Anyone else starting to think that getting arrested was about the best thing that could have happened to Skip Gates?

I know that sounds—what was it someone said of me—”tone-deaf and insulting”?—but bear with me.

As the Times reports, President Obama made clear last night the extent of Gates’ power and influence. The president responded vigorously to a press conference question about Gates’ arrest.

“Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know, separate and apart from this incident, is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that’s just a fact.” He added later that the incident was “a sign of how race remains a factor in this society.”

He also used biting humor, grinning broadly as he imagined being in Mr. Gates’s seemingly preposterous circumstance of being arrested after trying to get into his own home.

“Here, I’d get shot,” Mr. Obama said, referring to his new address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Meanwhile, Gates appeared on CNN last night, partaking in an interview with more softballs than a game of fast pitch. The interview was conducted by fellow Harvardian Soledad O’Brien—who did not disclose her affiliation—and warmly sympathized with Gates. As she asked him about DNA testing and why black Americans care so much about family, she also failed to add this should-have-been-obligatory caveat: “Professor Gates, we should mention that you have a financial interest in promoting DNA testing.”

Instead, CNN gave Gates’ DNA business a massive plug.

Terrible journalism.

(About the only media outlet Gates has not spoken with, by the way, is the Crimson, which tells you something about his calculation of media priorities and where Harvard students rank: You make time for the reporters you think are important.)

Gates added that he was thinking of suing the Cambridge police department, and reiterated that if Sgt. Crowley were to apologize, Gates would “forgive” him. [Emphasis added.]

“He should look into his heart and know that he is not telling the truth and he should beg my forgiveness,” Gates said.

But Crowley said in a different TV interview that he had no intention of apologizing.

The officer, Sgt. James Crowley, told CNN affiliate WCVB earlier Wednesday that he will not apologize.

“There are not many certainties in life, but it is for certain that Sgt. Crowley will not be apologizing,” he said.

I’m glad—not because I believe everything Crowley says, but because if he takes a stand we’ll probably learn more about what happened than if he caved to Gates’ demand and the pressure of having the president of the United States call you stupid.

The BostonChannel.com adds some reporting that lends some credence to Crowley’s story and casts some doubt on Gates’ claim that he couldn’t have been yelling due to a bronchial condition.

Bill Carter, the man who snapped a photograph of Gates being led away in handcuffs, said police officers were calm and that Gates was “slightly out of control” and “agitated” when he was arrested.

“The officers around kind of calmed him down,” Carter said. “I heard him yelling — Mr. Gates yelling. I didn’t hear anything that he was saying so I couldn’t say that he was belligerent.”

The Herald also reports that Crowley once gave mouth-to-mouth to Celtics star Reggie Lewis (who was black) in an attempt to save Lewis’ life.

“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being,” Sgt. James Crowley, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, said of the forward’s fatal heart attack July 27, 1993.

.he still recalls the pain he suffered when people back then questioned whether he had done enough to save the black athlete.

“Some people were saying ‘There’s the guy who killed Reggie Lewis’ afterward. I was broken-hearted. I cried for many nights,” he said.

The Globe also has a piece on Crowley.

people who know Crowley were skeptical or outright dismissive of allegations of racism. A prominent defense lawyer, a neighbor of Crowley’s, his union, and fellow officers described him yesterday as a respected, and respectful, officer who performs his job well and has led his colleagues in diversity training.

This is interesting: Crowley’s determination to stand up for himself and his effort to save Lewis will complicate the efforts of Gates, Lawrence Bobo and others to engage in cop-profiling—which is to say, attributing specific characteristics to one policeman based on stereotypes and preconceived beliefs about the generalized behavior of a group. (Some police officers shot Amadou Diallo; therefore….)

Fascinating: Gates’ attempts to caricature Crowley—a “rogue cop,” Gates called him—by playing on widespread anti-police prejudices, are actually bumping against the humanity of an individual.

This still doesn’t mean that we know what happened that day on Ware Street, but it may suggest that Gates’ own preconceived notions about a group of people led him to think that he could say whatever he wanted about Crowley, and because it was self-evidently true (right?) that police are like this, the general public would automatically believe the charge.

Meanwhile, Drew Faust continues to stand firmly with her star professor.

“I feel privileged to consider Skip not just an esteemed colleague, but a friend. I have been in regular communication with him since Thursday and I was profoundly saddened to hear him describe what he experienced. I continue to be deeply troubled by the incident,” Faust said.

That’s funny—I’m getting more troubled by the aftermath of this incident than by the actual incident, which was bad enough.

(Posters will comment that Faust is walking a fine line there, supporting Gates without actually commenting on what she thinks happened. That’s true, but I suspect most people will miss the legalistic nuances.)

Skip Gates is surfing this unfortunate episode  to greater social prominence, celebrity, power and wealth. Even if one believes every word of his stories, is what he’s doing—”beg me for forgiveness”—promoting healing and progress?  Or is it promoting Skip Gates?

On CNN, Gates said that although the ordeal had upset him, “I would do the same thing exactly again.

I expect that’s true.

James Crowley (Boston Herald Photo by Christopher Evans)

James Crowley (Boston Herald Photo by Christopher Evans)

Skip Gates, Tavis Joyner and Soledad O'Brien on CNN (iPhone photo by RB)

Skip Gates, Tavis Joyner and Soledad O'Brien on CNN (iPhone photo by RB)