Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama says meeting with Henry Louis Gates, James Crowley not a "beer summit"

| 16 Comments

Before meeting over beer with Harvard Prof. Henry Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, President Obama said Thursday he was "fascinated with the fascination" given this latest episode dealing with Gates arrest.

Obama also tried to downplay expectations of the getting together over beer to discuss the incident, where Gates said he was cuffed and taken to the police station as a result of racial profiling. Last week at a press conference, in reply to my asking Obama about his reaction to the arrest, Obama said the Cambridge police acted "stupidly."

Obama said, "With respect to tonight, you know, I'm, I have to say, fascinated with the fascination about this evening. As you know, this idea was prompted when I was talking to Sergeant Crowley and he said: Well, maybe I'll have a beer in the White House someday. And I said: Well, you know, we -- I'm sure that can be arranged.

"You know, I noticed this has been called the beer summit. It's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys; this is three folks having -- having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other.

"And that's really all it is. This is not a -- this is not a university seminar. It is not a summit. It's an attempt to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself, all of whom are imperfect.

"And you know, hopefully instead of ginning up anger and hyperbole, you know, everyone can just spend a little bit of time with some self-reflection and -- and recognizing that other people have different points of view. And -- and -- and that's all it is.

"And so you know, I will be surprised if you guys all make this the lead as opposed to very important meeting that we just had with one of our most important partners in the world, but -- but the press has surprised me before."

MR. GIBBS: Small expectations.

Q -- what do you hope to -- what's your best-case scenario for looking back and seeing, we accomplished this last night; we were able to --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't think -- let me answer this not as the press secretary to the President but as a -- just as an average American citizen. I'll take my tie off and I'll be right back. Look, I think, again, just as the President said, this is -- obviously you had a situation many days ago that got a lot of attention, not the least of which was because of his word choice, which he's come out and said he wishes he hadn't used those words -- or that word; that each of these two individuals, again, are accomplished at what they do; they're honorable, decent men; that he believes this entire situation -- if we step back and have a better dialogue amongst each other and have a conversation about common hopes and common opportunities and common dreams, that we can make headway on some of the issues that have -- that we've been wrestling with for a long, long time.

And I think the President hopes that -- I don't think the President has out-sized expectations that one cold beer at one table here is going to change massively the course of human history by any sense of the imagination, but that he and the two individuals -- Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates -- can hopefully provide a far different picture than what we've seen to date of this situation, and hopes, again, as I've said both today and before, that this is a conversation and a dialogue that happens not just because it's sponsored by or at the invitation of a participant or the President, but happens in communities, large and small, all over the country, in order to make progress through better understanding. And I think that's what the President wants to do today.

16 Comments

Wow, a very heated situation where people were calling for the firing of the officer who acted/responded appropriately, and Obama makes light of the situation? He needs to focus on more serious situations such as the economy.

His inexperience is shining through and many are regretting their vote for him.

It is true that the police did not behave properly by treating Dr. Gates in such a manner. Yet, the highlight of the whole thing is the President's word "stupidly." I am sure as soon as the word slipped out of his mouth, he regretted ever uttering it and he knew that word would backfire and provide weapon for the police dept to fire back to him, asking for apology.

The fact this term slipped out of his mouth only reveals how he thinks about some group of people. He is a very smart person, because of this, he thinks some people are stupid. Because of this thinking in the back of his mind, the term stupid naturally escaped from his mouth before he realized it or before he could actively block it. I can see what is really going on in his mind, at least regarding some group of people.

And Jo... are you really in any place to comment on Obama's "inexperience?" The man has many hundreds of serious hours in office and spends two that are not quite so earth shattering and its suddenly inexperience? Your words show assumption that the officer acted appropriately, amazing. If an officer tried to arrest me in my own home under suspicion that I broke into my own home, after I provided identication??? Better believe I'd be less kind than Mr. Gates. Once identity of Mr. Gates was established, just cause for further actions by any officer are gone. Should the man have be "pleasant" to the officer because he was black, because the police deserve better treatment than ordinary citizens, or because you have no true understanding of how any reasonable person would react in that situation? If that was you, your child, your parent, or best friend, you judgment would be the same? I think not

The Conservative Talk Radio media is using this incident as a political weapon to bash President Obama and incense white racists against him by focusing on his initial comment that the Boston police acted "stupidly", and by ignoring all that he's said and done since then. President Obama is using this incident to bring together Gates and Crowley for a civil conversation, and to help lead the nation further along the path of racial reconciliation and mutual understanding. Who would you rather have leading the this country?

I don't JO. Many small things turn into big disasters. Remember the Black lady who wat told to give up her seat on the bus. She is big in the history book. Race is a very SENSITIVE subject which has led to massive loss of live if you read history and history can easily be repeated if past mistakes are not prevented. Obama is fool of simplicity and make big things look small

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News said Crowley entered the house illegally. He said the Disorderly arrest was a False arrest.

Crowley also broke the MA police id card law by not
handing his card when requested. There never was a
search for a second suspect, so I don't think Crowley ever thought he was in danger.

