports, the economics of discrimination, and the history of Africa.”

Translation: You read quite a bit of Steve Sailer, but you’re afraid to admit it publicly.

2 indiana jim July 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Tyler wrote: “the incident has been one of the few major tactical mistakes of the Obama Presidency. Presidents (and many others) make big mistakes when they “respond” to people with much lower status than themselves, in this case the policeman and his ilk.”

Several points:
1) Obama has now made MANY major errors; tactical should not so quickly be divorced from substantive. His approval ratings are crashing and burning, consistent with my point (and inconsistent with Tyler’s monomaniacal focus upon “tactical.”
2) Responding to “people of much lower status” is NOT generally a big mistake, or even a little mistake, for a person with grace and humility. That it has on several occassions (also recall Joe the Plumber during the campaign) for Obama is consistent with John Stossel’s labelling of Obama as “arrogant”.
3) “and his ilk”? So all policemen are “lower status” beings who the great ones make a “big mistake” in engaging??? Does this kind of class-focused elitism pass the smell test?

3 indiana jim July 23, 2009 at 8:54 pm

josh for president!

4 Dennis Tuchler July 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Why isn’t Gates pleased at the protection his house got? Here is someone who looks like he’s trying to break in. Normally, the owner’s key works. The cop came up and asked about Gates’s relationship to the dwelling. The cop went too far (asking for proof Gates is a Harvard prof.) but Gates, thin of skin and dramatic in demeanor, made it worse than simply a policeman’s gaffe

Gates made more of the situation than it warranted. Assume that the cop is racist. One expects that in working class white policemen. So what? It can be dealt with with diplomacy. But Gates is not given to that, apparently.

5 Dan July 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

some time ago we decided, for better or worse, to give policemen a lot of discretion in intimidating individuals, including innocent individuals and especially African-Americans. I don’t think we chose an optimum

What an odd phrasing. “We decided.” I can’t tell what you mean by it. If all you’re saying is that these sorts of things happen frequently, without consequences for the officers responsible, then I agree with you. And so (I imagine) do the people who have been most critical of the police in the Gates incident — that’s why they’re getting upset. They know that this is the way things work, and they don’t like it (that is, they also consider it suboptimal). You’re agreeing with them, and then somehow turning that into a basis for criticizing them. It might be more productive to look into the procedures for reversing our earlier decision. Can we change our minds?

6 Lonely Libertarian July 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Folks!

The “we” who gave the police permission are the same “we” that gave some high school dropout the pleasure of watching us take our shoes off to get on an airplane. We are no longer a strong, proud, confident nation. We have become a nation of sheep – and seem very content in that state.

Live Free or Die!

7 Blades July 23, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Indiana Jim , well said. And tyler, hate to say it, but “ilk” is really condescending.

8 Brian Garst July 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm

We’ve also apparently decided that it’s perfectly acceptable for chosen victim groups to attempt to intimidate anyone, including law enforcement, with knee-jerk accusations of racism, a tactic clearly designed to induce shame. The absurdity of this is an end result where a supposedly learned man labels an officer a racist the minute he walks in the door, not caring that he was there to protect the property of a black man, nor knowing that the officer in question has devoted considerable time and effort to the PC cause of combating “racial profiling.”

The President’s mistake did not come from his lowering himself to the level of “the policeman and his ilk,” but from endorsing such a hyper-racial interpretation of events despite his own admission that he did not know the facts. He clearly has a giant racial chip on his shoulder, which belies his never-quite-believable claim to be post-racial.

9 Constant July 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm

So bogus arrests are OK as long as they are not racially motivated?

No they are not but that was not what T. Simenon was implying.

10 Nattering Nabob July 23, 2009 at 10:18 pm

The guy was arrested for talking back to a cop
on his own porch, after it was clear no crime
had taken place. Maybe his statements were unreasonable,
maybe not. He’s a middle-aged guy who walks with a
cane; seems to me that the chances that he was considered any
genuine threat to public order or anything other than the cop’s
feelings were zero.

The only policy question here is about a cop should have
done, given what Gates did, not about what Gates
should have done. I.e. do you want contempt-of-cop (in
situations where no public disorder is likely to arise) to
be grounds for an arrest?

Isn’t it obvious that the answer is no?

