With mugs of beer and a few minutes of conversation, President Barack Obama tried to pull himself and the nation beyond an uproar over race, sitting on his big back lawn with the black professor and the white policeman whose dispute had ignited a week of fierce debate.
Under the canopy of a magnolia tree Thursday evening, a shirt-sleeved Obama joined the other players in a story that had knocked the White House off message: Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley. Vice President Joe Biden was also with them on a Rose Garden patio.
The men were seen chatting with each other, each with a mug of beer. The media were stationed far away, out of earshot.
Although Obama had invited Crowley and Gates as part of what he called a "teachable moment" for the nation, it wasn't quite reachable for the masses. The coverage allowed the public to get the we've-come-together photos and video footage that the White House wanted, while keeping the discussion private among the men.