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Brad Norington, Washington correspondent | August 01, 2009Article from: The Australian
EVEN Barack Obama had trouble clearly articulating what was achieved by a much-hyped "beer summit" in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday.
As host, he played the role of peacemaker: Obama invited a black Harvard professor and the white cop who arrested him to bury the hatchet over a drink.
It was an extraordinary intervention by a US President with a pressing agenda that includes combating the world recession and climate change.
But the event, which attracted so much interest that cable TV networks ran countdown clocks, had the taint of political theatre from the start.
Obama was the main intended beneficiary, sitting in full public view at a picnic table under a magnolia tree with professor Henry Louis Gates, police sergeant James Crowley and Vice-President Joe Biden as a surprise late addition.
It was Obama who injected himself into the incident last week by accusing police of "stupidity" for arresting Gates after the academic broke into his own home because he had lost his keys.
It was Obama who escalated public debate to national proportions by linking the incident to a pattern of racial profiling by police.
And it was Obama, in an unusual lapse of judgment, who allowed public attention across the US to be distracted from his preferred topic of promoting a new healthcare system, to which he had devoted the previous fortnight in an attempt to force a deal on the US congress.
The US President inflamed tensions over race and reignited the culture wars at the very time he least wanted it. Now he needed a circuit-breaker to stem the damage and make the issue disappear.
An opinion poll released yesterday by Pew Research found 41per cent of Americans disapproved of Obama's action in coming out strongly in favour of the Harvard academic last week, despite admitting he was not aware of all the facts. Only 29 per cent approved.
White House beer summit falls flat | The Australian