by Max Brantley
Belatedly, President Obama says he could have "calibrated" his words better and not said police acted "stupidly" in arresting Henry Louis Gates, the black Harvard professor and writer.
I think his calibration today is about right. He doesn't back off the belief that the police went too far in handcuffing Gates and taking him to the police station for reacting angrily to officers in his home. But he said Gates overreacted, too.
I still think this could have been defused short of arrest. I think Gates has good reason as a black man to be suspicious of police motives. I think cops have good reason to retain suspicion in a house where two men were seen trying to force open a door, regardless of the color of the man inside. I think they should receive cooperation from people encountered on calls, but I also think cops think their badge gives them more summary power than the Constitution grants.
Obama said this could be a "teaching moment." I think I used a similar phrase when this story first broke. The lessons so far aren't too encouraging.