07/23/09 — Inappropriate: President's comments did not belong in health care speech to nation

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Inappropriate: President's comments did not belong in health care speech to nation

There is nothing wrong with President Barack Obama having an opinion. He did not give up that right when he took on the office of president of the United States.

But his decision last night to speak on an incident involving a friend of his in Cambridge, Mass., was not only poor judgment, but patently inappropriate.

The comment came at the end of what had been a lackluster discussion of the proposed health care reform plan.

The president mentioned the case of Henry Louis Gates Jr. -- a Harvard professor who was arrested on disorderly conduct after police responded to a 911 call that someone was trying to break into a house -- which Gates was doing since he could not get in.

The president is entitled to his opinion on the incident -- and should have felt free to make those comments in another forum.

But to do so when you have commanded primetime television time to discuss a national issue like health care -- and to make statements without giving the other side the chance to speak -- is inappropriate at best.

The Cambridge police officer denies he did anything wrong, and President Obama has heard one side of this story. He had no right to comment, not in a public forum as the president. Not in this case.

This was not some horrible incident that demanded the attention of the nation for which the president needed to step in and calm fears and to push for a resolution. This was a Harvard buddy who challenged a decision made by a police officer.

There was no great racial incident -- and to turn it into one is disproportionate -- and wrong. If the president wants to talk about race and crime or racial profiling, there are better and fairer ways to do it.

The president misused his power Wednesday night -- and that is a fact.

Published in Editorials on July 23, 2009 11:00 AM