Jacob Heilbrunn: Whatever Works: Obama, Gates, and Crowley

Let’s face it: President Obama acted stupidly at his press conference when he waded into the great debate surrounding Henry Lewis Gates Jr. vs. Sgt. James Crowley. Until now, Obama has been careful to douse rather than inflame racial controversies. Now that he’s reverted to his conciliator mode by inviting Gates and Crowley over for a brew, Obama is playing to his strength.

No one really comes out of this episode looking all that good, but it’s provided all the parties involved a chance to, well, profile themselves. First Gates, now the Cambridge police officers are portraying themselves as victims. It can’t be long before Crowley goes hunting for his book contract.

The brouhaha will probably soon end with a nice photo op with the White House as a backdrop. But the real question for Obama may be what type of beer he serves at the White House: a domestic brew? A lite beer? One from a microbrewery? Or would that incense conservatives who might depict Obama as an effete liberal who can’t even pound them back like a real man (though microbrews are a testament to the virtues of the small businessman that the right likes to praise ceaselessly)? Obviously, he can’t serve any imported beers, Belgian or otherwise.

Still, for the American beer industry this could be a great moment. The stakes are high. This could be even bigger than the Budweiser Shootout. If they get really bold, the three men may even have a smoke in the Rose Garden to clear the air.

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