Mr. Obama’s response was his most animated performance of the hourlong news conference, and represented an extraordinary plunge by a president into a local law-enforcement dispute. And it opened a window into a world from which Mr. Obama is now largely shielded, suggesting the incident had struck a raw nerve with the president.
From the transcript:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I -- I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.
I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house; there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place.
So far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now, so -- (laughter) -- it probably wouldn't happen.
(Chuckling.) But let's say my old house in Chicago -- (laughter) -- here I'd get shot. (Laughter.) But so far, so good. They're -- they're -- they're reporting. The police are doing what they should. There's a call. They go investigate. What happens?
My understanding is, at that point, Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I'm sure there's some exchange of words. But my understanding is -- is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped.
Now, I've -- I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.
Q. How does Obama know so much about the stupidity of the Cambridge Police Department?
A. Our President personally waged a gallant 17-year-long war against the Cambridge Police Department's oppression, before finally being forced to bend his knee to their tyranny and ante up the $375 he owed them for unpaid parking tickets from his years at Harvard Law School.
"The safer everybody's going to be" -- riiiiight.
And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately. That's just a fact.
As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society.
That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us.And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently, and oftentime for no cause, casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody's going to be.
It's kind of funny how Obama's formerly fairly plain-spoken Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, was instructed by Obama's minions to stonewall the U.S. Senate at her hearings, but the President feels compelled to interject himself, disingenuously, into a police blotter matter.