Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dept of Prewritten Op-eds

I don't understand how Gates's actions in being an asshole and Crowley's in arresting him for it can reasonably be considered morally equivalent, and how Obama can be said to have erred in calling the arrest stupid. Crowley was, after all, an officer on duty, with enormous discretionary powers; he arrested Gates for public disorderly conduct, because Gates yelled at him before a public that consisted mostly of other cops (I find it quite plausible that he lured him out of the house precisely so that he could arrest him, according to the common practice, but never mind that for now); and the charges were immediately dropped at the station. These are clearly not all the facts of the case: a complete account of the facts would include the fact that Lucia Whalen, who is olive-skinned, called the cops because a mysterious "older woman" (age? sex? location?) asked her to, and would require a resolution of (1) whether Gates told Crowley he'd speak to his mama outside, and (2) whether Whalen -- or the older woman -- told Crowley upon his arrival that Gates was black. We still don't know all the facts, but we know more than we used to. And obviously, this "new shit coming to light" has utterly changed the (olive-skinned? btw, why not cardboard-skinned? It seems closer to reality) complexion of the case.

Or not. Still, I find the editorializing about this extremely irritating. There's a weak case, pace Bob Herbert, that Crowley arrested Gates because he was black; that Gates was being an asshole seems closer to the point. Sally Quinn, an obnoxious "centrist" who does the WaPo religion blog, says the "dirty truth" about Gates is that he's, um, not a very nice guy; so what? Frank Rich exasperatingly declares that the Gates arrest, just like the Obama election, the Sotomayor nomination, and the Kerchief implication, shows that whites will soon be a minority in America and are unhappy about the proliferation of black lesbian mayors. Thomas Frank says -- correctly -- that Gatesgate is a distraction from the health care debate, and -- absurdly -- that the Democrats should distance themselves from elites because "liberal patricians are forever astonished to discover that the professions and institutions and attitudes that they revere are seen by others as arrogance and affectation." It's the-matter-with-Kansas over again: why can't we bury our (enormous) differences on issues that are not healthcare and pretend to be like ignorant racist rubes so that we can get healthcare, etc. But it's precisely this attitude that has led the Democrats to get increasingly tough on crime in order to appeal to "working-class whites," and has produced a situation in which no one but newspaper columnists and Jim Webb dare to talk about prisoners' rights. And it isn't like we've got much to show for it.

Surprisingly, though, MoDo wrote a pretty good column about Gatesgate.

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