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Sidestepping Land Mines


Publication Date: 
July 23, 2009
Op-Ed or News Article
Bibliography: Ralph Richard Banks, Sidestepping Land Mines, Room for Debate: A Running Commentary on the News, New York Times, July 23, 2009.


President Obama’s answer to a question about the arrest of Professor Gates largely sidestepped political land mines by relying on the skills that made him such an appealing presidential candidate to a wide range of voters.

First, he deflected the question of race in the Gates incident — stating that he didn’t know “what role race played” — and cast it in universal terms to which everyone could relate. “Any of us would be pretty angry,” he said, to have a police officer roust us in our own home. And he made the sensible observation that the Cambridge police should have been able to resolve the situation without handcuffing and hauling off to jail a slight, 58-year-old professor whose only offense was to speak his mind.