The White House was hoping that the president’s impromptu address of the Skip Gates saga on Friday would effectively sweep the issue under the rug. They didn’t get their wish.
The first eight questions for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during his sit-down with Fox News Sunday centered on Gates’ arrests and the comments Barack Obama had made earlier in the week, when he said the Cambridge Police Department had acted stupidly.
Had Gibbs prepared Obama “for a question about Henry Gates’ arrest” before that Wednesday night presser, fill-in host Bret Baier wanted to know?
“Did he read the police report beforehand?” he asked as a follow-up.
“Did he determine that he was going to take sides to back his friend to the extent that he did Wednesday night?”
Has he scheduled a time to get a beer with Gates and the arresting officer (which Obama had suggested might happen)?
Does the president still think this was a case of racial profiling?
Did he – Robert Gibbs – suggest during Friday’s daily briefing that the Fraternal Order of Police was acting politically when he noted that the group had endorsed John McCain in the 2008 election?
Why bring up the endorsement at all, Baier asked, when Gibbs noted he was just responding to a question of who the Fraternal Order of Police had backed in the election.
And, finally, had the president been compelled to address the Gates issue on Friday because of the news conference held earlier in the day by the Cambridge police officers, in which those officers demanded a presidential apology?
Now, to be certain, Fox News is not the friendliest forum for this administration. And like countless other news outlets, they have been drawn to the racial and political dynamics of the president’s involvement in and commentary on the Gates issue. But the White House likely envisioned the Gibbs interview to center on the health care debate. And having that topic come up only as the tenth question of a 15-minute interview (a stimulus question was number nine) can’t be what the administration was hoping for. Fortunately for the president, it seems unlikely that the Gates story remains Topic A for discussion past this round of Sunday news programs.