In convening a beer summit “personal interaction,” President Barack Obama hopes some cold brews will lower the temperature on a racial brouhaha that has become “so hyped and so symbolic.”
Indeed, the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley and Obama’s poorly “calibrated” remarks have dominated news coverage.
In an after-brews statement, Obama said:
I am thankful to Professor Gates and Sergeant 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.
Obama’s overall job approval declined from 61 percent in mid-June to 54 percent currently.
According to Pew, the slide in Obama’s job approval ratings was precipitated by disapproval of his handling of the economy, healthcare reform and Gates-gate:
Thirdly, Obama’s comments on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. appear to have played some role in his ratings decline. News about the arrest of the prominent African American Harvard professor at his Cambridge home was widely followed by the public and 79% are aware of Obama’s comments on the incident. Analysis of the poll data found that the president’s approval ratings fell among non-Hispanic whites over the course of the interviewing period as the focus of the Gates story shifted from details about the incident to Obama’s remarks about the incident. Interviews Wednesday and Thursday of last week found 53% of whites approving of Obama’s job performance. This slipped to 46% among whites interviewed Friday through Sunday as the Gates story played out across the nation.
During a press conference at AFL-CIO headquarters, located across Lafayette Square from the White House, Crowley said:
This was a positive step in moving forward as opposed to reliving the events of the past couple of weeks.
Crowley said there was no apology:
Two gentlemen agreed to disagree on a particular issue. We didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time discussing the future.
Crowley said a second discussion will be held in the coming weeks.
In his after-brews statement, Gates said he wants to put the mess behind him:
Having spent my academic career trying to bridge differences and promote understanding among Americans, I can report that it is far more comfortable being the commentator than being commented upon. At this point, I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination. I know that Sergeant Crowley shares this goal.