President Barack Obama's "Beer Summit" at the White House with Sgt. James Crowley and Professor Henry Louis Gates has been welcomed as a savvy resolution to a problem that, if you believe the pundits, has all the politically charged implications of the Dreyfus affair.
One Washington man was more concerned with the brew than the brouhaha.
"We don't want Obama to hold up that glass!" intoned Rocky Twyman, who strolled the sunny sidewalk on the north side of the White House Thursday afternoon, spreading the gospel of the teetotaler to bemused tourists.
Twyman, 60, is the founder of the Pray at the Pump Movement, which started in April of last year out of the First 7th Day Adventist Church on Georgia Avenue in Washington. The mission of the movement is to bring prayer to any problem that afflicts the nation. (Can you guess what issue inspired the group's name?)
"We recommend that he open up those cabinet meetings with prayer," suggested Twyman.
The get-together Thursday night, Twyman said, distracts the president from more pressing issues such as health care and might encourage kids to experiment with booze.
With gray hair, glasses, in a short-sleeved T-shirt dominated by turquoise, Twyman excoriated the White House happy hour alongside groups protesting against Tamil oppression in Sri Lanka and death squads for hire in the Philippines.
Twyman took up his cause between Lafayette Park and the White House, on a wide stone promenade free of traffic which frequently plays host to any number of slogan-shouting activists with axes to grind.
There was also an older woman whose signs seemed to warn about depleted uranium, but also included posters demanding the liberation of Gaza, so I got confused and started asking passersby what they thought about the executive level kegger.
"I think the choice of beer was kinda sad," said legal assistant Kirstin Raabe, 28, referring to Crowley's respectable Blue Moon, Gates' tasty Sam Adams, and Obama's boring Bud Light.
Raabe seemed to be confused that people like Twyman would quibble over the inclusion of alcohol.
"Race relations are probably more important to me than alcohol abuse, but I'm German and I like beer so I've got a higher tolerance for alcohol abuse."
An older woman named Ruth Varnada approached and asked me if I was a reporter. When I said yes, she told me I should do a story about how stimulus funds aren't reaching the African-American community. I expressed my interest in the idea, then stopped fooling around and asked her what she thought of the whole beer thing.
"I think it's great. It's one way of dialogue," said the 73-year-old Varnada, who was visiting Washington from Milwaukee with her granddaughter.
The sun's glare wouldn't go away, and all the shade was across the street under the trees of Lafayette Park. After Twyman explained that the rest of his group got off on the wrong metro stop, I decided to leave.
Ever the enterprising reporter, on my way out I sidled up to a group of police officers, sitting on their bikes and chatting in the shade. Given Sgt. Crowley's profession, the law enforcement perspective was required.
"No comment", one of them responded, saying something about a "one-voice policy." I offered to quote them without using their names, which only brought more vigorous head shakes of refusal.
But as I walked away, one yelled out to me, "I hope they drink a microbrew!"
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