Obama as a student at Harvard in Cambridge, MA: He learned his Civil Rights lessons well.
Should Obama be sorry that he believed the actions of the Cambridge police were directed by racial considerations in the case of Professor Gates ? I think not. Whether they were or not, it was not an unreasonable conclusion to come to. (I recall when I was a college student and working part time at a Fotomat booth, a supervisor yelling at me because when he had driven by, I had been "talking with a black guy". The insinuation was clear: I had been doing something sleazy. This black guy was a neighbor, and a PhD candidate at New York University. We had been discussing literature. These stereotypes die hard, and racial profiling is a fact in law enforcement. )
The best part about Barack Obama , though, is he is that he is so shrewdly, so wonderfully passive-aggressive where it matters most. He knows how to "play" these things: A bit of dumb show, a little, "Oh, gee, I did not mean anything by that. . . Who, me? No, you misunderstood; oh gee, maybe we can all have a beer. ". But he does not apologize. He does not back down. His stance is not defensive; it is robustly offensive. And his little display of bashful and boyish confusion is seen easily by the discerning for just what it is: A mask, behind which his real and considerable righteousness plays its shrewd and swift role.
Yes, we all know that African-Americans should not be "grievance collectors", any more than should women or gays. But subtle bigotry and chauvinism - and I have encountered it myself, many a time, and the more subtle, the more insidious - is widespread: Its roots are deep, and its weeds may still rise to choke the harvest with any slight alteration in political or economic circumstances. Vigilance is not foolish. And I do not agree with those that say Gates and Obama "made the wrong call". I think President Obama, with his usual sharpness and panache, knew just what he was doing and saying, and why. But then, he always gets it exactly right, all the way.