Neither President Obama nor his press secretary would back off from the president's statement Wednesday night that the Cambridge police department acted "stupidly" in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
Both Obama and press secretary Robert Gibbs had ample opportunity to say that the word was perhaps too strong. But neither blinked.
Gibbs was repeatedly asked about it during his press briefing yesterday. He prefaced his remarks by saying that Gates was a friend of Obama, and that the president didn't have all the facts. The hope is, of course, that these qualifications might give Obama some cover.
It didn't. The traveling press corps didn't give up. And the press gave Gibbs plenty of chances to back away from the "stupidly" charge.
"Robert, just to be clear, the President doesn't regret the language or his statement last night?" one reporter asked.
"Let me be clear," Gibbs said. "He was not calling the officers stupid, okay? He was ensuring – I think, again, denoting that at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that."
Obama's not on a game show
Did the president want to weigh in? Well, he didn't shy away from it. But Gibbs made it sound like he didn't have a choice.
"I appreciate the ability at nationally televised news conferences to pass on questions like it was a game show," he snipped. "But I haven't been afforded that – I don't think the President has been afforded those possibilities before. But I will certainly pass along your suggestion."
But he does have that ability. As does Gibbs. Gibbs shows he's a master of the dodge-the-question artistry. That's how you become a White House press secretary. It's also how you become a successful politician. You answer the questions you want to answer. You dodge the rest.