If President Obama is looking for a "teachable moment" in the controversy surrounding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., the student may well be himself, "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer said Thursday.
"I think the teachable moment here is it underlines what happens when someone says something they didn't mean to say, and they step back and say, 'You know, I probably shouldn't have said that,' which is what the president did," Schieffer told "Early Show" host Harry Smith.
Mr. Obama will host Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley at the White House for a much publicized beer summit Thursday after backtracking from comments where he said the Cambridge Police had "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates earlier this month.
Crowley responded to a reported break-in at Gates' home only to find the prominent African-American scholar there himself. After Crowley asked Gates for identification, the professor reportedly became irate and accused the officer of racial profiling. Gates was then arrested for disorderly conduct, though the charges were quickly dropped.
Mr. Obama, who is friends with Gates, backed away from his comments on the affair after Crowley's fellow officers – white and black alike – voiced strong support for their comrade and said he acted properly in the encounter. The president said he hoped the controversy would provide a "teachable moment" about race relations in the country.
While Thursday's meeting is ostensibly being held to put the issue to rest, Schieffer said Mr. Obama's comments expressing regret for his earlier remarks were the key.
"I think he took all of the air out of it. I think [the meeting] at the White House today is anticlimactic. The fact the president arranged this, that's what was important here."