This morning, I ran into this guy  when I was crossing the Cambridge Common.  When he tried to pick me up.  I gave him the cold shoulder, which he seemed to enjoy. Oh, well.

It was cool to come upon the whimsical snowpersons  that seemed to guide my way  along the paths covered in deep snow by yesterday’s fierce blizzard …especially after President Barack Obama’s thoughtful talk, last night, about the importance of civility, the American national family and the need  to move forward in a positive way after  the horrific shootings in Tuscon. [ Here’s a link to the speech, in case you missed it:

http://pol.moveon.org/azobamaspeech.html?id=25807-6209466-EecNh0x&t=3]

In fact, despite all the awful things going on the world–or maybe because of them–I’m finding that my neighbors–like whoever made the snowman–seem to be more considerate these days. After the last big storm, I ran into someone from the building next door (who asked me not to use his name) who was clearing snow, water and ice at a crosswalk so that people would not have to wade through deep water to reach the curb. And my downstairs neighbor, who doesn’t have a car, sometimes just shovels out other peoples’ cars for the fun (and exercise) of it.

Actually, I’ve felt that many people have been more neighborly, nicer, since 9/11…tho this group does not include certain Republicans and pundits who seem to get nastier as time goes on. I was shocked to learn that Ben Quayle, Vice President Dan Quayle’s son, who is now, unfortunately, a Congressman, actually said in a campaign ad that Barack Obama is the worst president this country has ever had..and don’t get me started on Sarah Palin’s trigger-happy “mean girl” rhetoric.  Rather than engage in namecalling and derision,  I’ll quit now –and simply  thank whomever built Mr. Snowman for your neighborliness and sense of fun. You really brightened my day!

–Anita M. Harris

This blog is called New Cambridge Observer–so I guess I should jump into the fray over last week’s arrest of  Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by Cambridge Police Sergeant  James M. Crowley.   

Gates, 58, who is black and walks with a cane,  had gotten out of a cab in front of his home on Ware St, couldn’t find his house keys and, while he and the cab driver were breaking into the house in broad daylight,  someone called the police.

To begin with,  I can’t understand why anyone would impugn the intentions of  the woman who called the police :  911 tapes reveal that she said she wasn’t sure if it was a break-in and that she doesn’t mention race.

I CAN understand why Crowley would insist that Gates  come outside after showing proof that he lived there;  it’s possible, tho unlikely, that someone inside the home was dangerous,  in trouble, or pressuring the owner, in some way.

I can also understand why Gates would be upset: no doubt the incident triggered memories of his own and others’ experiences of deep racial prejudice between white cops and black men.  I can also understand why Gates would  lash out verbally, and why his resistance would trigger the officer’s reflexive  response to an unruly citizen: handcuffs and arrest.

It’s harder for me to understand why President Obama lost his usual cool and say the officer reacted “stupidly” but I’m glad that he  backed off and invited both parties to the White House to discuss the matter over  a beer.

A friend rightly points out that, rather than just let things go each of the parties took the extra step: calling the police; demanding to come inside, pushing back, jumping into a local fray.  My friend suggests that behind all that is fear: of break-ins, of losing hard-won respect and status, of  loosing criminals into the community, of criticism–in a time of war and heightened economic stress.

All true.

But now, news commentators are questioning everyone’s motives. This morning, one of them questioned Obama’s choice of drink for today’s powwow and called  him a racist who hates whites;  another (is it politically correct to mention that her skin appeared to be dark?) that Obama is a “racial opportunist ” whose administration is corrupt, and that he used the term “stupidly” to draw attention away from his difficulties in getting health reform through Congress.

This epiode has often been called a “teachable moment.”  Might I suggest that it’s a moment that has gone on too long? We get it. It’s a moment whose time has passed.

Let me know what you think!

–Anita Harris
New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA, as is harriscomblog.wordpress.com, which focuses on issues related to media, public relations, and HarrisCom clients–such as health, science, technology and the environment.  All entries are copyrighted by Anita M. Harris, the author.

While conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said yesterday on the Today Show that  President Obama has accomplished little of worth in his first two months in office, CBS  Evening News Producer Rick Kaplan would strongly disagree.

At a seminar held on Tuesday at  Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, Kaplan said that Obama’s record  so far has been “extraordinary.”

The “first 100 days” is a construct that began with FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and can be a useful time for judging what policies are most important to a president– before Congress and  administration insiders have  a chance to “carve out turf”… and “start bickering,” Kaplan said.

In his view, Obama has used this period well.

The President  has frozen all of former President George W. Bush’s last minute  “midnight regulations,” ended the  “gag rule” prohibiting mention of abortion in organizations receiving federal funds; put  forth ethics and lobbying bills; and passed the $800B TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation, Kaplan said.

Equally impressive was  Obama’s performance at the recent G20 Summit in London.  “I’ve never seen anything like it,”  Kaplan said. At the meeting of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, “people  listened and were impressed. When he stood up, it was a proud moment for America.”

At news conferences, “he let the other guy go first. He grabbed President Sarkosi and the President of China; he huddled with them and [got] them to agree on a contentious set of…offshore policies. He makes the deal and at the end, both Sarcozy and the Chinese leader are smiling.

“In a meeting with the Russians on an arms deal, he gets a promise for a summit.  He meets with the South Koreans to talk about their concerns about [that day’s] North Korean missile launch….”

“And as he’s leaving…in an ‘organized leak,’ he said he would allow Cuban nationals to go and see their families and give them money.

“It was extraordinary to see him work the room in a respectful, aggressive, impressive. way. The leaders didn’t all agree with him, but they liked and respected him.”

“He’s had an extraordinary run in just 60 days. He never shows tension, never seems impacted one way or another or angry. He’s the ‘coolest guy in the room.”

Still, Kaplan said, not all is rosy.

For example,   the  President had known  known for weeks that bonuses were to be paid in Wall Street firms receiving bailout money, which made Obama’s  expressed “outrage” seemed hypocritical.  The press “let him off the hook a bit… It’s great to have dialogue, and the press corps is nervous about shaking up the relationship”  at a time [of economic crisis] where everyone is looking for stability.”

Asked (by me) what he foresees for the future of print media, Kaplan said that papers like the Boston Globe must survive,  and that the current “unwinding” could turn out to be healthy in the long run. It will likely lead to new models and  put an end to newspapers driven by owners who are more concerned about investors’ profits than their own communities, Kaplan said.

AMH

The New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

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I’d expected dancing in the streets in the People’s Republic but perhaps because of deep snow and freezing cold, instead found a friendly breakfast gathering at Upstairs on the Square (photos and video to follow, if people send them to me).

Watched Obama’s eloquent speech with Harvard students at Quincy House–most listened with rapt attention, even standing for the national anthem, hands over hearts.

I was most impressed with Obama’s suggestion to those who blame the West for the state of their own nations that populations care about what governments can build, not what they can destroy–and distressed when, after the address, viewed enthusiastically by millions, the stock market took a 300 point drop.

In the evening, went back to Upstairs for drinks with Mark Hoffman, of Burlington, and Marc Kessler, of Cambridge, whose photo (above) I took with a larger-than-life cardboard Obama cutout.

We were sorry to miss free skating and hot chocolate at the Charles Hotel, readings of various inaugural addresses at the American Repertory’s Arrow Street Theater, the Harvard Bookstore’s “winedown,” and numerous house parties but, unlike the Obamas, who attended ten inaugural balls, we couldn’t be everywhere!

The New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.