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Posted at 4:40 PM ET, 12/28/2010

Talkback: Obama and Vick

By Ezra Klein

There were a lot of good comments on my earlier post regarding President Obama's praise for the Eagles' decision to play Michael Vick. First, on the question of offering moral support to businesses that hire ex-convicts, jckdoors writes:

No. What the President should have done was visited a small business in D.C. that gives ex-cons a second chance. An ex-con willing to go straight on minimum wage or a tad higher. He should not be heaping praise on a multi-millionaire about a player making millions. He should be on the street-level of this issue, not the lofty towers of professional sports. I'm disappointed.

Itzajob agrees with him:

Sorry, Mr. Klein, but this smacks of passion for bad-boy athletes, not passion for the rehabilitation of felons.

If Mr. Obama really cared about the latter, he'd be profiling ordinary citizens who have overcome their convictions and gone on to lead productive lives -- people who might actually serve as role models in their communities, instead of spoiled celebrities who don't even respect the terms of their probation.

Richard H. Serlin disputed the idea that Michael Vick has really served his time:

It's good to send a message that convicts who have served a just amount of time, feel remorse, and want to be good citizens, be given a second chance. That's good for society and reduces repeat crime.

But [choose] a convict who has served a just or appropriate amount of time. Not someone who has committed a horrible crime and served only a trivial sentence. Vick hasn't come anywhere close to a just or appropriate sentence for the horrible crimes he committed, and by Obama praising Lurie he makes it look like he cares little about dogs.

Truck1 agreed:

[Michael Vick] got a very mild sentence for the crime of running dogfights. The far more heinous offense, the torture killings of unknown numbers of dogs, was eliminated as part of the plea bargain. This is the real offense. He inflicted unspeakable pain on many many dogs for his own enjoyment. He hanged dogs. This is a man who should not now be a completely rehabilitated celebrity. These are acts of people who often go on to kill human beings, but even if this is limited to dogs, the reveling in cruelty over many years and many acts should place him beyond the acceptance and embrace of the public, and far more so, of the president.

What was the President thinking here? If he wanted to weigh in on the issue of giving released convicts a second chance, he should have picked almost anyone else. How about someone doing time on charges of drug possession? The crimes of Vick were brutal and absolutely pathological, and showed a man who rejoices in the suffering of helpless dogs. He should NOT have such an easy ticket back to celebrity, and to have that ticket stamped by the President -- beyond disgusting.

John Maher felt Obama had singled out the wrong guy for praise:

You state "That he'd want to take a risk and throw his weight behind the decision by making that call is admirable." It is actually the worst sort of pandering by Obama to the concentration of white-capital and wealth in the hands of a few in corporate America. Where your post should have offered insight into inequity and the lack of social justice in America, it congratulated a senseless gesture: both to the disenfranchised and abject ex cons and to those who care about the rights on non Human animals. Obama insulted those with criminal records who seek employment and reintegration into an unjust society by genuflecting to a white millionaire for employing a black millionaire in the name of economic self interest.

Wadeb123 had another take altogether:

Trying to figure out why anyone cares about this "story," why we're discussing it, why it's relevant to anything, why it's in the wapo...why am I even writing this?

By Ezra Klein  | December 28, 2010; 4:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

It was dumb politics for Obama to publicly stick his nose into the case. The President should expect that anything he says in conversation (national security secrets excepted) is "on the record".

As for Vick, I respect that once his prison sentence was handed down, he (like Martha Stewart for that matter), took his medicine and went to jail instead of dragging it out. Prison sucks, when someone serves out a sentence proportional to the crime (and the judge here was no softie), he should be given a chance to get on with his life and strive to be a law-abiding citizen.

Apparently, the sentencing judge (famous to Ezra readers for a more recent case) agrees:

"Now that Vick has served his time and succeeded thus far in rehabilitating himself on and off the football field, Judge Henry E. Hudson has turned into one of Vick's biggest fans. Hudson, back in the news for presiding over a case that is challenging the constitutionality of the nation's new health-care policy, was asked about Vick by The Washington Post, 'He's an example of how the system can work... He's having a terrific season... I'm very happy for him. I wish him the best of success'."
http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Michael-Vick-s-harshest-critic-becomes-one-of-hi?urn=nfl-293375

Posted by: beowulf_ | December 28, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I'll add again, I don't think either Ezra or Obama realized the horrible extent of Vick's crimes.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | December 28, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Michael Vick is simply an example of someone whose economic added value is so large that his employers can afford to ignore the criminal conviction on his record. For most other working stiffs, their work is so easily replaced by someone else that employers have no problem passing over an applicant with a conviction on his record in favor of someone who doesn't, even though the latter would do the same work, even if the latter would be slightly better at it.

