Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

Beer Party at the White House


Let me see a show of hands:  How many of you are sick of hearing or reading about the Gates/Crowley/Obama situation out in Cambridge Massachusetts? 

Yep.  That’s just about everybody.

I’ll put both of mine back down so I can start typing again.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a prominent Harvard professor came home from vacation and was arrested when he became belligerent with police who had been called by a neighbor thinking the professor was breaking in to his own home.  Nasty accusations were slung the cop’s way by the professor, and even President Obama got in on the fray, saying the Cambridge police department “acted stupidly.”

A few days after the President removed his foot from his mouth, he called both the cop, Sgt. Jim Crowley, and the professor, Henry Gates Jr., to try and smooth over the situation.  Somehow, Crowley and Gates got invited over to the Prez’ place for a beer.  

I’d be willing to guess that well over a million words have been typed and published regarding what appears to be two very stubborn people going head to head and somehow, getting the most powerful man on Earth involved in their squabble.

Professor Gates, according to the police reports, did not cooperate with Sgt. Crowley when the latter came to investigate a possible break in at the former’s home.  Gates started accusing Crowley of being a racist during the exchange and that seems to be where all the fireworks got started.

If Gates had been a white man and refused to either identify himself or step outside like Crowley asked, he would have been arrested for disorderly conduct, and we’d probably have never heard about it.  Had Crowley been a black man and the same scenario had played out, it wouldn’t have warranted backpage coverage in the Cambridge newspaper.

I’d even go as far to say that if Gates had been white and Crowley black, there wouldn’t even have been a back page mention of it. 

I tried to put myself in the position of those involved.  First, if I had just arrived home and a cop showed up to investigate a possible break in, I might feel a little inconvenienced, especially if it’d been a rough trip home, but ultimately, I’d have been thankful for several things.  I’d have been appreciative of my neighbors for looking after my place well enough, and thinking enough of me that they called the cops.  I’d have also been thankful that the police responded in such a quick manner to protect my property.

If I’d been in Professor Gates’ position, I might have bitched a little about the inconvenience, but I would have produced some sort of ID that showed I lived there and been done with it.  The situation would have been over in less than two minutes. 

If I’d been the cop, the situation would have probably escalated a lot quicker.  Usually it’s those who are hiding something that rebel at the idea of showing ID.  This would have made me suspicious and I would probably have had Professor Gates in handcuffs long before Crowley did, whether my perp was spouting off accusations of racial profiling or whatever.

After reading the police report (and granted, it’s told from the arresting officer’s point of view), I think that Professor Gates saw an opportunity use his race to his advantage.  He had to know (as a matter of fact, he told Crowley several times that he didn’t know who he was messing with and that he hadn’t heard the last of it) that being a prominent black professor at a major university like Harvard would create some waves if he were arrested.

If I’d been in Professor Gates’ shoes, I’m not sure I would have let that opportunity slide by either.  The problem is that it’s starting to look more and more like Gates saw the opportunity as a chance to advance his own cause.

As the story comes out more and more, it’s pretty obvious that Gates played the race card, and probably dealt it from the bottom of the deck.  In the 911 call that was released by the Cambridge Police on 7/27/2009, not once does the caller refer to the two men at the Gates home as “black.”  She does say that one of them appeared to be “Hispanic.”  Gates has been busy, telling anyone who will listen (especially if there’s a microphone in their hand) that the reason he was singled out was because of racial profiling. 

From what has come out so far, the only person who has mentioned “black men” is Professor Gates himself. 

The result was a simple investigation getting way out of hand.  A few days after the arrest, even President Obama, who didn’t have all the facts at the time, opined that the Cambridge Police “acted stupidly.”  After police unions started to back Crowley for a “good arrest,” and Obama started to get a clearer picture of what happened, he backed off and made apologies (at least what would pass as a political apology).

He even went as far as to telephone both Crowley and Gates.  Somehow, Crowley worked it into the conversation that he’d welcome the chance to sit down with the President and Gates, at the White House, no less, and have a beer with them.

I don’t drink, but I sure as heck wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a beer with the Prez (surely the Presidential Fridge stocks Pepsi or Coke as well as beer).  I might even slip in a card trick or two while I was there, making sure some photographer got a good shot of me and the President with his jaw dropping (you bet I’d be advancing my own cause!).

This should cause the Republicans to have a field day.  You can bet your bottom dollar that someone along the line will accuse Obama of “drinking on the job.”  There will be another group that decry the use of taxes to purchase alcohol for this type of function. 

In the end, it all comes down to a little, insignificant event getting blown way out of proportion.   Sgt. Crowley gets his 15 minutes of fame (whether he wanted it or not), Professor Gates gets his 15 minutes of fame (I doubt if anyone outside of academic circles would ever have heard of him if this hadn’t happened), and President Obama gives the talk show hosts something to complain and nitpick about until the next event.

Here’s hoping that the little beerfest doesn’t get blown out of proportion too.  Cheers!