Obama talks to Cambridge sergeant, press corps

OBAMA TALKS TO CAMBRIDGE SERGEANT, PRESS CORPS…. With the media engaged in something close to a frenzy over the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest and the president’s remarks this week about it, President Obama took some steps today to try to defuse the situation.

Obama apparently talked to Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer who took Gates into custody, directly this afternoon, and by all indications, the two had a genial chat. The president, soon after, spoke to reporters from the White House briefing room, and talked about his impression of Crowley as an “outstanding officer” and a “good man.”

Obama also conceded that he “contributed” to the ratcheting up of the discussion about the controversy, with a “choice of words” that could have been “calibrated differently.” He added, however, that he continues to believe, based on what he’s heard, that there was an “overreaction” on both sides of the incident.

Towards the end of the president’s comments to the media, Obama suggested Crowley, Gates, and he may share a beer at the White House at some point, and the president passed along the police sergeant’s request that the media get off his lawn.

Obama’s decision to weigh in on the matter again will, of course, feed the media beast, but the truth is, news outlets would be obsessing about it today whether the president addressed the matter or not.

Time will tell if this defuses the issue, but for what it’s worth, I think Obama did the right thing talking to Crowley directly, and, at a minimum, clarifying what he meant to say on Wednesday.

Here’s hoping the matter has been, can be, will be put to rest.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.