Obama more bartender than mediator at beer summit

July 30, 2009

The White House was working hard to lower expectations about Thursday’s beer summit, characterizing the president’s role as more bartender-in-chief than mediator.

So don’t expect apologies or even a rehash of the day Massachusetts police Sgt. James Crowley, who is white, arrested prominent Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, who is black.

USA-POLITICSIn fact, don’t expect to hear much at all.

“I don’t anticipate sound at the meeting,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “The president is not going to announce anything tonight.”

Crowley busted Gates on a charge of disorderly conduct after a confrontation at the Harvard professor’s home. The policeman had been dispatched to the scene to investigate a report of a possible burglary in progress. Words were exchanged.

The 58-year-old Gates, a well-known documentary filmmaker who walks with a cane as a result of a childhood injury, had returned home from a trip to China to discover his door jammed.

A neighbor saw two men, Gates and his driver, trying to shoulder their way into the house and phoned the police.

Charges were quickly dropped, but Obama inflamed the situation by saying police “acted stupidly” in arresting his friend.

The flare-up sparked a nationwide debate over race and became a distraction to Obama’s push for healthcare reform.
OBAMA-RACE/OFFICER
The president invited the two men to the White House for a beer to try to defuse the situation and discuss what can be learned from it.

Each of the men has made his drink order known. Obama drinks a Bud Light, Gates favors Red Stripe and Crowley prefers Blue Moon.

While Obama has called the incident a “teachable moment,” the White House made it clear any initiatives would not be coming from the administration.

“When the president talks about ‘the government can’t solve all your problems,’ I think you can put this under that umbrella,” Gibbs said.

While Gates is still demanding an apology, Gibbs said the aim of the meeting was not to negotiate apologies.

And will the president act as a mediator between the two men when they gather at a table just outside the Oval Office?

“No,” Gibbs said, “bartender.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama drinks a beer at a bar in Raleigh during the election campaign)

7 comments

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maybe next time obama will think before he speaks an take in to consideration the up roar over such a sensive issue or maybe take a que from another famous miss speak I did not have SEX whith that woman

the tirades that were coming out gates,probably were no big deal to obama,he had been hearing this stuff every sunday morning for 20 years.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Good beer choices, everyone, except the president. Bud Light, really? Can’t think of a more boring drink. Maybe he just wanted to make sure at least someone had domestic?

Posted by Laz | Report as abusive

I think that the Policeman is a boor for suggesting that the contribution of Mr. Obama to the meeting was the beer. He is too arrogant to realise that a man who is better qualified than him and placed at the top of the administrative setup, thought it fit, in the interest of the nation to arrange the meeting .You wouldnt see this happen in many places in the world. In my country , the policeman would have got the boot for talking to the press and been charged with being disrespectful to the head of the nation.No wonder he remains a policeman and is is neither the President nor is he an University Professor. He is just an arrogant lout . I can see why Mr. Gates reacted the way he did.

Posted by abcdarian | Report as abusive

Robert, you might add “yellow cake from Africa” to that list of misspeaks or “on the Appalachian Trail” or “I have a wide stance”. Don’t try to make this a thing about Dems.This whole thing sounds like both Gates and Crowley over reacted. The Crowley by beingaggressive and overbearing the way cops are sometimes and Gates by not accepting that is a cops job to check out a possible break-in.What kills me, and I’ve seen it happen, is that you can be arrested for yelling at a cop. Stating your opinion in a loud voice is cause for arrest, not cool.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

Q: Did you have sex with that woman?A: Define sex.Q Sexual intercourse, with penetration.A: No, I did not have sexual intercourse with that woman.(I’m not going to say I got a BJ, unless they ask.)Me: even a kiss may be sex, but that was not the question. If a lawyer asks another lawyer a question, expect a legalistic answer.

Posted by Florida | Report as abusive

I am one of the people who like the President, but he sure did make a big mistake in this case. As another contributor has noted, it appears that both the officer and the “suspect” overreacted. Mr. Gates does need to remember that the officer had been dispatched to a possible burglaryt-in-progress, and he really should understand that Crowley likely was a bit hyped up. Years ago I worked in both law enforcement and private security, and any time I was sent on such a call, I felt the way anyone normal does: on high alert. I gather Crowley doesn’t know Gates, so he can hardly be faulted for not recognizing him as the homeowner. On the other hand, once Gates did produce ID showing he was in his own home, Crowley would have been better off to just let the matter drop. Had he done so, there wouldn’t be all this brouhaha about it.