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Posted by on Jul 24, 2009 in Politics | 44 comments

Obama Regrets The Stupid Comment

I sure do give him credit. That guy sees just about everything as a teachable moment! He just is not willing to let this stupid (er, did I say “stupid”?) issue get in the way of things:

President Obama said Friday that he “could have calibrated” his words more carefully in the controversy over the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white police officer, but added that there had been an “overreaction” by both sides in a case that touched off an intense discussion about race in America.

“To the extent that my choice of words didn’t illuminate, but rather contributed to more media, I think, that was unfortunate,” Mr. Obama said, making an unusual unannounced visit to the White House briefing room in an effort to ease the controversy.

Actually, I don’t see the word “regret” anyplace in the text of the NYTimes article quoted above, even as it is headlined, Obama Says He Regrets His Language on Gates Arrest. So I turned to Fox News:

President Obama stopped short of an apology to Sgt. James Crowley on Friday for saying he “acted stupidly” for arresting black Harvard scholar Henry Lewis Gates Jr. [sic, emphasis mine], but said he should have chosen his words more carefully.

At an impromptu appearance at the daily White House briefing, Obama said he spoke with Crowley over the phone, and said he wanted to share a beer with Crowley and Gates at the White House.

“Because this has been ratcheting up and I helped contribute to ratcheting it up, I want to make clear that 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.”

“My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve it the way the wanted to resolve it,” Obama added.

Yo! No regret?

White House spokesman Roberts Gibbs said early Friday that the president regrets that the media have gotten all worked up over the controversy and been distracted from other more substantive issues such as health care.

I changed my opening line away from the glib, “I wish Obama hadn’t…,” even though that was my reaction on seeing the headline. But after watching the video I am left very, very, impressed.

That’s not just because Obama is willing and able to walk out into that briefing room and apologize — even if only nearly so — it is because the full text of what he said (which I still can’t find to link to) was so simple and yet so substantial.

Obama has taken the news cycle back and, I expect, stopped the damage that otherwise would have carried through the weekend news shows.