The historic White House Beer Summit--er, Beer Chat, featuring President Obama, Sgt. James Crowley and Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr--is now over, and there were a couple surprises. President Obama had tried to dampen public expectations earlier in the day, by announcing that the meeting wasn't a Summit, just a chance for some talkin'. But this didn't stop every major news outlet from devoting hours to the coverage; both CNN and MSNBC were running count down clocks onscreen. And Wolf Blitzer, formerly host of The Obama Hamburger Hour, became the host of The Obama Beer Bash, with ten--count'em--ten different commentators weighing in. And everyone in the media was trying to win the award for best pun; tonight's event was variously called the Suds Summit, Red White and Brew, Beer and Loathing in the White House, The Audacity of Hops, etc. (See note, below, about that one; it's a total rip off). Did the Beer Chat do anything to ease all the controversies that Sgt. Crowley's arrest of Prof. Gates--and the President's comments--have created? Jury's out on that one.
President Obama issued a statement after the meeting:
"I am thankful to Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley for joining me at the White House this evening for a friendly, thoughtful conversation. Even before we sat down for the beer, I learned that the two gentlemen spent some time together listening to one another, which is a testament to them. I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."
*Vice President Joe Biden joined President Obama and Sgt. Crowley and Prof. Gates for the froth fest.
*The picnic table location was ditched in favor of a table in the Rose Garden. This allowed for better media access than the picnic table location would've, because it's behind the Obama daughters' swing set. The press pool was held back at a distance of about fifty feet, so they could neither hear the conversation nor be able to shout annoying questions. Press was escorted out after a brief photo op.
*The President drank Bud Light, Biden drank Buckler, Gates drank Samuel Adams Light, and Crowley drank Blue Moon. Is Gates perhaps a friend of Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal? Rep. Neal sent a letter to the White House yesterday, suggesting Sam Adams was the perfect choice for the Summit--er, Chat. And Buckler, for those not in the know, is a beer with no alcohol content, and supposedly the only beer served at the White House during the Bush years.
*Snacks were present, contrary to what Beer Sommelier Robert Gibbs announced a couple days ago. Silver bowls of peanuts and and pretzels were on the table, and in the video coverage of the event, the President is dipping in. The video also showed a mug of beer being delivered on a silver tray by one of the Butlers.
According to White House officials, both Gates and Crowley brought their families to the White House. Gates and Crowley met the President in the Oval Office before moving out to the Rose Garden, and their families toured the West Wing during the sit-down.
Teachable moment: The media can find you no matter where you live
*Prof. Gates has already written about this evening at The Root.com, an online magazine that he founded, and edits. It's a moving piece, and worth a read.
After praising the President, Gates writes: Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters – as metaphors, really – in a thousand narratives about race....
*Sgt. Crowley held a news conference at the AFL-CIO headquarters two blocks from the White House, right after the event.
"We have all agreed that it is important to look forward and not backward," Crowley said.
He also praised President Obama, and said that he and Gates will meet again in the next few days, and joked that it will be over Kool Aid or iced tea, because more beer "might send the wrong message." When asked by a reporter what he'd learned from this "teachable moment," Crowley responded "The media can find you no matter where you live."
There's no doubt the media will continue to "find" Crowley and Gates; this event will continue to fill tomorrow's newscycle, and be reff'd every time there's a racially charged event for at least the next three years. And the media always knows where to "find" the President. VP Biden's beer choice will become the stuff of legend, too.
Ripping Off The Audacity of Hops
During their exhaustive coverage of the Beer Chat, CNN was running a crawl that said The Audacity of Hops, and crediting this bit of brilliance to ABC's Jake Tapper. It should be noted that Audacity of Hops is actually the name of a Beer created during Campaign Season by Sam Chapple-Sokol, a DC resident and micro brewer. Sam also created a yummy version of the beer for the Inauguration, called The Audacity of Hops Inaugurale Edition; bottle #89 is sitting in the Ob Fo archive. On CNN, the ten-member panel of experts who were parsing the meaning of the Beer Chat spent a lot of time tsk-tsking over a lack resolution of any of the "issues," and criticized the President for creating a situation that had "beer jokes instead of progress," but used the beer jokes anyway (in photo below). Naughty, naughty mainstream media.
*Photos: Audacity of Hops photo courtesy of Sam Chapple-Sokol; other photos via Reuters.