Vick isn't an example of "the system working." It's an example of the system making a special exception because of Vick's unique talents. Laurie looked at his bottom line and realize that he couldn't afford not to hire Vick. That said, some people (not just Obama) use Vick as an example of the value of giving people "second chances." I think that there are better examples.

Posted by: constans | December 28, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Dogs are gods to white people. They have humanized dogs and are trying to dehumanize black men especially Mike Vick. Especially white women who are obsessed with dogs,nobody liked what he was convicted of but he has spoken against it and has changed his life so you white people need to put the sheets back in the closets. Our President only said he was glad the Eagles gave him a chance my god he did not give him the nobel prize. You racist are showing your colors you keep takling about his past which is 4 yrs old. Your history of hatred is continious. Example you celebrate convicts like Polanski, Gibson, Sheen, amd others. Total destroy Vick, Tiger and James. Petino can have sex all over you kids no big deal, Players beating their wives and lets not forget sick Farve, and Clemons. Oh what pieces of work they are. In case you did not know there are no animals in heaven. God forgave MIke Vick and you can go to hell with your hate and dogs. I have a dog treats him like a dog not a human.

Posted by: jtaylor8251 | December 28, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe some of the nonsense some of you people are writing. First of all. Th President called Jeffrey Lurie to praise him for his proactive decision in making Lincoln Financial Field the worlds first energy self-sustaining stadium in the world by fall 2011. A project that will not only use energy from the grid but also return power back into the system. After that, the President praised Lurie for giving a man who did 18 months in PRISON (not a rehab not a county jail) and lost over $120 million, a second chance. We all agree that what MV did was disgusting and deserved punishment. But how much can you punish a person for a crime? How can anyone whom claims to be a descent human-being not allow a person a chance to redeem himself? And did ANY of you who are against this man take one moment to think how much the demise of MV help bring unprecedented attention to the atrocities

Posted by: ItzDatDude | December 28, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe some of the nonsense some of you people are writing. First of all. Th President called Jeffrey Lurie to praise him for his proactive decision in making Lincoln Financial Field the worlds first energy self-sustaining stadium in the world by fall 2011. A project that will not only use energy from the grid but also return power back into the system. After that, the President praised Lurie for giving a man who did 18 months in PRISON (not a rehab not a county jail) and lost over $120 million, a second chance. We all agree that what MV did was disgusting and deserved punishment. But how much can you punish a person for a crime? How can anyone whom claims to be a descent human-being not allow a person a chance to redeem himself? And did ANY of you who are against this man take one moment to think how much the demise of MV help bring unprecedented attention to the atrocities of dog fighting? In the end, directly and/or indirectly, Michael Vick has saved the lives of more dogs than he has harmed or killed. No one can dispute that....NO ONE. That is something you people need to think about. The more MV's star rises, the more attention is brought to the acts of cruelty to animals. Why not embrace the positives that are coming from this act? Like it or not, Michael Vick, ironically, is doing more for animals than all of you avid animal lovers/activist combined.

Posted by: ItzDatDude | December 28, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention that Americans eat a lot of meat that comes from animals that are treated way worse than what Vick did to those dogs...


Posted by: megankeenan | December 28, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Michael Vick is a monster, having killed and tortured dozens of dogs. Obama's support and praise of this monster shows his lack of ethics and his true character.

Posted by: hcnyc | December 28, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Just to address one comment: just because Michael Vick brought attention to dog fighting and this may have saved other dogs, that argument is ridiculous. If someone high profile is a serial kidnapper and this brings attention to kidnapping, is it good that this person did the crime to bring attention to it??

And also for another commenter: I'm a vegan so I'm not eating any animal products whatsoever.

Posted by: hcnyc | December 28, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”—Francis of Assisi

There is no way to spin this. Vick betting $50K for his dog to kill another dog has nothing to do with race. It was the act of a person w/o conscious. jtaylor8251 said, "God forgave MIke Vick and you can go to hell with your hate and dogs. I have a dog treats him like a dog not a human. "

jtaylor8251 has no idea if "God" forgave Vick's atrocities, but both Vick and Obama would do well to read these words from Proverbs 12:10:
"A good man takes care of his animals, but wicked men are cruel to theirs." Proverbs 12:10

Posted by: Grace61 | December 28, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_judges_appointed_by_Barack_Obama


111th Congress: 16 Circuit Court, 44 District Court, 2 Supreme Court
110th Congress: 10 Circuit Court, 58 District Court
109th Congress: 16 Circuit Court, 35 District Court, 2 Supreme Court


Yep, Obama has gotten much more than his fair share of judges, especially given how he obstructed like a madman during the 109th congress.


