Can I get you a drink?

Guest post from Alyson Buck

August 21 - obama beer We’re a few weeks out from the beer summit between President Obama, Professor Henry Gates and Sgt. James Crowley. The meeting was an attempt to smooth over the subsequent PR aftermath of the racial firestorm that ensued from the Cambridge arrest. Admittedly, the meeting was a pretty significant maneuver by the president to take it upon himself to address such a major issue head on. However, the significance of the meeting was overshadowed in the media by the beer choices of the participating parties. Yes, our president decided to solve a major social issue over a cold brewski.

Begs the question — has #44 made himself too accessible?

During his run for presidency, Obama embraced Twitter and Facebook, making himself more accessible to a younger generation. He stood toe-to-toe to Stephen Colbert and did the late night circuit in an effort to show that he’s a likeable guy in touch with reality and eager to address middle-class average Americans’ needs. And in a time when the current president couldn't have been more out of touch, it was just what the country ordered. Like Bill Clinton's MTV sax solo before him, this approachable demeanor is arguably one of the main reasons Obama was able to secure a seat in the Oval Office.

I dig a president that's in touch with his country. I can get behind a guy that understood the value of social media (Full disclosure: He embraced Twitter long before this Millennial). But the role of president comes with serious responsibility and serious cache. The man is CEO, head honcho, top dog — yet he's settling what's turned into a major race dispute over a Bud Light. I've known many a dispute to be solved over a drink (probably more were started but who's counting) but is this the way we want our country’s leader to solve complex social issues that stretch back centuries?

I'm torn. On one hand I want Obama to be in touch with Americans and bring a fresher perspective to the White House. On the other, there are complicated issues — socially, economically — that need serious attention. Unfortunately I'm not sure they can be solved over the King of Beers.

5 thoughts on “Can I get you a drink?

  1. Simple or not, I think it did trivialize the race issue. And the message was lost when the top news item was the president’s beer of choice instead of the significance of the meeting. This was not just two people working out their differences – the perceived issue at hand is much, much bigger than that.
    The point is, I wonder if in his quest to simplify politics the president has made himself too much of an Average Joe. I admire President Obama and in fact, I heard today that the White House actually asked for and then specifically addressed consumers’ healthcare reform concerns via Twitter (read: today’s post on He’s worked hard to get back to basics and shown that he – and by default the White House – is more in touch than previous administrations. However, given this and all of the resources President Obama has at his disposal, I think the forum for the Cambridge arrest issue could have been more impactful.

  2. Race is a serious issue, but you’re still taking this too seriously. The beer summit was by no means an example of how, “our president decided to solve a major social issue over a cold brewski.” The brilliance of this PR maneuver is its simplicity. It didn’t trivialize race. It just reduced this to where it should be: two decent human beings working it out.
    I’d be willing to bet a Brooklyn Dark Lager that this message would have been lost if the White House had brought in a gaggle of $400/hour PR pros.

  3. it doesn’t have to, but it could and it did. besides, nothing else has worked at solving our racism issue. at least he was simple about it and cost the American taxpayer a few bucks for some beers vs. a wa$teful event. is it 5 o’clock yet?

  4. Agreed that the media was drunk with frenzy, but was that not the point? The beer summit was a publicity stunt, an attempt to smooth over Obama’s comments that the Cambridge police acted “stupidly,” more so than a serious effort to address major race relations issues. I’m not saying this is not a priority for Obama, but addressing an issue of this magnitude over a beer added a certain nonchalance to the meeting – one that could have been very poignant and set a precedent for future handling of race-fueled cases.
    I didn’t catch the Smerconish interview but saw the transcript – it’s good stuff. This type of accessible, charismatic, confident communication is exactly what we need from the president. It just doesn’t have to occur over a beer.

  5. The media took the beer discussion and really poured it on, it wasn’t PBO or his media team. At least people were talking about the issue of race relations, even if it had to follow a quip or two about your favorite brew. And, these complex issues haven’t been solved by any other strategy, so why not?
    Did you hear PBO on with Smerconish yesterday? Great interview – he even took listeners questions live on the radio.
    the guy has presence, he’s endearing and is using the media for what he can. i like that about him. his stance on issues, i’m against many…but, hey, that’s life.
    now, could you please pass the beer nuts?