Friday, July 31, 2009

Speaking of Beer and Politics

A lovely blog post by Michael Scherer:

No. Gates and Crowley plan to meet again in the coming weeks to deal with the actual dispute. In the meantime, the photo was all politics, an image of four men at a table drinking beer, a symbol instead of something real. The beer was important because it stood in for the substance. "What happened?" your coworker will ask at the water cooler. "They had a beer," you will say. As the comedian Stephen Colbert observed after the darkest days of the previous presidency, "No matter what happens to America, she will always rebound--with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world." So it was, again.

The photo op can be a particularly nefarious beast for a healthy democracy, where issues are supposed to be resolved through debate and transparency. ( Swampland)

And it goes on like this at considerable length, and it's correct as far as it goes, but I'm left thinking:

The Race Relations, Law and Order and Beer Summit today sent one crystal clear message by all three men involved: "That public fracas we had three weeks ago? It's not really that bad. I don't actually think these are bad people, and maybe I shouldn't have said some of the things I said." A healthful and necessary enough signal to the American people without having to parse words and overly-define things.

I'm also left thinking, "Isn't it high time various political rivals and beefers in Pittsburgh got it together at least sufficiently to stage a phony Beer Summit photo-op?"


  1. Our President said, at the health care legislation press conference, that (first) he didn't have all the facts in the case and (second) that he thought the Cambridge Police acted stupidly. He then went on to say that racism still exists, and he gave one example, that African Americans and Latinos make up a disproportional number of traffic stops.

    Now, you can argue, as I am sure some might, that that’s because African Americans and Latinos are poorer than whites statistically speaking, and so their cars are more likely in poor condition (OK, that was a Colbert-like shot). I think this thing got out of control when Obama answered the question at the press conference. And it got out of control because white America does not want to think there is racism now, or wants to think that African Americans are at least as responsible for what racism there is now by their behavior, by not taking responsibility for their own actions.

    I swear there were some segment of the white voting public who had voted for Obama in the election who, at the exact moment Obama said the Cambridge Police acted stupidly, said to themselves, he’s just like every other black man, he blames whites.

    That photo op was Obama crawling on his knees to white America, begging for forgiveness. Note that no one exchanged apologies at the beer summit, no one admitted to wrong doing and they “agreed to disagree”. I mean, I don’t expect the cop to admit being a racist, but he might have said he misconstrued the situation because of the influence of racial stereotypes. I know some might say Gates should say the same thing, but then we get into the continuing differences between the history of being black in America versus being white.

    I disagree with your crystal clear message, at least with “maybe I shouldn't have said some of the things I said." I think the summit served to cement the opposing positions, and the teachable moment is that much further away.

    But hey, at least we have a black President in the White House.

  2. Ed - It was a little out of control before the President waded into it. Obama gave it a sturdy second wind -- but I think that was his instinct for what he wanted to do.

    As to this being the President's "crawling on his knees to white America, begging for forgiveness", one could just as easily see it as a white police officer crawling on his hands and knees to two black men, acknowledging grievances. But I think the whole point is it's not productive to keep score. This is a scrimmage.

  3. Bram, respectfully, I disagree that you could see it “just as easily” as the white police officer crawling on his hands and or knees to two black men. If Crowley had acknowledged wrong doing, even if he also said that Gates contributed to the situation, then you could have your "just as easily".

    Obama made the invitation; he set up the photo op. That's where his political instincts came in. At the earlier press conference, Obama was a guy angry at what had been done to his friend, and angry about what is done to too many black men and women. Obama expressed his anger in calm, measured terms, and now a substantial portion of the voting public wants to crucify Obama (metaphorically) because of it. No matter whether Obama got the details of the Cambridge arrest wrong or right, or Obama was wrong or right about his larger point.

    Please don’t say we have to agree to disagree. Just tell me I’m wrong.

  4. Ed - Well you're hysterical about the fact that Obama sounded one way about things one moment, and then sounded somewhat differently two weeks later. And hysterical that he has political instincts. So I think it's your hysteria which makes you generally wrong as dirt.

    Here you go: This question got asked by a reporter at the end of Obama's painful press conference on Health Insurance. DID HE PLANT THE QUESTION to end the pop narrative that his initiative was "in trouble", and get the magazine media focused on race relations, one of his past strengths? I think this was all a setup. And a good one. Just wait until the eloquent statements from Gates and Crowley come out in a few weeks. There will be universal swooning, maybe Nobel Prizes. Crime rates will drop eventually.

    "A new kind of politics" doesn't mean not practicing politics.

    Now, I would also like meaningful health insurance reform, and I would like the President to put his political capital behind the framework of a fundamentally comprehensive plan already.

  5. From down here in the dirt ... (screaming hysterically in a Gates-like fashion)

    I remember a Cartoon from 1976, when there was still a question as to whether Teddy Kennedy would run for President. He is at a press conference, answering that question and as he is answering his horrified aides are reaching up to stop him:

    “We will, ah, cross that bridge when we come to it” (Pat Oliphant, I think).

    Did Obama plant the question? Maybe, but I have to believe that David Axelrod would have thrown a fit if he knew that Obama’s answer was going to be that the “Cambridge police acted stupidly”. Because that’s what I would do in Axelrod’s place, and I am sure he’s smarter than me. Personally I think Obama was surprised by the question, and accidentally spoke his mind.

    Now, if there are eloquent apologies from Crowley first, and Gates second, in the coming weeks I will gladly eat my words.

    And you are smart to mention the healthcare legislation, because that was has suffered here. Obama has lost a lot of his capability to twist the arms of any particular Congress-persons.

  6. We need to do something about this guy. Like maybe the old heave-ho.