White House press secretary Robert Gibbs this morning provided a few more details about what's on tap this evening when President Obama sits down for a beer at the White House with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley.
Gibbs again confirmed that Mr. Obama plans to crack open a Bud Light, which is currently the most popular beer in America. The president might be playing it safe with the pick, but it's still raising some eyebrows: Anheuser-Busch, the company that brews Budweiser, is now owned by Belgians and Brazilians.
Also on offer at the wrought iron tables and chairs outside the Palm Room will be Red Stripe from Jamaica and MillerCoors' Belgian-style brew Blue Moon, the beers of choice of Gates and Crowley, respectively. (Thus making it a Red, Light and Blue affair.) CBSNews.com readers would prefer to see the president serve Sam Adams, which comes from the region where the Gates/Crowley affair took place and is named for a founding father. No word on whether the Boston brew will be among the options.
There is no legislative agenda for the meeting, Gibbs told reporters this morning, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. The press secretary said the president is simply looking to sit down with "two decent men" and hopes the meeting "fosters a dialogue" nationwide.
Mr. Obama, Gibbs said, is not planning to hash out the details of the initial incident, in which Crowley arrested Gates in his home in Cambridge. "This is not an after action report," he told reporters.
Asked if any apologies would be made – either by Mr. Obama, Gates or Crowley – Gibbs said, "We're not here to mediate apologies."
Who knows, though: If the three men have enough of those beers, they may end up singing a different tune.
UPDATE: At his afternoon press briefing, Gibbs said the president believes that "if we step back and have a better dialogue amongst each other, and have a conversation about common hopes and common opportunities and common dreams, that we can make headway on some of the issues that have -- that we've been wrestling with for a long, long time."
The press secretary also fielded questions from reporters who expressed their displeasure about the fact that the White House is not allowing them much access to the event. It was announced early this afternoon that reporters will have only 40 seconds to view the festivities – and that they will be kept 40 feet away. Check out this exchange:
REPORTER: Two questions, Robert. The first one having to do with the Gates-Crowley meeting today. If we're not going to be able to listen to the conversation, and the three men are not going to talk to the press afterwards...And this one:
GIBBS: Well, I don't know -- I don't -- the decision by Sergeant Crowley or Professor Gates to talk to the press is entirely up to them.
REPORTER: OK. You're not going to orchestrate it here at the White House is all I meant.
GIBBS: No. I mean, again, I have not talked to them or their representatives. If they want to go to the stakeout, they're certainly welcome to do that.
REPORTER: Typically, there are events that happen here at the White House. We're invited in. We get a chance to ask questions of the parties there, and if they choose to come out, we can get additional information from them. In this case, we won't have anything there, and most likely won't get anything when they come out.That last reference from Gibbs is to the president's planned brief appearance with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines this afternoon, which takes place before the Gates/Crowley event and is, obviously, unrelated.
GIBBS: Well, you'll have to ask them on the latter part.
REPORTER: What about on the earlier part?
REPORTER: What about the president? Why is the president in a zone of silence on this? You're saying those two can come out and talk but he can't?
GIBBS: The president feels comfortable with the way this is laid out and looks forward to...
REPORTER: But why doesn't he see this as an opportunity, if he wants to make it a teachable moment, to come out and talk and teach what he learned, what he wants the nation to learn?
GIBBS: You guys will have a chance to talk to the president -- one of you will later today, and maybe you can ask him.