11 Steve Sailer July 23, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I have to sympathize with Gates. He had just gotten back from what must have been a brutally tiring trip home from China, only to be frustrated that his door was jammed. He finally gets into his home sweet home to relax, when he’s asked to step outside.

So he snaps and throws a temper tantrum. Being a professional race man, as he’s often said he is, he grabs onto what is the perpetual Topic A in his head and accuses the cop of being racist, which can be a career killer in liberal Cambridge, where Officer Crowley taught anti-profiling to other cops for five years.

Cops don’t like getting shouted down and losing control, because that can lead to bad things happening. And, heck, they became cops because they’d rather push people around than get pushed around.

Also, they get paranoid about men who have to break into their own homes, which is closely correlated with wives changing the locks on their husbands, and therefore with domestic violence. They are especially paranoid about enraged men who broke into their own homes who refuse to answer the cop’s question about “Who else is in the residence?” And they are especially paranoid about men who break into their own homes who are so out of control they shout at armed cops.

It’s all a perfectly understandable screw-up.

Gates should have apologized for his tantrum, explained it as the result of being tired, and retracted his racism charge. Instead, he’s trying to milk a PBS TV show out of it!

As Tyler says, Obama shouldn’t have touched this situation with a 100 foot pole, but, for once, he slipped out from under David Axelrod’s image control discipline and revealed the Inner Obama, the race man who wrote Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Obama’s 1995 book devotes 460 pages to his struggle to overcome his half-white ancestry and white upbringing sequestered out in the Pacific thousands of miles from any black communities and finally prove he’s black enough to be a leader of blacks.

12 DJ July 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm

“So excuse me if I’m not going to feel too sorry for this guy. Meanwhile, I do feel very sorry for Cory Maye, who, unlike Henry Gates, is not a member of the privileged elite.”

So I guess at the end of the day, for most people this case is not really about what happened. It’s all about how what Gates said makes them “feel”. I blame Gates should have just called the policeman a bully. Many geeks can identify with that (since geekness cross racial and ethnic lines)…

That’s ok, I guess…

13 Constant July 23, 2009 at 10:36 pm

So I guess at the end of the day, for most people this case is not really about what happened.

What really happened was that the story ended happily for Gates. What really happened was that Gates knew from the very start that it would, because Gates knew that he was elite, he knew that he could safely be extremely rude to a cop that the rest of us would be intimidated by. He knew he could do it, and he was right. I could never do that. I envy Gates slightly. Not very much. But I don’t feel sorry for him, since he won.

14 DJ July 23, 2009 at 10:45 pm

“What really happened was that the story ended happily for Gates. What really happened was that Gates knew from the very start that it would, because Gates knew that he was elite, he knew that he could safely be extremely rude to a cop that the rest of us would be intimidated by. He knew he could do it, and he was right. I could never do that. I envy Gates slightly. Not very much. But I don’t feel sorry for him, since he won.”

Oh, I know how this went. Gates had this all planned. First he fakes a trip to China to film a documentary, get’s his door jammed and plants a “big, black man” outside his door, posing as a “driver”. Of course, he does this with the full knowledge that somebody would call the cops. He was certain Cambridge PD would send a white cop. He was sure that once this happened, he could claim racism and voila!, his career as a “race hustler” would be secure!

15 Sam Penrose July 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm
16 Douglas Knight July 23, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Tyler,

If you don’t like the comment threads, you could turn off comments for those posts.

17 Sam Penrose July 23, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Policing is de jure law enforcement; it has always been de facto the protection of “us” against “them.” We structure it officially around ideals of impartiality and crimes as actions; we evaluate it in terms of good guys and bad guys. If Gates were a recognizable “bad guy” — think Terrell Owens or 50 Cent — few would care that the cop had allegedly abused his authority. It bothers us because he’s one of us. If we want our police to treat our citizens decently, then we need to de-segregate our citizenry.

18 Constant July 24, 2009 at 12:01 am

Oh, I know how this went. Gates had this all planned.

Straw man.

Obama didn’t say anything about race.

Gates did. AP headline:

HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. CONSIDERING A DOCUMENTARY ON RACIAL PROFILING BECAUSE OF HIS ARREST BOSTON (AP)

Everyone keeps assuming it’s a racial thing

It is Gates who keeps assuming it’s a racial thing.

19 Noah Yetter July 24, 2009 at 12:10 am

Who says the President made a mistake? Calling the cop “stupid” was probably the best thing he’s done his entire presidency, in my eyes. Isn’t protecting our rights the whole POINT of having a government?

