This Bud's for Racial Accommodation

Never mind that Judge Sotomayor is the left's identity-politics nominee par excellence. The president's appointment of "the next token justice" would demonstrate to the nation that we had overcome the politics of race privilege and exclusion.

Now, with Obama's "Gatesgate" controversy, the president has no hiding place in lofty rhetoric and feel-good affirmative-action politics. As commentator Melanie Phillips wrote last week:

Now, thanks to the histrionics of Henry Louis Gates, we can see how Obama’s dysfunctional attitude to race plays out in real time. Gates’s arrest was an honest and understandable mistake by the Cambridge police who were investigating what appeared to be a break-in. It clearly had nothing to do with Gates being black -- not least because other officers backing up the arresting officer were non-white. Gates’s protests were preposterous, and vividly demonstrated the pathological resentment and injustice -- not to mention the strutting arrogance and narcissism -- of anti-racist "victim culture."

For the president of the United States to get involved at all in such a local matter was off-limits. For him to do so without even bothering to discover the facts was disturbing. For him to damn the Cambridge police as ‘stupid’ whereas it was clearly Gates who was "stupid" (and worse), thereby demonstrating how the presidential knee automatically jerks to the crudest of anti-white (and anti-police) tunes regardless of the facts, was deeply alarming.

Indeed, the administration came to realize just how badly it had stumbled on the matter. By Thursday of last week Press Secretary Robert Gibbs sought to repair the damage while meeting with reporters on Air Force One:

Let me be clear. He was not calling the officer stupid, OK? ... He was denoting that ... at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that.

And then, realizing such a "walk back" might be insufficient, the following day the president invited Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley to the White House to "share a beer" and to perhaps create "better communication and a dialogue between communities and police." (At the same time, the president "did not back down from his contention that police had overreacted by arresting the Harvard professor for disorderly conduct after coming to his home to investigate a possible break-in.")

So, on Thursday, July 30, Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley joined the president and Vice-President Joseph Biden on the White House lawn for some cold ones. Beer-drinkers of America are weighing in on the choice of beverages. But it'd be unfortunate if a prolonged debate over domestic versus imports were to foam over both the promise of the event and the lost opportunities some may lament.

Probably most significant is that neither Gates nor Crowley offered apologies for their mutual misunderstanding. As Peter Wallsten and Mike Dorning report, "no apologies were exchanged" at the meeting. In a commentary at The Root, Professor Gates avoided specific details of the mediation. Addressing his hopes for the future, Gates said, "I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination."

And Sgt. Crowley, at a follow-up press conference, appeared professional but mildly disappointed: "What I think we saw today was two gentlemen who agreed to disagree on a particular issue." Yet in a positive sign, Sgt. Crowley indicated that he and Gates were planning a private get-together to continue the dialogue.

Perhaps not so for President Obama. He released a brief statement that sought to end the matter as political hot-potato: "I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw [a] positive lesson from this episode." But if the president is serious about maximizing the lessons from this "teachable moment," he can't let the issue fade away.

Obama's credibility as a racial healer has never been on the line more powerfully than during the last two weeks. In both his campaign and presidency, he has yet to make a serious attempt at healing the racial wounds of this nation, wounds that have been opened anew as the tattered gauze binding our salve of  rights' progress has been ripped away by the administration's racial opportunism.

And it's not a good sign that the White House press corps made aggressive efforts yesterday to tamp down political expectations of the summit. Yet if President Barack Obama hopes to achieve success as a truly post-racial president, he needs to belly up to the bar of color-blind justice and opportunity and announce that this Bud's for genuine racial accommodation, compromise, and transcendence.