Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

The Beer Summit

The July arrest of Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge, Mass., police sergeant James Crowley would have been incendiary enough — an African-American scholar charged with disorderly conduct by a white cop — without the involvement of the first black U.S. President. But President Barack Obama poured fuel on the fire by calling the arrest "stupid" on national television. To defuse tension and extricate the White House from a controversy with surprising staying power, Obama invited Gates and Crowley to hash out their differences over drinks on the Rose Garden patio. Burnishing his regular-guy credentials by quaffing a Bud Light, Obama — with Vice President Joe Biden in tow — joined a polite, undoubtedly stiff 40-minute chat, during which Crowley slugged a Blue Moon and Gates downed a Sam Adams. While many mocked the photo op, it appeared to have paved the way for a genuine reconciliation between the primary players. In October, Crowley and Gates continued the conversation over a meal at a Cambridge pub.