What this cop did was inexcusable. It’s something that happens literally every day in this country and it is allowed to continue because it happens mostly to the powerless and to minorities. The idea that becoming angry when confronted with blatant and egregious injustice merits arrest is ludicrous and un-American to the highest degree.

20 Ozornik July 24, 2009 at 12:24 am

Prior to the incident I had no idea who the heck is Henry Louis Gates. When I’ve heard the story and it was mentioned that he is a Harvard prof, I immediately offered my wife a bet for whatever she wants without any limits that he is not a physicist, chemist, or any other hard science.
Strangely, she didn’t take the bet†¦

21 Just Curious July 24, 2009 at 12:38 am

Anybody here ever been on a B & E call? Or do you just sit in front of a box?

22 mulp July 24, 2009 at 2:03 am

Who says the President made a mistake? Calling the cop “stupid” was probably the best thing he’s done his entire presidency, in my eyes.

Obama said the police department was stupid, not the cop.

The arrest took place with other cops present, one must have been a supervisor, and the watch commander with ultimate authority was either present or immediately accessible by radio. The arrest was a command decision, either backing up the officer, or as a result of failing to remove him from the situation.

Clearly the cops present were totally oblivious to their surroundings and failing to rationally evaluate the situation and act logically and reasonably. But this seems to be a common thread when these things hit the news – the cops fail to see the people filming them, which today is just about anyone with a cell phone.

But from the news people familiar with the local politics, this sounds like classic town-gown conflict. The account I heard said he showed his Harvard ID along with his driver license; showing college ID off campus to a cop is a bad idea. Try to make them think you are a townie.

23 Ricardo July 24, 2009 at 4:31 am

The basis of the arrest, according to the police report, is that Gates was “observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer…” The accused crime was the catch-all “disorderly conduct.”

It seems to me that what Gates did shouldn’t rise to the level of a crime but I’m not a lawyer. If the laws of Massachusetts allow for such an arrest, then the most that can be said is that maybe the cop didn’t exercise discretion properly. Hell, that can be said about a lot of cops though. What does bother me is the “you don’t know who you are messing with” line from Gates. He sounds like another self-important professor who can’t be expected to just calmly hand over his ID and explain the situation like most normal people would, black or white.

24 Andrew July 24, 2009 at 7:13 am

btw,

Of course what most people think about this wasn’t about what happened.

Just as the cops arresting anyone who questions their authority isn’t about what is actually happening.

25 John Skookum July 24, 2009 at 7:26 am

Tribalist mau-mauing from the lips of the President. Charming. Did anybody seriously expect better from a 20-year disciple of Rev. Wright?

26 Jose July 24, 2009 at 8:25 am

Why Obama can not engage with people in positions not as important as his? This is ridiculous. He could not throw a baseball, go eating in McDonalds, mention anything about how college basketball playoffs should organize, and so many etceteras.

More importantly, I think this is one of the great things he brings from being a community organizer: the elimination of hierarchies, more bottom-up democracy. He is not only the president, he is just a common folk, a real common folk (not as Bush used to simulate), that has his opinion about the incident as anybody else. The important word here is “engage”.

Finally, this type of incident is exactly the type he was praised so much for emphasizing in his famous “Philadelphia speech” about race (“so presidential” some would say): rather small annoyances (compared to the history of slavery and pre-civil rights) between both races, that taint and creates tension in the community. Why would he not mention it and say “this is what we need to change”?

27 Ryan July 24, 2009 at 9:29 am

I got about halfway through the first page of comments and realized that Cowen’s prediction of the quality of discussion in the comments was spot-on.

For the record, I don’t think a blog like Marginal Revolution should invest substantial time in covering race relations. The fact is, some people are bigots and some people are not. The only thing that will change that fact is substantial social pressure against racists – not from blogs, but from friends and family members.

And frankly, there is enough bigotry in the economics profession related to wealth and income to span an economist’s entire career. To expect economists to tackle race-related bigotry on top of that is akin to getting upset that the Founding Fathers gave us the Bill of Rights but failed to completely eradicate slavery. Some problems are bigger than one blog or one generation and can’t be addressed with the usual op-ed tactics employed these days.

