Rose Garden or Beer Garden?
It is now official that on Thursday evening we will witness the most highly anticipated Happy Hour since the end of Prohibition. That is when President Obama, Sgt. James Crowley, and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. are scheduled to clink glasses (or bottlenecks) at 6 p.m. on a White House picnic table. The Obama Administration has described the meeting as an attempt to further de-escalate last week’s Gates arrest controversy in Cambridge, MA. It seems like the situation has already de-escalated significantly, but you wouldn’t necessarily get that impression from watching cable news, or listening to talk radio.
While this may turn out to be a public relations masterstroke by Obama, if I were in the White House communications shop, I’d be a bit queasy that, given the attendant media frenzy, this meeting not be perceived by the public as a media stunt, or as politically exploitative in any way, especially since Crowley’s kids are expected to make the trip, as well. I don’t know whether Obama has a particular photo op in mind, but my guess is that less press access will better serve the conciliatory goals of the meeting.

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