DIPLOMACY ON TAP…. In what will hopefully bring some resolution to the hullabaloo surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor has gladly accepted the president’s invitation and will get together for a beer at the White House with the police officer who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley.
“It was very kind of the President to phone me today. Vernon Jordan is absolutely correct: my unfortunate experience will only have a larger meaning if we can all use this to diminish racial profiling and to enhance fairness and equity in the criminal justice system for poor people and for people of color.
“And to that end, I look forward to studying the history of racial profiling in a new documentary for PBS. I told the President that my principal regret was that all of the attention paid to his deeply supportive remarks during his press conference had distracted attention from his health care initiative. I am pleased that he, too, is eager to use my experience as a teaching moment, and if meeting Sgt. [James] Crowley for a beer with the President will further that end, then I would be happy to oblige.”
(As it turns out, Gates is the editor in chief of “The Root,” so it’s not terribly surprising he gave his own publication an exclusive.)
We may not see the actual coda until the three — Obama, Crowley, and Gates — have their get-together, but I’d like to think the story is finally, mercifully, winding down.
This morning, I re-watched the president’s comments in the briefing room, and to the extent that he was clumsy in getting himself into the story on Wednesday, he was poised in helping defuse it on Friday. Recognizing that the matter was escalating in disturbing directions, Obama not only wisely reached out to Crowley and Gates directly, he also played to his strengths, showing some humility, humor, and grace.
Ben Smith noted that it’s now a different story: “The story of black professor and Irish cop sitting down for beers at the White House with the president — now that’s Obama’s narrative. And between his calls to Crowley and now, the White House says, to Gates, Obama seems to have retaken control of the story, and shaken it out of that old narrative — if at the cost of creating a major distraction.”
Whether the news outlets that obsessed over this are prepared to move on remains to be seen, but I can hope.