28 Tom July 24, 2009 at 9:42 am

“Obama didn’t say anything about race. Everyone keeps assuming it’s a racial thing”

Except when he said ” No. 3, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”

“If Gates had been a white guy, how would this have turned out?”

I think most black and most white guys would have produced ID without having to be asked for it repeatedly, not have started yelling about race, and would have shut up the first three times the cop threaten him with arrest.

The more classy of the bunch would have thanked him for investigating the reported breaking and entering.

Professor Gates *and is ilk* expect to be deferred to, not exactly what you want a cop to do while investigating a crime

29 Nancy Lebovitz July 24, 2009 at 10:08 am

http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/

It’s possible to have high quality discussions about race and racism in a public venue.

30 DanC July 24, 2009 at 10:54 am

This is a clear case of reverse discrimination. The President assumed that this officer was a racist white cop, based on the races of the people involved and having some distant relationship with one party.

Obama was not responding to the “ilk” , he was pushing himself into the issue and revealing a racial bias.

Based on the comments of other witnesses, Mr Gates was an hysterical man screaming racial comments at the officer.

What if the officer had been black and the professor white? What side would President Obama have taken?

31 Ben Dickinson July 24, 2009 at 11:12 am

“My view is simple: everyone involved will come out of the “flap” looking worse.”

Et tu, Mr. Cowen. Now you’ve made fast friends with Steve Sailer and all the other slick racists visting your tree fort!

Congratulations!

32 Careless July 24, 2009 at 11:13 am

The basis of the arrest, according to the police report, is that Gates was “observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer…” The accused crime was the catch-all “disorderly conduct.”

It seems to me that what Gates did shouldn’t rise to the level of a crime but I’m not a lawyer. If the laws of Massachusetts allow for such an arrest, then the most that can be said is that maybe the cop didn’t exercise discretion properly.

From what little I read over on Volokh a few days ago, a) under Massachusetts law, he may well have been guilty of disorderly conduct, or at least close enough for an arrest, B) the MA law is ridiculous, and unConstitutional.

Ignoring legality, it sounds like they both acted badly and this winds up being a positive for Gates and a likely negative for the cop.

33 Borealis July 24, 2009 at 11:47 am

I am a little surprised at the comments here. What should be the general rule? Assuming the facts are what are in the police report, what should a police office do to a person who continues to yell at him in public? Should that answer change depending on whether the harasser is a Harvard Professor or suspected crack dealer?

34 Terry Lorber July 24, 2009 at 12:09 pm

“ilk” is not a condescending word. Look it up.

35 WestWright July 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Wow, what a set of comments for an econ blog…someone even calls the science of economics racist, just imagine what that commenter thinks about profit! Unbelievable, there were a lot of teaching moments in this interchange between citizen and Law Officer and it is too bad that the race greivances have overwhelmed that possiblity…Gates & the LE Officer will be fine, our post racial President has likely done damage to his agenda by interjecting himself in this event. As for Tyler & MR, I think this is a teaching lesson writ big…

36 Billare July 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

By the way, I voted for Obama – because I thought his opponent was quite insane – and am non-white. No racism or privilege here.

37 Seriously Disappointed July 24, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Wow. Add a racial dimension to the topic, and the libertarian principle of freedom from government goes out the window for a surprisingly large percentage of this readership. Leaving aside personal gripes about Gates’ profession (need I say, law is not about this!), in what way is arrest justified under the conditions described in the official or unofficial reports?

38 also disappointed July 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm

It isn’t just libertarian principles being violated in a lot of the knee-jerk response to both the situation and Obama’s comments — it’s conservative principles: the rights of the individual vs. the rights of the state, the sanctity of the home, the right to defend your own property. Race may well have not factored into the officer’s behavior — a lot of police officers are fast to throw handcuffs on anyone who “disrepects” them, regardless of race. But race is definitely playing into how people are reacting to this, particularly the inability to empathize with Gates. The idea that Gates’ behavior is somehow surprising or a product of his racial sensitivity or whatever is such nonsense — I imagine most people can think of at least one or two member of their own families who might react angrily under similar circumstances, whatever their race. Nobody likes being harassed by law enforcement when they feel they’ve done nothing wrong, and certainly being in your own home would make you feel justified in expressing that displeasure. (And even if harassment was not the officer’s intent, it is obviously how it would have felt on the receiving end.)

