Yesterday's extraordinary meeting at the White House between the President, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley has produced the typical shallow partisan rhetoric you might expect from Republicans where they concentrate on the types of beer the men choose and lamented how this was just another photo op.
Being the Party of No! and wanting the President and America to fail, who really can expect anything else. And I don't.
As is usual, I find that the words of progressive South Florida blogger Bark Bark Woof Woof do a great job in summarizing my feelings on this gathering...
Events like these are like Rorschach tests; you take away from it what you want to see. Some saw it as a cynical attempt by the president to recover from his "acting stupidly" moment at his press conference where he lifted the veil on his anger and hatred for white people (if you listen to someone like Glenn Beck); some saw it as just another photo op on the White House lawn -- like when Arafat and Rabin shook hands -- that papered over the real differences between the parties and nothing's really changed; and some saw it as one more way that Barack Obama has confounded the conventional wisdom and demonstrated that no matter how smugly convinced you are that you think you know what he will do, he goes and does something that is completely unexpected yet lands him on his feet with a gentle "ta-da!" It's a touch of grace, self-awareness, and political savvy that I haven't seen in a president since JFK. And it answers the perpetual and blindingly irrelevant question that pollsters whip out every election cycle: who would you rather have a beer with?
Staged events like this rarely accomplish anything in themselves, but it does set an example. Take away the hype and the artifice of the lighting, sets, props and costumes (notice that the most casually dressed people in the picture were the most powerful) and what you have is, to coin a phrase, a "teachable moment" that goes beyond the issue of race and profiling and a presidential Kinsley moment: committing a gaffe by speaking the truth. We Americans can accomplish a lot more by sitting down and actually getting to know each other than we can by relying on preconceived notions of race, class, and profession. So if this little beer bash accomplished anything -- besides boosting the market share of Bud Light, Bucklers, Sam Adams, and Blue Moon beers -- it may get the cop and the prof in other places like Toledo or Albuquerque or Miami to sit down and have a beer between themselves.
Getting people to talk to each other instead of shouting at each other is a noble goal no matter what beer is sipped or how many photos are taken.
Watching Fox News commentary, listening to conservative radio, and reading right wing blogs makes you realize just how little interest some Republicans have in elevating themselves to this level of discourse.
I couldn't end this post without including Old Grover's image.
-White House photo courtesy The White House Blog