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July 29th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Beers at the White House: Teachable moment or photo op?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/29/am.intv.boyce.watkins.art.jpg caption="Watkins says there's something deeper going on."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/29/am.intv.michael.fauntroy.art.jpg caption="Fauntroy says this is proxy for bigger issues."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) -A senior administration official said Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Police Department will be visiting the White House Thursday.

The meeting among the three men will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Last week, Obama said he called Crowley and "there was a discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House."

Gibbs said: "I think it was Sgt. Crowley's suggestion about the beer, and I think the president thought it was a good idea."

Obama said he hoped the incident in Cambridge, which quickly spiraled into a national and racially charged controversy, "ends up being what's called a teachable moment" for the country.

As President Obama gets ready to hoist beers at the White House tomorrow with Harvard professor Dr.Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the man who arrested him police sergeant James Crowley will this indeed be a "teachable moment" as the president hopes? Or just another photo op?

Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and a resident scholar for AOL black voices and Michael Fauntroy, a professor at George Mason University and author of ‘Republicans and the Black Vote’ spoke with CNN’s John Roberts Wednesday.

Watch the full interview » Video


Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. ispeak

    Woooo .. Yes the most Powerful Man in World your President wants to sit down and begin the discussion of how to solve a very big Problem in his your Country- are there more serious problems ... perhaps ...

    Think for a second ...

    Do you know how many people in the World including folks from the G8 that would love to have a President, Prince, King, Mullah, Prime Minister like your President....

    This is a different time .. A New World – with New "Necessary" Leadership... Embrace this folks ... The world and your Country may never have leadership like this again..... not for a long time ...

    Donpaul
    Toronto Canada

    July 30, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  2. Kenneth Andersen

    This is a perfect opportunity to focus on the concept of race relations in this country. What a great way to resolve some differences over a
    few cold ones. My only disappointment is that Kiran Chetry was unaware that Anheuser Busch is no longer a truly American beer !
    Although this is a serious subject, let's make the best of this and move on...but let's not make believe that racial profiling doesn't exist either.

    July 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  3. Sam

    I agree with Roma,NJ. This thing escalated beyond anyone's imagination just because our president got involved when he did not have to. Shows his lack of experience or his interest in meddling into all kinds of our affairs. To bring this issue to the White House is a bad a idea. There must be many other issues more worthwhile requiring the president's attention. This is not what the president of the greatest nation in the world should be spending his time in. If he is doing it just because he goofed, he needs to learn how to get out of situations like these by owning his mistakes and not try to patch it with a beer. Bad deal Mr. President!

    July 30, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  4. roma, NJ

    Personally, I think inviting these 2 people at the white house is a bad thing... total waste of time of the invited, the host and the world press!!! over and above that, our tabloid obsessed society now wants to get into ripping apart their beer choices!! Why does it matter what they choose to drink and why???

    C'mon people, get real... the leader of the most powerful nation in the world need not waste time drinking beer with these guys at the white house or anywere else for that matter.

    If he wanted to be involved, especially since he made the "stupidly" comment, then he should have made a brief conference call to them and spoke his mind and/or made peace...

    Sadly, the public'stime is wased on this as well... I am not trying to minimize or ignore the actual events which took place up in Cambridge, but this whole beer bash is a foolish move.

    Let's focus on more pertinent and pressing matters at hand such as healthcare and other things and let the prominent and appropriate authorities in Cambridge handle the matter and resolve it peacefully!!

    July 30, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  5. Dirk Peddler

    oops that should have been micro-managing

    July 30, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  6. Dirk Peddler

    So who is going to pay for all this? Travel expenses for two families, security, etc? I bet this personal apology is going to cost us(the tax-payer) loads of money. Money that could have been used much better if the president had stayed out this and would stop miscor-managing.

    July 30, 2009 at 10:22 am |
  7. nancy

    Would it had been different if it had been a black officer? I think so!! Nothing would have become of this.

    July 30, 2009 at 9:38 am |
  8. Bernice

    He arressted him in the full rights of the law! Have some respect when someone calls for the police because they fear that your home is being robbed! If you do not, community safety programs will stop calling them when your homes are in need of police help. You blame them?? If you get robbed a few times, then you may like having them there to help you!

    July 30, 2009 at 9:27 am |
  9. JEZEBEL58

    When is all this going to end,the conference began with health care and ended with soemthing that is taking away from what the americans should be concentrating on-health care. This thing with Gates and the police officer is getting out of control because the president responded to a question,doesn't the second amendment applies to every one, I know the response is yes but he is the president.I was watching the conference and when that question was asked I willed him please please don't answer that question,but I guess he was too far away to read my mind LOL.Well today is BEERGATE,what do you think is going to be in the headlines next?"fire the president for drinking on the job".Educated or not we are entitled to feel and express our feelings,Don he did show his ID and the neighbor did not know who it was did you listen to the police tapes and saw her conference yesterday.Everyhting this president puts on the table is being shot down by the Republicans,if it weren't for the 22nd amendment the americans would have a republican in the white house and everything would stay buried,Iagree with Lamar .