In fact President George W. Bush got very few judges confirmed in his 2nd term once Obama joined the Senate.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 28, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I wish the discussion was about Obama's reason for calling in the first place--the alternative energy initiatives the stadium is undertaking. Vick and Martha Stewart are not good examples of the plight of ex-cons. In this economy -hell in the economy of the last twenty years- who is going to hire an ex-con over a non-ex-con for even the most menial of jobs? There are way too many people in prison.

Posted by: espell | December 28, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

A *lot* of animal lovers live in swing states, Mr. Obama. A lot of animal lovers who don't appreciate you going out of your way to praise the "rehabilitation" of a sociopathic animal torturer and killer. A lot of animal lovers who tend to be liberal Democrats and worked very hard for your election in 2008. A lot of animal lovers who won't bother rewarding your craven political opportunism at the polls in 2012.

Good luck with that re-election, sir.

Posted by: David472 | December 28, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to contrast Obama's praise for the Eagles giving Michael Vick a second chance with his sparing use of the Presidential pardon power.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2010/12/03/131790237/obama-issues-first-pardons---nine-get-relief

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/12/obama-issues-his-first-pardons.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/11/AR2010111107433.html

Imagine what he could do if similar to Jimmy Carter pardoning all the Vietnam draft dodgers Obama pardoned all non-violent drug users who are only guilty of engaging in the same behavior that Obama himself has admitted to.

Posted by: jnc4p | December 28, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Where is all the outrage for the rapist athletes and celebrities who make their way back to millions? Vick is not worthy of a second chance but Kobe Bryant is?

I've heard more disgust and despair about Vick's crimes than I have about Bryant, Assange and Polanski combined.

Posted by: evietoo | December 28, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

The comments about Vick not really paying his dues are aggravating to me. He spent two years in prison for his crimes. By way of contrast, Ray Lewis (another famous NFL player) received just one year of probation for being an accessory to murder-- his defense was that he "only" supplied the getaway vehicle. The Ray Lewis experience is the norm for crimes committed by the rich and famous.

Moreover, in terms of abstract justice, I just don't think that running a dog fighting ring-- even one that killed dogs in horrible ways-- justifies much more than two years of prison time. Not for a first offense. Maybe I am being too lenient, but to me a plea bargain for two years seemed about right.

Posted by: Sitnah7 | December 28, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Heh, heh. Obama tries to gain attention and public favor by associating himself with Michael Vick's football glory, then Vick goes out and lays a big fat egg.

Farveless Vikings 24
ObamaVick Eagles 14

Posted by: StandingO | December 29, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm no fan of dogs, having had a family member badly mauled by one. How much money is wasted by people on these animals? How many of them live miserable little lives, in a little prison in someone's apartment until they get home? How many children's faces must be torn asunder, how many people must be killed by their own pets before we ban these menaces? We should legalize their consumption, before they strike again. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12081027

On the other hand, Vick is a football player...not a hero- he's a violent guy.

Posted by: staticvars | December 29, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Dogs are distinctly ungrateful animals- they even attack during the Coronation Street Christmas Special.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1342169/Boy-11-savaged-dog-father-rescued-street-days-earlier.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

They love to tear off children's faces.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12083789

They even go after lovable ponies:
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/inquiry-into-dog-attack-on-pony/2035603.aspx

Really, having them fight each other may be the best solution.

Posted by: staticvars | December 29, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

This whole thing was and never will be about time served or second chances. And certainly NOT justice for those poor dogs! It's all about contracts, and money to be made by and for the NFL ,and filling stadium seats!

It's such a disgusting display of mixed distorted sick messages we heap upon impressionable children in our society.

Bad move Obama. Bad move

Posted by: Rubiconski | December 29, 2010 3:13 AM | Report abuse

The president of the United States is a

calculating individual, not to be trusted

by the American people. Before his

inauguration, Obama promised the American

people a sense of hope, change and

transparency; but has any American

citizen observed the fruits of his

aspirations? No!!! He promised the

closing of Guantanomo Bay prison before

he became president. Has it closed? No!!!

