Obama more bartender than mediator at beer summit
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.
“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.
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.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama drinks a beer at a bar in Raleigh during the election campaign)