"Beer Summit"- Teachable Moment or Insult?

So was anything really accomplished at Thursday’s meeting between President Barack Obama, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley? Perhaps, in its own way, it was an amicable means of defusing what threatened to become a racial time bomb. The July 16th incident, and the president’s reaction to it, touched off a media firestorm only partly explained by the fact it’s summer, and media typically trolls for news about now.

obama beer summit

I have to admit, there’s a part of me that takes umbrage at the notion that this meeting represented a watershed event in US race relations. In fact, the idea of a “beer summit” insults the memories of people like Medgar Evers, the four little girls bombed to death in the basement of a Birmingham church, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner. These were people who died so these three plus Vice President Joe Biden could share that beer at the White House.

A harsh assessment? Maybe. But in this age of media hype, there’s no other way to put it. Put simply, could Gates have chilled a bit when confronted by Crowley? Sure. Could Crowley have defused the situation instead of blowing it up by arresting Gates? Yep. Could Obama have chosen his words more carefully, so as not to stoke the media fire? Yes again. Yet none of these things rise to the level of scrutiny the incident has received.

Why all the fuss? Because by using the words “acted stupidly”, Barack Obama stepped out of his assigned role as America’s non racial black president. Suddenly, as far as the media was concerned, he became a spokesman for his race. You can almost hear people thinking, “Geez, we didn’t elect him to talk about racial injustice. Racial responsibility, fine. But not this”.

Which brings up the question, why not this? Why shouldn’t this president be as free to talk about race in  this context as, say, Bill Clinton was? Why hasn’t the issue of racial profiling moved beyond the occasional story in local media? Alas, Barack Obama learned he won’t be able to opine about these sorts of things in the future. Politically, the cost was too high.

When you’re trying to get health care reform passed, talking about race creates a problem. Barack Obama knows this, just as he knows knocking back a cold one with Crowley and Gates won’t change the attitude of that Boston cop who referred to Gates as a “jungle monkey”.

That actually takes work. So just what did Thursday’s beerfest actually accomplish? You tell me.

http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/digg_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/reddit_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/stumbleupon_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/delicious_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/google_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/myspace_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/facebook_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/yahoobuzz_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/twitter_48.png
Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it,
tell a friend
about it.

Is the GOP Fighting a Civil War?

Is it North vs. South all over again? Recent public statements seem to indicate moderate Republicans, mostly from the North and Midwest, are getting tired of their conservative, southern brethren.

Witness the recent shot across the bow by Ohio Senator George Voinovich. “We’ve got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns. The party is being taken over by southerners”, the outgoing senator says.

civil-war-soldiers1

Some of this is pushback from DeMint’s now infamous “Waterloo” statement regarding the Obama health care plan. Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. The GOP has been steadily losing support in areas where just a few years ago, they did well in elections. Only in the South do they dominate, and that’s because they’re generally so conservative.

So what to do to stem the tide? As a progressive, I shouldn’t really care about this.

However, I do remember a time when the GOP was a very different party.

When I was coming up, people like Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, and Lowell Weicker were prominent figures in the Republican Party. Even now, there are moderates like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe among the ranks of Republicans. Trouble is, their numbers are shrinking.

Part of the problem is that conservative Republicans have an army of support, not only in their home states, but among the right wing punditocracy that rules conservative talk radio and television. For some reason, even the mainstream media tends to overblow their importance to, for example, the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The mitigating circumstance there was the decision by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to support the nomination.

The battle over health care reform has emboldened the conservative wing as well, as evidenced by De Mint’s  “Waterloo” remark.

The question is, at what cost? Can the conservative wing of the Republican Party actually expect to turn back the clock? Do they really think there’s any currency left in the ideology of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?

Maybe conservative think tanks have convinced them it can happen. Maybe the tea parties, and the birthers, and the people clamoring for the status quo on health care can sway the American people one more time. I’m not betting on it, though.

One thing the conservative Republicans forgot all about was the economy.

To this day, there have been few bold proposals coming from the Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns of the world as to how that gets fixed. Without the vision to deal with that, the GOP could be a minority party for many years to come, no matter how many times they say “no”.

And the South would lose the war. Again.

http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/digg_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/reddit_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/stumbleupon_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/delicious_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/google_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/myspace_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/facebook_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/yahoobuzz_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/twitter_48.png
Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it,
tell a friend
about it.

Beer for Obama…Will the Gates Story Ever End?

If you have any doubts about how central the issue of race remains in America, consider this. The Google News front page lists the major news stories of the day. Robert Gates is in Iraq.

There are 750 stories flagged about that.

Seven men were busted on terror conspiracy charges in North Carolina. There are 1166 articles about that. The health care debate warrants 733 articles. The continuing controversy over Henry Louis Gates, Barack Obama, and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge police? 2722 articles. Everyone, and I mean everyone is weighing in on both sides of the racial fault line.

Some dwell on President Obama’s “acted stupidly” comment. While truth might be an absolute defense under normal circumstances, the screaming and hollering that followed kept the story alive, and insured an Obama retraction, or “modification”, or however you want to describe it. Then the president, not “acting stupidly”, invites both Henry Louis Gates and James Crowley to the White House to share that most working class of liquid concoctions, a beer.

obama_beer

Hopefully, some common ground can be found here. Like maybe Crowley’s actions weren’t smart, and neither were Gates’. Do they balance each other out? That largely depends on how you look at things. If you support the police, the scales are obviously on the side of Sgt. Crowley, a cop trying to do his job who was unfairly berated first by Gates, then by the President of the United States. If you’ve ever been the victim of racial profiling, or understand how prevalent a law enforcement tool it’s been, then Skip Gates’ anger is entirely justified, as is his belief that he was treated differently because of his race.

So what does it all boil down to? Is it, as ABC News reports, a question of what beer Obama chooses for this monumental event? Is it who speaks first, who says sorry, and whether or not they shake hands?

Trust me, that’s what you’ll get as “analysis” from even the most “reputable” media. Never mind the health care quagmire, that can wait. Robert Gates (no relation to Skip) in Iraq? Big deal. Better to spend time and effort on Skip Gates, Sarah Palin, the “birthers” movement, and God knows what else. Will somebody focus on what Obama wears to this meeting? Will Gates and Crowley come dressed casual or in suits and ties?

You get the picture. Race matters. A lot. There are those who believe that the election of Barack Obama signaled a turn toward the nation’s post-racial future. Not so fast. There’s real work to do.

What do you think? Is the media overplaying the Gates controversy?

http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/digg_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/reddit_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/stumbleupon_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/delicious_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/google_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/myspace_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/facebook_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/yahoobuzz_48.png http://www.markrileymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/sociofluid/images/twitter_48.png
Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it,
tell a friend
about it.