The President made a surprise appearance at today’s White House Press briefing to address the uproar over his comments about the arrest of Skip Gates at Wednesday’s press conference. The President described a phone call he’d had with the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley. They apparently spoke for awhile, and the President even suggested that he, Crowley, and Gates might get together at the White House for a beer. What he didn’t say would become the topic of most of the rest of the briefing.
The President stopped short of saying that he had apologized to Crowley, and did not stay to answer questions. In the ensuing briefing with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the assembled press attempted to nail down that fact, without success.
For my part, I asked Gibbs if the President had expressed disappointment at the fact that all of the outrage centered on his word choice, and not on the circumstances of Gates’ arrest. He referred me back to the President’s remarks.
It is remarkable that this comment has created such a firestorm that the President felt compelled to address it in this way. I am a little bit surprised, however, that he didn’t stick around to take some questions. While the President walked his statement back a little, he mostly stuck to his guns, saying both parties could have done better. Left unsaid by the President was the fact that only one of those parties was specially trained to do better.
Will this story die here? Perhaps in the mainstream media, after a weekend of talking-heads chatter. Either way, an opportunity was missed to discuss the dynamic between black people and the police. Instead, we get to focus on the words “stupidly” and “apology,” and parse the political effects.