An innocent man was handcuffed on his own porch in front of his neighbors, thrown into a police cruiser and taken down for booking and mug shots. Nothing in this case justifies that behavior. People who are willing to excuse it scare me a little.

39 Dan H. July 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm

That is not Gates’ reputation. My understanding is that he’s one of the more thoughtful professors when it comes to race relations. So let’s not tar him with that particular brush.

What he appears to be, however, is an elitist. When the cop came to his door, his first instinct was not gratitude, and it was not to simply cooperate with a civil servant trying to do his job. His first instinct was to fly into a rage over the fact that some mere worker drone would dare to question who he was. His next instinct, according to the police report, was to pick up the phone and call the police department and demand to speak to the chief of police. He kept repeating, “Do you know who I AM?”

If you want an example of this kind of behavior, don’t look to Al Sharpton – look to some pampered Hollywood starlet throwing a fit in a restaraunt because the chef won’t make her special dish of Albanian Gaspacho with a Venezuelan tree bark garnish.

This is the last guy who should be a spokesman for the tribulations of the black community. He’s just another rich guy with an inflated sense of self-importance, trading on race to get his own way in the heat of a temper tantrum.

As for those of you who think this is some gross violation of civil liberties – I’m a libertarian as well, but I recognize the need for cops, and that cops need to be allowed to maintain a zone of calm and reasonable behavior around them. They have a license to use force, and therefore it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure that their dealings with the public are calm and rational. Letting the public scream and rant at you can result in other people joining in. Riots can start this way. Then people really do get hurt.

In addition, a cop in a strange and potentially dangerous situation needs to stay on his toes. Having someone rant and scream at you is distracting. Yet another reason why everyone needs to stay cool and calm while police officers are doing their thing.

I’d be right with you in condemning the police if he had violated procedures, or tackled Gates and pinned him to the ground, or hit him with his nightstick in retaliation, or lost his cool and screamed back, or engaged in any other abusive behaviors that cops sometimes engage in. Or even if he had immediately arrested him at any sign of anger, as some cops will do. But that’s not the case here. If you read the police report (much of it written about events in the presence of multiple witnesses), it’s clear that the cop did not escalate the situation, and that he remained calm throughout and repeatedly asked Gates to cool off. Eventually, events became public, people were gathering, and a huge scene was developing, so the cop used his judgement and decided the line had been crossed and that he’d have to arrest Gates and shut the whole scene down.

This was not a cop beating some poor speeding suspect because the guy lipped off or swore at him. This was a cop in a bad situation with an out of control, enraged citizen, doing the best he could to defuse things.

40 Seriously Disappointed July 24, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Dan H.

Thanks for bringing some substantive points to bear on the issue. I agree that police have a proper role to fulfill, a role that obliges them to make tough calls to secure their safety, as well as the safety of those around them. It is the timeline that brings the reasonableness of the arrest in to question. Gates had already established his identity, and lawful residence, so why, aside from personal umbrage, would the officer pursue the matter further? The stated reason was so that he may reply to other personnel, but he needn’t have brought the conflict out into the street. I know it is easy to second-guess when you are not the one making, and living with, the calls, but I think there is room for reasonable disagreement. These substantive disagreements are pretty well hashed-out over here, without as much ugly racial innuendo and fixation on Gates’ vocation. In any case, I generally regard MR as a good place to read the viewpoint of intelligent, principled conservatives and libertarians, thus the disappointment at some of the comments here. Tyler certainly called it.

41 mulp July 24, 2009 at 4:33 pm

One additional point from the gawker, Mass law
Chapter 41: Section 98D. Identification cards

Section 98D. Each city or town shall issue to every full time police officer employed by it an identification card bearing his photograph and the municipal seal. Such card shall be carried on the officer’s person, and shall be exhibited upon lawful request for purposes of identification.

According to Sgt Crowley’s own statement, he did not show his ID carrying his photo and official seal as required by law.

42 Seriously Disappointed July 24, 2009 at 11:51 pm

anon,

Where did you get that information?

43 indiana jim July 25, 2009 at 12:10 am

We now have the specter of Obama trying to sweep this event under the rug, instead of admitting his rash rush to judgment, by telephoning the cop today and inviting the cop and Gates to the White House for a beer. Does this pass the smell test??

Give me a break! Obama opened pandora’s box with HIS blatant inuendo of racism, without even, by his own admission, knowing the facts. The problem with pandora’s box is that it is what it is. Is there a thinking American who does not doubt the integrity of our president?

