President Barack Obama sparked a whirlwind of reaction with his off-the-cuff claim that the Cambridge, Mass., police acted "stupidly" when they arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. One congressman Republican House Policy Committee Chairman Thad McCotter went so far as to introduce a House resolution demanding that Obama apologize. It was inspired by Obama's reiteration on Friday that the officer had done something wrong, McCotter says.
As of Tuesday, only three members had signed on: Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Steve King (R-Iowa and no relation) and John Carter (R-Texas).
But McCotter isn't concerned with numbers: It's about the principle, he says.
"I view this as an incident involving a police officer, a citizen and the citizen's friend, who also happens to be the most powerful person in the world," said McCotter, who thinks of himself a working-class Irishman. "We cannot allow the precedent to be set that, in a situation involving a friend, a president publicly admits bias and a lack of facts and, nevertheless, prejudges a police officer or any citizen's conduct as inappropriate."
Peter King, a self-described "blue-collar conservative" whose father was a cop for 30 years, explained why he signed on.
"I wouldn't have gotten involved if the president hadn't used the word stupidly.' I know the pressure cops are under. Whatever Sgt. [James] Crowley did here, it was well-intentioned, and he conducted himself as a gentleman throughout," said King. "If race was injected, it was injected by the Harvard professor. I don't see it as a racial issue. The underlying issue here is the arrogance of the Harvard professor toward a working cop. It's the academic elites who look down on firefighters, cops and the military. It's a class issue, not a race issue."
McCotter's phones have been busy. "I should have warned some of the younger members of my staff what they'd be encountering," he said. "The response from some of [Obama's] more ardent supporters is a little indecipherable, but the profanity makes the point."