POLITICO (Washington) - President Obama said he wants to move on from his comments about race that dominated news cycles for several days last week and eclipsed his top priority, health care reform.
But when Obama sits down for beers Thursday evening at the White House with Sgt. Jim Crowley and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an attempt to wash away any lingering hard feelings over his comments about Crowley’s arrest of his friend Gates, the storyline again could overshadow the health care debate in Congress.
After the first black president said at a new conference intended to be about health care that the Cambridge, Mass. police had “acted stupidly” when a white police officer — Crowley — arrested a black Harvard Law professor- Gates - in his own home, Obama called both men and publicly said he could have chosen his words better.
He also offered up this beer summit of sorts.
But the three men sitting at a picnic table outside the Oval Office comes just as Obama’s health care reform is showing its first major sign of progress in weeks.
Wednesday, as fiscally conservative Democrats in the House struck a deal designed to move a health care bill to the floor, the executive office on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue was ordering in three different types of beer for three different men - and the overarching goal of the saloon-style sit down still remains unclear.
It’s an attempt to move past the incident and further “de-escalate,” Gibbs told reporters this week. Obama has said he hopes it would be a “teachable moment,” yet there is no set agenda up for discussion, such as race relations.
Crowley is even bringing his family with him for the visit, Gibbs said. Gates has kept a low profile since Obama publicly retreated from his initial comments.
A small group of reporters will be allowed to be present briefly, and the White House still has not determined if that will be before or after the meeting.
As for the beer: Obama will drink Bud Light. Crowley will sip Blue Moon. And Gates will have Red Stripe.
c Capitol News Company, LLC 2009