Crowley did provide 2 ids. The DL had his address.
You have to take Crowley word that he insulted him
using outdated black slang.

Gates was mad he wasn't getting police id card.
He follows Crowley on to porch still wanting that
card.Look up General Laws Of MA. for police id
card law.

MA courts have upheld yelling at cop is not
D. Conduct.

The officer did not act/respond appropriately, Obama did not make light of it. This is not about inexperience and more wish they had voted for him. It is legal to call a fool a fool to his face, even if he carries a badge and gun. As long as "by the book" is the standard for minorities and "judgment" is the standard for others, law enforcement should be held accountable for the divide. Call me uppity, even though I'm white.

Jo...i am not regretting at all and will vote for president Obama come 2012...he did nothing wrong, no need to apologize either

I am in owe of the extremely tactful and enlightened handling of this incident by your president and, as many other Europeans, wish we had a political figure of president Obama's stature and substance here in Europe. You Jo and many other Americans should be proud of him and yourselves for having literally and consistently fulfilled your collective dream of an open,varied and united nation through a leader such as Barack Obama. Please realize that for these very reasons Obama is not only and not just your leader but also an international prominent inspiring politician we are all watching as if he was our own.

The cop acted in a racist manner, but it was most likely the same manner he would have used if he were dealing poor folk of any and every color. It's obvious he's on a power trip, and even goaded the President into serving him a beer at the white house. That's the big problem we have with law enforcement and the military in this country right now: they feel entitled to controlling our lives, and expect our gratitude for the service.

The old military industrial complex has created all sorts of problems which keep getting much worse--and our fearless leader hasn't even acknowledged the problem exists. At least, not in the capacity of the POTUS.

Honestly though, if he wants to start repairing race relations, the focus should be on ending the prohibition of certain drugs which happen to be taboo in some (shrinking) parts of American culture. Our current drug policy was built on top of blatantly racist policy, such as the marihuana tax act and the original laws against opium--which only applied in Chinatown...

Even the majority of cops understand that the drug wars are doing much more harm than good, so how much longer can the charade last? Why not re-train these public servants to go after white-collar crime and investigate things like the drugs going into our food? Doesn't that make more sense than enforcing cultural taboos which have been thoroughly debunked by science and directly linked to the funding of terrorism everywhere?

I think what people don't understand is that everyone says things the wrong way. It's just that when the President does it, the consequences are amplified by a million. Wouldn't it be nice if we could solve more problems like this though?
runescape money

I meant Gates showed 2 ids.

Obama should said no comment.Nixon comment effected
Manson Family trial. It would make it tougher to nail Crowley in court. But they got Manson,so I
hope gates goes to court and wins.

I hope we all get along,but I'm more concerned with
better police work.Oscar Grant shot on the train platform floor in cuffs.Boston minister killed when
cops go to wrong address.Do less and save money.
How much Cambridge money will be wasted?

The key point is not what police or Dr. Gates did. It is the president who should not have involved himself in this in the first place.

What do we say of this president when the country faces millions of burning issues and he found time to call a police "stupid?

Let's face this basic fact -- it is simply not proper to even call a baby stupid, how can a president call another adult stupid?

I am, on the one hand, very disappointed; on the other hand, I think it should not be a surprise. In essence, he is very smart and a political super-star, which seems to give him reason to feel good about himself. Honest, he might be using this term in his mind all the time. Only he has done a good job of keeping it from slipping out of his mouth, except this time.

I believe the police officer did respond appropriately and the unsecure paranoid professor let his arrogance get in the way.

Some people think that they are beyond reproach just because they went to harvard and are friends with Obama. The law is the law and the officer did NOT distinguish him any differently which was the right thing to do. The fact the police officer did NOT put Gates on a pedistal was what really ticked the Professor off.

I believe the professor was genuinely upset on how he was treated, however, it's because he thought he was someone special when really he's not. For someone with that much arrogance, it's very easy to cross over in the realm of racism when you think your being treated poorly.

Really, the professor just has a bad attitude.

HE SAID THE ACT WAS STUPIDLY, READING IS FUNDAMENTAL, HE DIDN'T CALL THE OFFICER ANYTHING!

This is from my own blog on this issue,
"My child commented that Obama was right in his choice of word. 'Police did have racial bias.' Let’s face the fact — we all have our bias and prejudice and we even make mistakes because of this. Do we deserve to be told we act stupidly?

“Have I ever called you stupid before?” asked I.
“No.”
“Why?”
“Because it is disrespectful,” she answered.
Interesting. She seems to have a double-standard.

I believe the uttering of the word stupid reflects the deep-seated intellectual snob, arrogance and condescending that Obama harbors, the kind of arrogance that is absent in Reagan, Bush, and Carter. Of course, none of them were Obama’s intellectual equal. Still, intellectual power is supposed to make one wiser not conceited and arrogant. It remains to be seen how wise this president is capable of."

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 30, 2009 4:35 PM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, July 30, 2009. Obama, Gates, Crowley "beer summit" was the previous entry in this blog.

Biden joins Obama, Gates, Crowley for beer at the White House. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.