Politics & Government

Obama's beer with Crowley, Gates set for 6 p.m. Thursday

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs likes to use quips or one-liners to try to divide or distract the press corps from tough questions during his daily briefings. But Gibbs bristled a little when CBS' Chip Reid today teasingly said he had a follow-up question about the "beer fest" scheduled for Thursday night with President Obama and Cambridge, Mass., rivals police Sgt. James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.

Gibbs: "I wouldn't call it the beer fest. . . I know I'm usually the one who makes the jokes in here. I think it's a fairly serious picture."

It's hard to know what's the standard for serious though. Minutes earlier Gibbs had made the scheduled 6 p.m. gathering sound like mostly a photo-op.

It's to be held at "the picnic table out back" of the White House, weather permitting. "There's no formal agenda other than cold beer," he's quipped. Gibbs also said the idea was for the men (Gates and Obama already are friends) to "get to know each other and step back from the circumstances that brought everybody together."

Asked what access the press would have, Gibbs said, "I don't know that we'll have any comments during it, but I think we'll certainly - set it up so you guys can see the picture. . . I think the picture alone will communicate that despite the incident, despite what happened, despite what was said after that, we can still sit down and discuss issues that are important like this. . . ”

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