President Obama's call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to commend him for providing Michael Vick with a second chance after the quaterback spent time in prison on a dog-fighting conviction serves as a reminder of the president's willingness to weigh in on potentially controversial news stories with a racial element.
This should not be totally surprising coming from America's first African American president. But the Vick comments, revealed as they were during the slow post-Christmas news week, have nonetheless laid that narrative plain, just in case his earlier comments had not.
Here are some other example of Obama playing the role of social critic:
On the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his own house in Cambridge, Mass.:
"My understanding is that Professor Gates then shows his I.D. to show that this is his house and, at that point, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped," Obama said at a news conference in July 2009 that sparked the controversy leading to his famous "Beer Summit."
"I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that [Gates case]. 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's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact," Obama said.
On how to feed the kids:
"I know some of y'all got that cold Popeye's [chicken] out for breakfast. I know," Obama told an African American audience in Beaumont, Tex., in 2008: "That's why y'all laughing. You can't do that. Children have to have proper nutrition. That affects also how they study, how they learn in school ... It's not good enough for you to say to your child, 'Do good in school,' and then when that child comes home, you got the TV set on, you got the radio on, you don't check their homework, there is not a book in the house, you've got the videogame playing."
"In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence--both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference," wrote in Parade magazine in 2009.
"That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one...."
"We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don't ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work."
And on Kanye West stealing Taylor Swift's glory at the MTV Video Music Awards:
"Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a 'jackass' for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S presidential," "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran tweeted after an interview with the president in September 2009.