Obama: 'Beer summit' was thoughtful, friendly

(AP) - With mugs of beer and more-carefully chosenwords, President Barack Obama tried to push himself and the nationbeyond an uproar over race, chatting in his garden Thursday withthe black professor and the white policeman whose dispute hadignited a fierce, consuming debate.

Under the canopy of a magnolia tree in the early evening, Obamajoined the other players in a story that had knocked the WhiteHouse off stride: Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. andCambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley. Vice President JoeBiden was with them on a Rose Garden patio.

The men were seen chatting with each other, each with a mug ofbeer. The media were stationed far away, out of earshot, andushered away quickly.

Although Obama had invited Crowley and Gates as part of what hecalled a "teachable moment," it wasn't quite reachable for themasses. The coverage allowed the public to get thewe've-come-together photos and video footage that the White Housewanted, while keeping the discussion private among the men.

Crowley and Gates, in dark suits for the highly anticipatedmeeting, seemed more formal than Obama and Biden, who had ditchedtheir coats in the early evening. The president nibbled on snacksand was seen laughing at one point.

The meeting lasted over 40 minutes.

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