Bob Franken


So what have we learned from all this “Acted Stupidly” stupidity, which I am hereinafter calling “StupidGate” What we have learned is that even smart people can Act and TALK “stupidly.

President Obama reverted to smart form at the end of a week where , he used the “S word” to describe the actions of Sgt James Crowley, of the Cambridge, Massachusetts PD. The President who obviously takes great pride in his cool, lost his Wednesday night when he said what he did about the arrest and criminal charge against his friend from Harvard Square, Professor Henry Louis Gates.

The moment he pulled his foot out of his mouth Friday, President Obama called to schmooze with Crowley. Since blurting out the insult at his prime time news conference, the President has since found out that Crowley is highly respected for his racial sensitivity, so much so that he teaches other law enforcement officers about the evils of profiling and how to avoid insidious stereotyping.

Then he made an impromptu appearance at the regular White House briefing to admit the obvious: “This has been racheting up and I obviously helped to contribute racheting up. “I think that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically, And I could have calibrated those words differently”

Ya think? It was a well-advised effort to cut the Chief Executive’s losses. It was also a definite improvement over his press guy Robert Gibbs’ earlier comment that this controversy was all a result of the media’s “obsession”. Did he think that one up all by himself, or did someone put him out to say that? If so, who? They were celebrating at Republican headquarters.

Realizing that response wasn’t going to cut it, the president decided it was time to eat some crow. There’s plenty more to go around.

Crowley, for instance, let something get out of hand. If there’s a cops’ handbook, it tells them they’re not supposed to let that happen.

Professor Gates, a certified smart man himself, should know that once you start yelling obscenities at the police, particularly the oedipal one, you WILL be charged with Disorderly Conduct, no matter how justified you may think you are.

Stupidist of all and worst of all is the fact that as a nation we tolerate profiling and stereotyping. We just take them for granted. That is contemptible.

A disclaimer is in order here: I’m white. I’ve also spent decades as a TV correspondent. I’ve been hassled frequently by the gendarmes. To the bully cop, reporters with cameras are poison. Second only to people of color. I can do something about that. They cannot.

African-Americans are too often in danger of being arrested for “Being black” That’s the case for Hispanics, Muslims, minorities in general. It’s obnoxious that we’ve accepted it for as long as we have, particularly us pale white Americans who claim to be of good will but have decided this is not our problem. It is, of course.

Sgt. Crowley is one of those who has tried to change that. It’s good to know that in this twisted way he got the recognition he deserves. But now it’s time to put an immediate end to this despicable reality. It’s up to all of us to make damned sure such discrimination is harshly punished. Those who do not join in this effort will be guilty of tolerating Jim Crow bigotry and should be ashamed for stupidly NOT acting.

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