The July 16, 2009, arrest of black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by a white police officer caused such an uproar that the nation turned to its Healer in Chief to bridge the racial divide. Or not really. When the President was asked his opinion on the matter during a press conference a few days later, he remarked that he thought the Cambridge, Mass., police department had acted "stupidly." The apparent side-taking Obama later backtracked, explaining that he didn't mean to imply that the arresting officer, Sergeant James Crowley, was stupid, just that the entire situation was coupled with questions over why the leader of the free world should be compelled to mediate a minor local law-enforcement issue, filled the empty late-summer airwaves with anti-Obama rhetoric. What everybody needed, the President offered, was a nice, cold beer.
The "beer summit" arranged between Obama, Crowley and Gates was refreshingly down to earth and could have been a publicity coup except for one thing: the media were invited. The three men (plus Joe Biden) sat around a strategically placed table, each drinking his favorite brew, as the press corps watched from across the White House lawn. Instead of a laid-back meeting of minds, the meeting came off looking like a publicity stunt. And what was Biden doing there anyway?