Bill Bennett and Alex Castellanos Defend the Gates Arrest
While watching this week's State of the Union with John King, I've got to tell you, I wondered what planet CNN's Bill Bennett and Alex Castellanos are living on. Bennett thinks arresting someone "cool(s) down" a situation. And Castellanos says if the police don't have our respect, all they have left is their gun. So Alex, deadly force is now alright if someone isn't respectful to a police officer, and in their own home to boot?
It's always amazing to hear these people who believe that the public should be heavily armed and able to shoot anyone who comes near their property now staunchly defend the right of the police to arrest you for having the nerve to smart off to them, in your own home. Sorry guys, but being stupid still isn't a crime in this country. It wasn't smart for Gates to mouth off to the officer, but it wasn't illegal either.
KING: Bill, you have been waiting patiently. Go ahead.
BENNETT: Yes, John, look, there was no racial profiling here, OK? They were called to this house. They went into the house because of a reported break in. But if you want to talk about the relationship between police and community, then I hope Professor Gates has -- examines his conscience, because the abusive and bigoted things that were said in this case, were said by Professor Gates to this police officer.
When you say, do you know who you're messing with, this is not the cry of a victim. When you say, go outside and see your mama, if the police officer had said something like that to Gates, the police officer would be hanging by his toes.
That kind of arrogant, class-based superiority is what needs to be examined here as well.
BENNETT: And they backed off -- the White House backed off completely on this because they were getting shelled. The opinion polls were coming in and they knew that they were on the wrong side of this.
CASTELLANOS: And wouldn't it have been better, John, if the president said first what he said second, which is, let's all have a beer together? Wouldn't it have been better if the president of the United States had said, you know, maybe there's a silver lining in this and that is that we may have come to the great day where someone can be arrested for being a jerk regardless of your race.
Maybe that's where we are. Now, maybe whether he should have or shouldn't have been...
Alex Castellanos takes the argument even a step further, and adds this:
MORIAL: We don't arrest people...
CASTELLANOS: Well, you know what, that's a fair debate. Maybe the police overreached. Maybe they didn't. But what if it wasn't racial? And why did we respond that way first?
BEGALA: But maybe this -- in addition to class is a regional element here. Apparently Sergeant Crowley has...
BENNETT: But we know that Gates overreached.
BEGALA: Apparently -- I don't think so at all. Let me tell you something, I don't think so at all. Mr. Gates is a citizen. Sergeant Crowley is a cop, he has a gun. He's responsible to keep himself under control in a way, frankly, ordinary citizens are not. He has a higher duty, Sergeant Crowley.
BENNETT: He was under control.
BEGALA: But what's interesting, he...
BENNETT: He was under control.
BEGALA: He had no business of arresting the man. That's why they dropped the charges immediately. There was no case -- there was no criminal case...
BEGALA: ... against Dr. Gates. But what I find interesting is this, it's a little human interest.
BENNETT: That's a separate decision.
BEGALA: Sergeant Crowley, when the president called him and invited him in for a beer...
BENNETT: You often arrest to cool down the situation.
BEGALA: I don't think arrest...
MORIAL: No, Bill, that's not why you arrest...
BEGALA: Arresting someone isn't cool...
BENNETT: You often arrest to get control of the situation.
MORIAL: That is a per se illegal arrest to cut -- to arrest someone...
MORIAL: ... to cool down the situation.
BEGALA: You arrest someone only because there is probable cause...
MORIAL: You arrest somebody...
BEGALA: ... that he committed a crime.
BEGALA: Excuse me for being a lawyer here, but you don't arrest someone to calm them down.
CASTELLANOS: It's the most powerful weapon the police have to show authority. It's the respect we have for authority.
BENNETT: The black officer...
KING: Yes, quickly, then I'm going to take this one back over. Here we go.
BEGALA: Officer Crowley asked the president, when the president said, will you come in for a beer, what kind of beer do you drink? Sergeant Crowley said, Blue Moon. Now maybe that's a Cambridge thing. That's a hand-crafted, very elite beer. That's not a Houston cop. We would be drinking Shiner Bock back home in Houston. But so there is sort of a Cambridge -- is that what they drink up there?
CASTELLANOS: But sometimes you have to because the most powerful weapon that the police have to protect us is not a gun, it's our respect for their authority. And when that -- when we undermine them, when we throw that away, all they have left is force and the gun. And we don't -- none of us want to abuse that.
That's why it's important to respect that authority and that's why sometimes police have to take action and arrest people..
Bennett then goes on with an attempt to liken this incidence to a domestic violence call, or a call in a high crime neighborhood. Yeah, this was just like that Bill. No difference what so ever even though it was an older college professor who walks with a cane, who already showed the officer that he lived in the home before he arrested him.
KING: Hold on, Marc. Hold on, hold on. I'll let you back in, Marc. I want to give Bill a chance.
BENNETT: Yes, John, a thin blue line here. Paul was impugning me -- my reputation earlier by saying I taught at Harvard. He's right. I did teach at Harvard.
BENNETT: But I also worked with the police department, have been in law enforcement. I've been on both sides of this. The officer had not concluded yet that there was no crime. Remember how police procedures in these situations. Guys often -- a report of a break-in in the house, sometimes it's an estranged husband in a domestic dispute, the most dangerous kind of situation a policeman can encounter. There was report of two men, he only saw one. He was trying to ascertain what was going on and you always in that situation ask the person to step outside. At that, Gates went nuts and said, you don't know who you're messing with, et cetera.
You've got to give a lot of credence here to the police. You've got to give them latitude if they are to protect us. And particularly given the state of crime in the black community, you do not want cops saying, I'm not going to get into that because you know I'm just going to be accused of racism. This is the real issue.