This “awh shucks” routine of Obama’s reminds me of Eddy Haskel, the character in the “Leave it to Beaver” show who thought he could ingratiate his way out of any personal responsibilities. I think there are still a lot of Americans like the June Cleaver character who see right through con artist sophistry. In my mind this ranks right up there with “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinski.”

Eddy, Bill, and Barak have something in common: they audaciously ask for the benifit of the doubt in cirsumstances where it is clearly not merited.

44 Punditus Maximus July 25, 2009 at 5:14 am

I feel like Gates was taking advantage of his privilege to highlight something that those of us without his privilege don’t get to have. That’s actually kinda laudable.

Anyways, Obama’s gonna come out smelling like a rose. That decision to offer a meeting with Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley is old-timey “the king is resolving disputes” kind of brilliant. It takes the entire media narrative of Obama taking sides (as well as the idea of sides) and shatters it.

To put it another way, Roger Ailes cried tears of real hate when he learned of it.

45 indiana jim July 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

emma,

Of course I don’t use the example about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the most recent war there. This was a matter discussed and debated by people who had access to the best information our intelligence services (and those we are linked with elsewhere in the world) had at the time. There was a consensus view in the Congress of the United States that the risks were high of exactly that.

The assessment of Obama is just beginning; Bush and Cheney were in office for 8 years, Obama has been in office for what, 7 months? Do the math, this means that there are 13.71 times as many months of data on Bush and Cheney. And if you want to bring in Cheney, it is only fair to bring in Joe (foot in mouth) Biden. Strange how YOU biased YOUR case for fairness by way of this obvious omission.

:>)

Bill Clinton probably DOES remain more popular than Bush, so what? I’m less popular with my students than some of my colleagues that regularly cut classes short, cancel classes, and give pizza and cookie parties for their students. Again, so what? I don’t think that popularity determines virtue, do you? If so, we must agree to disagree.

46 Greg July 26, 2009 at 4:14 am

The rule t0 be learned here is that every one of us, no matter how famous, is required to lick the ass of every cop who lives, no matter how evil and corrupt. If you do not lick his ass, you will spend the night (at least) in a fetid jail.

47 nyongesa July 26, 2009 at 10:49 am

Constant writes: What really happened was that the story ended happily for Gates. What really happened was that Gates knew from the very start that it would, because Gates knew that he was elite, he knew that he could safely be extremely rude to a cop that the rest of us would be intimidated by. He knew he could do it, and he was right. I could never do that. I envy Gates slightly. Not very much. But I don’t feel sorry for him, since he won.

Clearly he has not won, constant, because your take on it is the opinion of the majority, that getting oneself arrested and humiliated by the police in order to highlight your victimhood, is a successful outcome for a high status African American. IF you read through the comments, you see this theme echoed several times, that this was a calculated, cynical and self serving. Which tells as much about what you think of him and his ilk, as anything else. Steve Sailor gives a couple of decent paragraphs on the escalating sequence of events, emotions and extraneous factors such as fatigue, that led to the moment of Zen, when he blurts out the R word, the only thing left in his mind once intellect has been shoved aside by rising anger, his “high Status” no protection against authority.
But your take is much preferred by the majority, because they instinctively don’t like him. They don’t like people defying authority, and elite black people defying authority hits a particularly raw nerve.

The African American experience with authority begins in the 17th century and up to several decades ago, it was the mechanism for their subjugation. Historically their bodies, physically, mentally, and even sexually were violated at will by authority figures. African Americans for hundreds of years have been dragged from their homes and assaulted without consequence. For modern Americans, this is ancient history, with no resemblance to the culturally diverse, integrated and immigrant absorbing modern America. To African Americans, this past history is alive, passed on in stories and lore, related constantly to current experiences. The psychic trauma lingers, and manifests itself in a reflexive defensive crouch, we all know and dislike. I can see how frustrations exist within the majority, at this stance. There is no more than a handful of countries in the world with a police force that would even tolerate the concept of training on racial profiling, or more relevantly, tribal profiling.

As an outsider, I am more than fascinated by the extent to which their is little compassion for gates, or even much of an attempt to relate to his perspective. As Tyler pointed out at the beginning, discussions on race here rarely have the same nuanced well thought out debate’s you see on other subjects. Like a family squabble, all this stuff runs to deep.

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