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Cancel the "Beer Summit"

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President Barack Obama should not meet with the City of Cambridge police officer who arrested Professor Gates. The reason is that the police officer violated the law. There is conclusive proof that he falsely arrested Professor Gates ... and, importantly, Gates has the opportunity for redress. Redress will be the "teaching moment" of this affair. The Cambridge Police will learn an important lesson in humility and in the nature of police power.

For all the technology and training, police are people and they are at the nexus of trouble. They are trained to use their power symbolically and lightly, but the policeman in question, one who knew better, but found himself OUT OF CONTROL, did not use his power appropriately and a distinguished member of the Cambridge community was insulted, damaged, and humilitated in his own home because of it. Obama should stay out of this. This is not ward politics in Chicago and it is not Barack Obama's moment to teach. It is Obama's moment to shut up and let the cards fall where they may.

Gates may choose to have a beer with the policeman, but I doubt he will. He does not drink beer, it is said. Gates may choose to sue Cambridge for what it did to him. If he does, he is conducting a "teaching moment" worth a lifetime of abusive behavior to people of all colors from thoughtless (and sometimes overburdened) police everywhere.

Lawrence O'Donnell, subbing for Keith Olbermann Monday on "Countdown" put it quite plainly (Item #4). The law was indeed broken and it was the police broke it.


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese History, (more...)

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