In a powerful column at The New York Times, my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates puts President Obama's praise for an NYPD police chief who practices racial and ethnic profiling in context. "It is often said that Obama's left-wing critics fail to judge him by his actual words from his candidacy. But, in this case, the challenge before Obama is not in adhering to the principles of a radical Left, but of adhering to his own," he writes. "It is President Obama's attorney general who just this week painfully described the stain of being profiled. It was President Obama who so poignantly drew the direct line between himself and Trayvon Martin. It was candidate Obama who in 2008 pledged to 'ban racial profiling' on a federal level and work to have it prohibited on the state level. It was candidate Obama who told black people that if they voted they would get a new kind of politics. And it was State Senator Obama who understood that profiling was the antithesis of such politics."
In a followup item at The Atlantic, he correctly assesses the stakes:
Communities do not become pariahs simply through the actions independent citizens. Policy-makers send signals about what is acceptable and what is not. Should Barack Obama appoint Ray Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security the signal will be clear: Profiling is not, as Obama once claimed, "morally objectionable" and "bad police work," but an acceptable tactic presently condoned at the highest levels of government.
The signal sent by Obama's words and Senator Chuck Schumer's endorsement is one of the reasons my item on Kelly emphasized that "prominent Democrats are now comfortable with racial and ethnic profiling." If a Democratic Senate were to confirm Kelly, it wouldn't just be a reversal for Barack Obama, it would mark a historic departure from a longstanding plank of the Democratic Party.