Obama has the American people many things

but he has not delivered. Now, my

question is, what does Obama hope to

gain, in his precalulating mind by

inserting his two-cents into the

Vick-Dog fighting affair. It indicates

to me that Obama does not use good

judgement, and it is the American people

that he is responsible to, to use good

judgement. That is why so many foolish

Americans elected him. Therefore, if

anyone out there knows what Obama's

ulterior motive could be to becoming

involved in this trivial case that has

no bearing of American politics, I, as

an American citizen, would care to be

privy to the same information. I just do

not want to hear that Obama became

involved out of his altruism

characteristics. Pre-calculators do

not possess compassionate impulses; they

are 100% selfish, therefore, Obama's

mediocre gesture for self gain seems

apparent, as if to re-stimulate the

black-vote in 2012. That is my hunch.

Posted by: dennishabern1 | December 29, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Dogs are gods to white people. They have humanized dogs and are trying to dehumanize black men especially Mike Vick. Especially white women who are obsessed with dogs,nobody liked what he was convicted of but he has spoken against it and has changed his life so you white people need to put the sheets back in the closets. Our President only said he was glad the Eagles gave him a chance my god he did not give him the nobel prize. You racist are showing your colors you keep takling about his past which is 4 yrs old. Your history of hatred is continious. Example you celebrate convicts like Polanski, Gibson, Sheen, amd others. Total destroy Vick, Tiger and James. Petino can have sex all over you kids no big deal, Players beating their wives and lets not forget sick Farve, and Clemons. Oh what pieces of work they are. In case you did not know there are no animals in heaven. God forgave MIke Vick and you can go to hell with your hate and dogs. I have a dog treats him like a dog not a human.

Posted by: jtaylor8251 | December 28, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse
-----


The only racist here is YOU

Posted by: scoran | December 29, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Since Obama's inauguration, he has made

a number of bad judgements that everyone

is aware of: returning the Bust of

Winston Churchill to England, which I

consider an act of rudeness against the

English people because of a personal

grudge that Obama holds against England

for incarcerating his great grandfather

for his radical political movements at the

time when Winston Churchill was involved

in the grandfather's trial; and Obama's

missions of apology to Muslim countries,

excusing prior American administrations

for their poor treatment of countries

that practice the Islamic religion.

Obama's snubbing of prime ministers

Benjamin Netanyahu and Gordon Brown,

can also not be forgiven. And now, we view

the Messiah not walking on water, but

committing another human blunder by

uttering his words of wisdom concerning

Michal Vick. Because I have always viewed

Obama as an untruthful, silver-tongued

no-nothing individual, one has to just

wonder how Obama will use his gesture of

good will towards a convicted felon, if

not to use it as a ploy to reinvigorate

the Black Community to his cause in the

2012 federal election campaign.

Posted by: dennishabern1 | December 29, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I think that one thing that Ezra, and perhaps Obama, doesn't understand is the emotional weight people place on dog abuse: not animal abuse in general, but dogs in particular.

If Vick had been convicted of some kind of violent property crime or physical assault, there would be much less controversy about his return to the NFL, but his treatment of dogs is considered by many in the USA to be a crime against civilization.

I really don't know what Obama said exactly or what the context of his statement to Laurie was, but Ezra is coming across as pretty tone deaf in that he doesn't understand the emotional uproar about Vick.

Posted by: constans | December 29, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

It's kind of disgusting to me that people are more outraged over this fake controversy of Obama's praise for 2nd chances for a convicted dog fighting ring operator, than the numerous instances of sexual assault/rape in football. Where's the outrage over this http://tinyurl.com/2wg9c7y ? How about the sexual assault/ rape that goes on in football all the time? This is an isolated incident, however sexual assault/rape in football seems to be an accepted norm. Just google "football" and "rape" and see what comes up. It seems to me that people get way more outraged over animal abuse than sexual abuse of women.

Posted by: IGarza | December 29, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Late Rome with a few techno updates --
Bread and circuses, gladiators of the
football persuasion, slaughter of animals
(some like it, some don't, it seems to depend on whether the animal is considered edible by humans); the ruler of the world's most powerful
nation advocating for a miscreant gladiator and a "green" Colosseum,
opinions expressed via Internet.
It diverts the populace.

Posted by: vadata060440 | December 30, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Many posts say this was an unimportant story. Move on. Only dogs. But rarely, in the news, do we find one person creating as much suffering and pain as Michael Vick did. I'm not talking about dogfighting. As has been repeated ad nauseam, that was the charge they imprisoned him on. Like tax evasion for Al Capone. Rather, a very large number of dogs were tortured and killed by Vick, NOT by other dogs as in dogfighting. People like Klein who make very large claims about their own compassion and caring, have hearts of stone when it comes to the scene of unspeakable suffering created by Michael Vick.

Posted by: truck1 | December 31, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

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