Thursday, July 30, 2009
Draft Beer Diplomacy
Tonight is the night of the Beer Summit at the White House. The AP today describes it this way:
Offering cold beer and careful words, President Barack Obama is trying to bury a political distraction and show the nation how conversation can help ease racial conflict. Just don't expect to hear much Thursday evening: The moment billed as teachable won't be that reachable for the masses.
Obama is going to a have a beer — that all-American bonding gesture — with the two men he joined last week at the center of an uproar over race in America: Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor who is black, and James Crowley, a Cambridge, Mass. police sergeant who is white.
It was Obama himself who said the episode could be a "teachable moment" on improving relations between police and minority communities.
For now, his stated agenda is simply to allow for a good, productive conversation among the three men. The hope, in turn, is that people in communities across the nation will see the meeting as a model for how to solve differences — more listening, less shooting from the lip.
The hoped-for outcome of this beer fest is what bothers me. Helping communities see this "as a model for how to solve differences" implies that there are "differences" in the Gates Affair that need solving. As Larry Elder said today when he was a guest on Dennis Prager's radio show, Obama is treating Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley as though they were both in the wrong and needed to come to a mutually agreed-upon solution.
But that's not the case at all. Prof. Gates was in the wrong. And Sgt. Crowley was insulted by both Gates and President Obama, both of whom owe Sgt. Crowley an apology. A real one. Not some dribble that puts the fault back on the victim like, "I'm sorry you had to go and get your feelings hurt when I said what I meant." So the first order of business in tonight's meeting--either before or immediately after pouring the beers--needs to be heartfelt apologies to Crowley from both Obama and Gates. Without that start to the meeting, there's no point in continuing. It's just a waste of time disguised as a teachable moment in an attempt to accomplish the very dubious purpose of burying the political liability caused by Obama's having "stupidly" run at the mouth.
Frankly, I don't believe there will be any apologies, except maybe for one coerced from Crowley for the insult to Gates and Obama by his having been born white.
All that said, I probably wouldn't have posted about the Suds Summit at all, if it weren't for the broader application: This is Obama's modus operandi, and he applies it to all situations from the two-man conflict to the world stage. It will prove ineffective with Gates-gate, and it will prove deadly when used as foreign policy.
Obama, when making his first remarks about Gates' arrest, followed these general steps:
1. Subscribe to popularized group stereotypes (cops = bad, blacks = poor, abused victims)
2. State these stereotypes as facts, without doing any genuine fact-checking ("[T]here is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact." But facts show, as in this mapping of crime statistics by race, that crimes are disproportionately committed by minorities, so minorities will and should be stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. A crime report's description of a suspect as a six-foot tall black man should prompt police officers to stop black (not white) men).
3. Declare, either explicitly or implicitly, that both sides are at fault (despite the evidence) and call for what will be pointless conversation, because the real issues won't be addressed. Beer is just a bonus.
4. With Obama, of course, as the Great Mediator, able to make all things new.
This appears to be the formula President Obama is following in the Middle East as well. He has swallowed the much-publicized slur of Israel as the oppressor/occupier that must be stopped from victimizing the unfortunate Palestinians or bombing peace-loving Iran--completely ignoring the disagreeable fact that Iran, the PA, and Hamas have all called for the total destruction of Israel.
Then he insults Israel, telling them what internal decisions of theirs he will or will not approve. And his great desire is to sit down and talk with all the parties and help them resolve their differences, when he has no clue what those differences really are because he's bought into the stereotypes. And those sit-down meetings will accomplish nothing but giving Israel's enemies more propaganda to paint themselves as good-hearted souls who just couldn't convince wicked Israel to play nice, all the while buying more time to prepare for wiping Israel off the map.
But don't worry. Obama will be sure to bring the beer...