Another Perspective

Presumption of Eminence

Restoring Cambridge to its rightful place.

By 7.27.09

I could tell Uncle Pundit was on one of his "make things right again" kicks.

"Doesn't have to be everywhere," he was saying. "Not in rough neighborhoods, Southeast D.C. for example. But in University towns like Princeton and Cambridge. Police department there otta drill into their cops ('scuse me, 'Police Officers') the concept of Presumption of Eminence. That is, every guy they accost, in the street, on campus, or in a bar, can be assumed to be a somebody. That way, the President ignores that last question at his news conference and walks back up the red carpet to brood some more about health care."

But this sergeant guy, Crowley, insists the Gates guy was being combative, and that he warned him he was risking arrest.

"Too late. By that time Crowley had the cuffs out. A Presumption of Eminence cop, officer that is, establishes his inferiority right at the outset. In this case, it's a cheery hello, like "Greetings Gates! What percolates?"

You're kidding.

"Not at all. That gets the relationship off to a cheery start. Crowley should take it further, and offer to show the professor his own credentials, cop cards, maybe a photo of his kids from his wallet.

And, in the case of an African-American, he should have a serious question to ask, something about a Supreme Court case back there when the civil rights issue was just getting straightened out.

But what if the guy insisted on being obstreperous?

"Then the officer apologizes, salutes, says he is going to the store and is there anything he could fetch?"

And you figure that makes everything right again?

"Yep. Crowley doesn't have to attend any departmental hearings. Gates can percolate another urn of coffee, and Obama can keep walking back down that red carpet."

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.