07/31/09 — The beer heard ... President Obama's summit ended

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The beer heard ... President Obama's summit ended

It was a photo opportunity, really, the meeting between Cambridge police Sgt. Joseph Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
And the only reason it happened at all was that President Barack Obama really stuck his foot in his mouth this time.
And in the end, the two men parted without having solved much -- and with nobody apologizing. Even the beer drinking seemed a little strained.
So what was the purpose of the visit at all then? Wouldn't a phone call have been sufficient?
The beer summit was, in theory, a chance to put two people from very different experiences and walks of life, really, into a situation where they might feel more like kin and less like foes.
Unfortunately, you cannot force two people to set aside their views and meet in the middle.
Hopefully, if the president decides to start a discussion of race relations in the future, he will pause to look at more than the surface, and encourage a dialogue that leads to a real discussion of all the factors that affect the problem.
It won't be an easy talk -- and there will be difficult moments on both sides of the aisle. But in the end, there would be much more accomplished.
After all, isn't that the real goal?
Maybe the president has learned that potshots from the bully pulpit do nothing to foster communication or meaningful policy initiatives.
It is a lesson he would do well to remember.

Published in Editorials on July 31, 2009 2:00 PM