Bob Franken

Obama, Gates, Crowley. Beer and Loathing at the White House


His spokesmen were quick to spread the word. “Sooner rather than later,” President Obama will get the chance to practice his “Beer Diplomacy” and extinguish, with a little foam, the firestorm he ignited.

Professor Henry Louis (“Skip”) Gates and his new best buddy, Cambridge, Mass., Police Sgt. James Crowley (“Jimbo”?), have agreed to show up. Let’s not get too hasty, though.

It’s all well and good that a president tries to show he’s one of the guys, but it’s not that easy. First of all, he’s not.

Second, he can’t invite someone into the White House for a beer, just like that.

When the head of the Secret Service heard about this, he probably had a cow. He doesn’t allow people to simply come waltzing into the executive mansion. Background checks are mandatory. And these two guys are kinda dicey. One of them has been arrested, the other was accused of racial profiling. Besides, how many academics have nicknames like “Skip”? Just wondering.

Even if security gets past those red flags, there are so many questions to resolve.

What do you serve? Gates’ lawyer says he doesn’t drink beer. Of course he doesn’t. He’s a Harvard professor, after all, who wouldn’t be caught dead with a brew in his hand. He’d probably lose his tenure. Even if he went along, would he need a glass or would he drink out of the bottle?

Would Gates need lessons from someone? How about bringing in Hillary Clinton? She’s from Yale, not Harvard, but if you’ve seen one Ivy Leaguer, you’ve seen them all. She talks the talk and showed during the Indiana primary that she could hold her own when she scarfed down at least one boilermaker. (For the wine-and-cheese crowd that’s beer and a shot of whiskey. So she might be a big help explaining the customs of the simple folk.)

What about press coverage? Will President Obama “invite C-SPAN”? Remember when candidate Obama promised that? Maybe it’s high time he made good on the pledge so we will be able to watch live as he presides over the chug-a-lug contest.

In the meantime, what will he do with all the health care lobbyists he’s hiding? Will they be crammed into another room during all the carousing?

What’s the deadline for this? That’s the big question these days. Is it remotely possible they can stage this “How ‘Bout a Hug” photo op before the August recess? In any case, what if they want to make a night of it? What time do the bars close?

Worst of all, what if it falls flat? (That’s a little beer joke, people.) What if someone makes fun of it? Who in the White House gets blamed because he acted stupidly in dreaming up this idea?

Finally, there could be more trouble brewing (ibid.). What happens if the alcohol causes Skip Gates to get unruly? Would Crowley arrest him for disorderly conduct?

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