    July 30, 2009 at 8:17 am |
  10. Don

    I don't understand how such an educated man could make such derogatory remarks to a police officer doing his duty. If Gates would have shown a picture ID and maybe had the neighbors verify that he lived there none of this would have happened. I do understand the need to arrest someone creating a disturbance and being verbally abusive. The police can't just let someone create a disturbance and then just walk away because that is the easiest course to follow. Sounds to me like Prof. Gates has a little more ghetto black in him than he would like to admit.

    July 30, 2009 at 6:24 am |
  11. Chrissy

    I am an American and believe there is a still existing racial problem in this nation. Many people suppress their racial prejudices, but its there. Seems it took a fateful incident as this one to bring it into the light. Now the question is can this problem be resolved and will there be a "Teachable Moment" as President Obama hopes? And if so, will there be any lessons learned or retained here? I think the lady that called 911 has given us the most "Teachable Moment" already. I think "We the People" need to humble ourselves and be more compassionate and empathetic. The very person that was completely in the right was attacked and criticized for something she never even said. Is Professor Gates, Sgt. Crowley, and Mr.President too arrogant to humble themselves and just apologize ? Perhaps this is all that will ever be needed between those 3. I agree with what Donpaul has stated in his comment. Maybe we can learn from the Canadians who do not seperate the classes and races as is done here. In Canada be it you are black, white, hispanic, or whatever; you are just classified as a Canadian citizen. An American citizen cannot even file to vote without having to check the box of what ethnic background he/she is in.

    July 30, 2009 at 12:58 am |
  12. april

    I find CNN and the world to be a sad situation. I'am talking about the gates issue. Here is a scenario.. If I call the police and tell them the man next door just beat the hell out of his wife.Guess what a police man has to come investigate the situation.That means even it's true or not the cop has to knock on that door and check out the situation.Even if I lied about the situation.So what's the difference in a neighbor calling the police because she thinks someone is breaking in next door.She is being a good citizen.So all gates did was his job he had to knock on that door even if the story is not true HELLO THATS HIS JOB>>>LETS GET REAL PEOPLE!!!!! He had to investigate.

    July 29, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  13. Leslie Stokes

    I am tired of us justifying the actions of hot headed adults. Why can'nt we say that they were both wrong.

    July 29, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  14. Jim

    I can't believe we live in a time when the President of the United States feels the need to get involved in situation that clearly should be handled by the few individuals involved. Mr. President, please spend more time doing your job and let the professionals do thier jobs. The police responded to a provoked person, that escalated the situation beyond reason. Let's all agree to a few mistakes and move on. Taxpayers should not bear the burden of the bill for the beers nor the time the individuals spend having the meeting.

    July 29, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  15. ispeak

    Indeed Nancy ... But here is an opportunity for the President to add a voice to this huge American social Issue ... I am not American but I love your President and its time for him to step up and start dealing with the Race Issue that still plagues your Country ...

    It is obvious he is not afraid to deal with edgy, controversial, taboo topics that folks love to just brush under the rug ...

    Let the Dialogue begin....

    Donpaul
    Toronto Canada

    July 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  16. Bernice

    #1. The police had EVERY right for the arrest that happened to Gates! Look at the law ...He was stirring a public disturbance, which is highly illegal in that state. Maybe sharges were dropped once he was under control and they were able to see that he was no longer a danger to anyone. They have every right to arrest and to hold you. END OF IT! He was not arrested for his acts of childish behavior, but when he stepped out of his home verbally attacking a police officer and disturbing the neighborhood (which is recorded), then it IS a crime! Republicans want ALL Americans to be Americans, no matter your color. Demos .... well, we all know the history on that! We all live here and are to be considered Americans. I have said many, many times ...it does not matter what color that you are, but we should not have to hear what they wish to do with thier ..or your momma! It is about the most chldish behavior out there and then to hide behind the race card? That just takes the whole cake! Learn to have some respect in everyone and I am sure they will have respect in you. White people also have to deal with racial issues having been dished on them. This should also be dealt with also , this way you may have a more clear idea of what the problem really is. Then it may be able to change...for ALL the people!

    July 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  17. Lamar from Lakeland, FL

    If you take race out of it, the questions becomes why did the police drop the charges against Gates if Sgt. Crowley did nothing wrong? Because it was a false arrest to begin with.

    Now enter the race angle along with the divide and conquer strategy. Get some blacks to defend Sgt. Crowley while ignoring the fact that ‘falsely claiming racism’ and ‘talking about your mama in your home’ does not justify an arrest. Again, it distorts the more serious issue that an old black man with a cane was arrested in his own house for being rude. What ever happen to your right to free speech?

    By not concentrating on the poor decisions of Gates and Crowley, the media is turning all future cries of racism into a ' Cry Wolf ' moment while ignoring the problem that racial profiling exists in America.

    BTW – The Republicans love to make this side show the main attraction since they don't want to take any affirmative action against racism in the first place.

    July 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  18. nancy

    oopps, supposed to be "IMHO" ~~ lo siento.

    July 29, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  19. nancy

    This issue has nothing to do with the President. There's a Mayor and a Govenor that can handle this situation. UMHO

    July 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  20. ispeak

    To tell you the Truth ... I know President Obama has stayed away discussing Race Issues ... I think he needs to at some point start addressing it ...

    Perhaps an opportunity has presented itself ...

    Donpaul
    Toronto Canada

    July 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm |