First of all, the Henry Louis Gates arrest is not, and never was, an incident of national significance. It says nothing of importance about the state of race relations in the country that someone apparently breaking into a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts would attract the attention of the local police, regardless of the races of the suspects and officers involved. Accordingly, President Obama should have not commented on this at all.
Secondly, having stepped into this big steaming pile of unwinnable political dog shit, President Obama should have immediately extricated his foot and moved on, and let the controversy simmer and die of its own accord, which it would have by now. Instead, he invited both the cop and Prof. Gates to the White House to have a beer and talk things over, which is about the exact opposite of letting the issue go away on its own.
Thirdly, having reduced his office to the decidedly lowbrow role of First Ombudsman (while the fight of his early Presidency is going on over on Capitol Hill which, by the way, he’s losing), the President could at least be Presidential about this. Obama doesn’t strike me as a “have a beer and hang out” sort of dude to begin with — and the White House isn’t the sort of place where one goes to have a beer and hang out. That sort of place is called a bar.
Nor, by the way, do I get the sense that the American people want the White House to be that sort of place — it’s our equivalent of a royal palace, a place where we want important people to be doing important things, and when there are important social events with bluebloods, bigwigs, and other nations’ governmental officials, we want the White House to be a showcase of the best that America has to offer. We want the White House kitchen to serve the best food, made from American ingredients and preferably made by an American chef, and accompanied by wine from an American vineyard. Social functions at the White House should showcase America well.
So since the White House should showcase the best America has to offer, any President, in my humble opinion, ought to be drinking better better than Bud Light — given that beer is going to be served at a White House social function at all. And for this particular occasion, given that we’re talking about a couple of guys from Boston, the White House ought to serve good beer made by the most famous brewer in Boston who happens to be one of the earliest proponents of the American craft-brew renaissance, Jim Koch of the Samuel Adams Brewery — who would have made a special beer for the occasion, or probably could have been persuaded to offer a miniature cask of some of the best stuff his brewery makes. Maybe this is sort of rarefied stuff, though — Koch advises this is to be served at about sixty degrees and in two-ounce servings, more like brandy than a traditional beer. Koch’s brewery makes some fine product that can be appropriately consumed at cold temperatures and with larger servings, too.
But Bud Light? Come on. You can do better, Mr. President.
Besides, what are an Irish-American beat cop, a Harvard professor, and the President of the United States going to talk about anyway? The proper deconstruction of the Supreme Court’s ambiguous holding in Grutter v. Bollinger with respect to ongoing domestic race relations? Or are they going to jointly figure out how the Red Sox could blow a twelve-and-a-half game lead over the Yankees? Either way, I’m not sure it’s the best use of the President’s time and political energy right about now.