Sunday, July 26, 2009

White House Beer Garden Diplomacy


I knew right away that this story was going to get out of hand, and when Professor Gates, Obama and the black Governor of Massachusetts were ganging up Sgt. Crowley, I knew they were in trouble.

For one, there was a 50-50 chance that Crowley was, as the mobsters and con artists call them - the Wrong Copper, the cop who won't take a bribe or bend the law, or do the wrong thing.

For starters, Professor Gates was not arrested, as asserted in a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial (Friday, July 24, 2009) for "breaking into his own house."

He was arrested for being a disorderly person, failure to respond to the requests of an officer investigating the report of a crime in progress, for uttering disrespectful insults, cursing and bringing Crowley's mother into it.

An hispanic officer who arrived at the scene made a report that supports Crowley, and a black officer there also stood by Crowley and commented on Professor Gate's behavior.

At that point I thought Gates, Obama and the Governor owed Sgt. Crowley an apology, and Professor Gates should have to go through an indoctrination class and taught how to respond to a police officer doing his duty.

Then Obama came out and interupted a press conference on rehabing healthcare to say that he was sorry that he entered the Cambridge fray and contributed to the "ratchiting up" of the issue, and that he had called Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley and invited them both to the White House for a beer to cool things off.

Once in a blue moon you get invited to the White House for a beer, but in this case, it seems like it's going to work. An initially skeptical Professor Gates belatedly accepted the invitation and it didn't take long to find out how Crowley got the message.

As a true blooded Irish American cop, a Wrong Copper to the con jobs, Crowley was sitting depressed at the bar of Tommy Doyle's pub, sipping a cold Blue Moon and complaining to the bartender about the TV camera crews camped out on his front lawn, that his daughters can't go out to play in their yard, and about unfairly and wrongfully being branded a racist in every newspaper and on every TV and radio in the country.

And then his cell phone rang.

Thanks to Mike Daly, embedded at Tommy Doyle's, for relaying this story.

- Hello, Sgt. Crowley, It's the President Calling.


Sgt. James Crowley was having a burger and a Blue Moon beer in Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub when his cell phone rang.

The Cambridge cop spoke for a moment and hung up looking altogether amazed.
“His jaw dropped,” recalled Peter Woodman, a co-owner of the Kendall Square pub and two others of the same name. “He said, ‘Jesus Christ, you'll never guess who’s going to ring me.’”

Word quickly spread through Friday’s lunchtime crowd that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had just telephoned Crowley to say President Obama would be calling him.
“‘No way!’...‘No way!’...‘No way!’” patrons exclaimed.

A hush swept across the whole place. The TVs and music went off. The clanging in the kitchen ceased.

Crowley remained at a table by the front window, the cell phone set before him.

“He got a bit nervous for a minute or two then he got his head, Woodman said. “Cool as a cucumber, just sat there sipping his beer.”

The pub stayed absolutely silent.

“You could hear a pin drop,” Woodman said. “Literally 80 to 100 people standing around him. It was surreal.”

A couple came in from the street and asked for a table.

“The whole bar [said,] ‘Shhh! Shhh! Shut up and sit down!’” Woodman said.

After five or maybe six minutes, the phone rang again.

“He braced himself, took a deep breath,” Woodman recalled.

After two, perhaps three rings, Crowley answered.

“Hello, Mr. President.”

Obama addressed him as Sgt. Crowley.

“Call me Jimmy,” Crowley said.

Obama said to call him Barack. They spoke for five minutes or more as the crowd stood transfixed.

“Not a person breathed,” Woodman said.

Woodman watched a happy change come over the cop whose life had been upended after he responded to a report of a possible burglary. He had arrested Harvard Prof. Henry Gates for disorderly conduct.

Woodman knew Crowley to be the ultimate professional, an officer of the law before all else when on duty.

“He might know you outside work, but when he’s working, he’s Sgt. James Crowley,” Woodman said.

Woodman is friendly with Crowley, but knows to expect no favoritism.

“If there’s something wrong, Jimmy is the first guy going to roast me,” Woodman said.
“If you break the law, you broke the law; if you don’t, you didn’t.”

The world surely has too many racist cops, but by everything Woodman and others say Crowley is not one of them. Woodman saw in the days after the arrest that the accusation cut deep.

“He’s blown away anybody could call his integrity into question,” Woodman said. He won’t admit it, but I think he was genuinely hurt by the whole thing.”

Crowley seemed particularly bothered by the effect on his family. The media was staking out his home and the three kids could not just go out and play.

“You could see over the last few days he was stressed, he was under pressure,” Woodman said.

The situation intensified after Obama said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Cambridge cops had “acted stupidly.”

The police union held its own press conference on Friday to demand an apology from anyone who suggested the arrest was influenced by race.

Afterwards, Crowley and the cops took Woodman up on an invitation to stop into the pub for lunch away from the media.

Then came the phone calls. Obama told Crowley he regretted his choice of words and praised him as “an outstanding police officer and a good man.”

At one point, “Barack” asked “Jimmy” what he was drinking. Barack said he also is partial to Blue Moon. They talked of getting together with Gates for a beer at the White House.

When the call ended and Crowley set down the phone, the pub erupted in cheers.
Obama would continue to suggest Crowley may have overreacted, but allowed that Gates may have as well. The fact remained that the President had called the cop. Woodman beheld a cop restored.

“A new man,” Woodman said.

ALL OF WHICH REMINDS ME OF THE TIME I USED TO HANG OUT AT THE TUNE INN ON CAPITOL HILL, when I was there one summer during the 9/11 Commission hearings.

The Tune Inn is a small, shot and beer, greasy spoon grill about two blocks from the Capitol, and probably most famous as the place where James Carvelle met his wife, or took her there for their first date.

Well I was sitting there late one afternoon, sipping a cold draft beer when a US Marine came in and sat next to me. The Marine barracks aren't that far away, four or five blocks, and its not uncommon to see marines jogging down the street.

This guy was off duty and out getting some exercise and stopped in for a beer, so I struck up a conversation with him.

He was a White House guard, and was proud of what he was doing.

When I asked him if he ever sees Number One, he said all the time. It's his house.

Did the president ever talk to you personally?

Sure, he said.

After their shifts, the marine guards usually have a beer in their locker room, and once in awhile the president joins them for a brewski.

Of course this president was George Bush II, who after a raccus youth, was supposed to be on the wagon, having abstained from drinking for the past 20 years.

But I didn't say anything, as I was glad George got away from his wife and cabinet and problems every once in awhile, and had a beer with the boys in the locker room.

And now Obama is in the White House, and he likes to have a cold one after shooting some hoops or arm wrestling with Congress, and he's "ratchiting it up" as he puts it,
bringing together the differing factions of the Cambridge dispute over some beer at the White House.

The Rose Garden becomes the Beer Garden, and if successful, this technique will be used again, though I don't think it will work with Israel and Hamas, but maybe the Irish and the English can work something out over a few Blue Moons.

And Blue Moon seems to be the beer of choice for Crowley, and Obama said he liked Blue Moon too, but Professor Gates said he prefers Becks or Red Stripe, both imports, Becks from Germany and Red Stripe Jamaican.

According to one news report, "Obama hasn't weighed in on his favorite brew. But foreign beers are not stocked at the White House, in a tradition dating to the Johnson administration."