If you are going to "rue" the use of certain words in the English language, as President Obama now says he "rues" the use of the word "stupidly" when he was talking about the Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Department, you might also rue the use of the word "calibrate" when speaking of that incident.
To recap, Cambridge police were dispatched to a home near Harvard University last week, after receiving a complaint that two men were breaking into it. But the police became embroiled in a nationwide controversy when the resident, who was breaking into his own house, called police Sgt. James Crowley a racist and went on a public rant.
Crowley eventually arrested Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. The professor is black, and the police sergeant is white.
The news media opted to not report that other police on the scene included a black man and an Hispanic man. Why screw up a good story with some pertinent facts?
The police report says that Sgt. Crowley was the first officer on the scene, and he was told by a witness on the sidewalk that she had seen two men trying to force open the door of the residence. Crowley looked through a window into the entrance foyer where he saw a man, whom he then asked for identification.
The man was Professor Gates who immediately accused Crowley of questioning him because he is black. Then, according to police, Gates also screamed "You don't know who you're messing with!"
(I thought Harvard professors knew better than to end a sentence with a preposition! You would expect a highly educated, noted professor, obviously a first-tier spokesman and the public face of the university itself to say "You don't know with whom you are messing!")
Crowley eventually convinced Gates to show him his Harvard University identity card and called headquarters to ask that university police also respond. According to the incident report, Crowley asked Gates to accompany him outside to the porch because Gates was so loud that Crowley couldn't hear the dispatcher on his radio.
Outside there were additional Cambridge police, university police and several passersby. Gates continued to scream "This is what happens to a black man in America," at the police, until he finally was arrested for disorderly conduct.
After the incident hit the news, Obama, who shouldn't have commented on it at all, but just so happens to be a friend of Henry Gates, admitted that he did not know all the facts of the case, but nonetheless said the Cambridge police "acted stupidly."
He also made some additional comments about the state of race relations in America, essentially supporting what Gates was screaming at Crowley - "This is what happens to a black man in America" - adding that Hispanics in America also are treated badly by the police.
Apparently virtually all police in America are white racists.
The news media seems to have lost the clip of Obama's additional comments, but I would like to point out that if the local police were called to my home on a report of a burglary in progress, and I acted the way Henry Gates acted, their response also could be classified as "This is what happens to a white man in America."
But it was the "acted stupidly" comment that caused an uproar of Biblical proportions throughout the country, especially among police of all races, colors, creeds and nationalities.
Massachusetts law enforcement officials said Friday that they deeply resent the suggestion that race played a role in the arrest, and asked Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick to apologize for comments union leaders called insulting.
Patrick, who also is buddies with Gates, called the arrest "every black man's nightmare."
Nonetheless, Cambridge police Sgt. Leon Lashley, who is black, and was at the home with Crowley during the incident said, "I know what (Crowley) did and I support what he did 100 percent." Kind of hard to get around that little tidbit, isn't it.
However, The Chosen One, who can not admit to making a mistake because it wouldn't fit his image of infallibility, said instead, "In my choice of words, I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. Crowley specifically, and I could have calibrated those words differently."
"Gave the impression?" No, he didn't give the impression. He maligned both the police department and the officer. Period.
And Calibrated? What does he mean by Calibrated?
To calibrate something - and I say this as a one-time highly trained Avionics technician, with a degree in Electrical Engineering, who calibrated many, many instruments and electronic systems over the years - you can only calibrate something that is variable.
By that I mean, if you have an instrument that gives you a wide range of readings, say a speedometer that goes from zero to 100, you have to make sure it is reading zero when the vehicle is standing still, and you should really be doing 100 when it says 100. It also must give accurate readings at every point in between.
So, using a series of known factors, such as input test voltages that give a known result - a specific miles per hour reading - you can adjust or "calibrate" the instrument or system to ensure it is giving a proper readout, indication or function.
Exactly how does that fit in with the President of the United States saying Cambridge, Massachusetts police acted "stupidly?"
From the Merriam Webster online dictionary:
Etymology:Middle French stupide, from Latin stupidus, to be numb, be astonished
1 a: slow of mind : obtuse b: given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
You can't calibrate the word stupid. You may not necessarily be smart, but if someone says you are stupid, everyone knows exactly what it means. The only permissible degrees of variation come when comparing one stupid person to another stupid person. They are still stupid, and that is just plain dumb.
When the president said he should have "calibrated" his words differently, he also remarked that, "I have to say I'm surprised at the controversy," but never actually apologized.
Other people weren't all that surprised that Obama inflamed this controversy, and many have noted that he has neither apologized for his comments, nor calmed things down.
For instance, journalist Brit Hume, on Fox News Sunday said, "This president who travels the world apologizing for his country couldn't bring himself to apologize. ... I don't think he got the job done."
Well said, Brit, neither do I.
On the same show, editor, columnist and commentator Bill Kristol said Obama did what he did, and said what he said, because "He (Obama) is an arrogant man. He can't bring himself to say he said something stupid."
And consider this commentary from Juan Williams, also on Fox News Sunday. Williams noted that while 70 percent of black Americans think the police were wrong and Obama was right, (a troubling figure, regardless of this issue) conversely that means that nearly one third of black Americans think the president acted inappropriately.
This is significant because polls after the election said that something in the neighborhood of 95 percent of black voters voted for Obama. That means he is losing major support within his core constituency - at least on this issue - even as his popularity and job approval numbers across other demographics are dropping like rocks.
We have to ask ourselves just what it means that a man who is trying to ram through a grossly expensive, horribly mangled "universal health care" plan that by its nature would put senior citizens on the short list for the obituary pages, inflames an already volatile situation, and then complains that no one is paying attention to his programs.
Many people of all races are seeing Obama's commentary as racist in itself, and now have him solidly in the Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, Henry Gates camp that makes a lucrative business of perpetrating racial hostilities in America.
And throwing around an invitation to have a beer, even though Crowley reportedly made the offer first, isn't going to change many minds.
There may be some good news out of this incident though. As previously noted, Gates repeatedly told the police "You don't know who you're messing with."
That obviously has changed. Now, the majority of people in America know exactly who Gates is, and with whom the Cambridge police were "messing."
Unfortunately for Gates, Obama, and Harvard University, most of us are not impressed.
Monday, July 27, 2009