The Beer Summit


“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”  These words remain as some of the (unintentionally) funniest in the history of TV advertisements.  Some number of fans of Peter Bergman, the actor/spokesperson who played a doctor in "The Young and The Restless," probably took heed of his advice and purchased accordingly.  I don’t know if Vick’s Cough Syrup benefited from this ad, but in some things our society is very forgiving, particularly of our celebrities (Michael Jackson, anyone?)   

Celebrity endorsements work.  Brands are boosted and sales increase.  Nike has eternally adorned Tiger Woods with a Swoosh, and I have no doubt that those who dream of being Tiger-like have helped Nike profit handsomely from it.  At its best, the celebrity is well matched with the product sponsored.  Publishers' Clearing House joined mass awareness by using Ed McMahon's wide exposure, if not popularity.  I imagine some wives shopping for their husband clothes probably altered their purchases after seeing Jim Palmer sport Jockey underwear.  And, of course, anyone who wishes to share in the wisdom of Oprah, Inc. hurries after any of her recommended products. 

Our response to celebrity endorsements is curious, especially in a society that glorifies and promotes individuality.  Yet, Wall Street has proven time and again that we change our cars, sneakers, perfumes, eating habits, charities, votes, etc. based on what our favored celebrities say or do. 

Advertising is obviously intentional, as are product placements in movies.  But sometimes, things just happen where products are showcased without polling data and market analysis beforehand.

Such is the case with what is being called "the Beer Summit," President Obama's effort to smoothly brush an upsetting episode out of the public limelight. 

beer summit cast

The cast:

Sgt. James Crowley, Boston Police Police Dept - responded to a burglary report, questioned the occupant, verified his identity, and arrested him for some measure of verbal disrespect.

Henry Louis Gates - Harvard University Professor, owner and occupant of the premises, understandably upset but nevertheless needlessly confrontational with and disrespectful to a Police Officer there to do a job.  Claims his arrest was due to racism.

President Obama -  In a Press Conference indicates that Officer Crowley "acted stupidly."  Shortly thereafter, he regrets entering into the discussion as the media attention on his stance overshadows his other initiatives.

"The Beer Summit" is, in short - "Gentlemen, let's settle for a photo opportunity and reduce the vitriolic words over a beer at the White House."  Some probably think this to be an unworthy handling of the situation by the Leader of the Free World.  I give credit to Obama, at a minimum, for not secreting his fondness for beer from the shrill voices who sit in judgment of the Office that he holds.

Rather than breaking open a six-pack, each person attending chose his preferred brand, and thus we have a celebrity/product association.

Sgt. Crowley chose Blue Moon, a Belgian-ish beer that is typically served with a slice of orange.Blue Moon  It attempts a “craft brew” status both in its labeling and taste, but it is, in fact, a Coors product.  Will the exposure bring new buyers to the brand?  Is this now the brand of choice for conservatives, the law enforcement community and those who give authority the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise?  We may as well throw in sundry militias and white supremacist groups to the potential demographics.

Mr. Gates reportedly originally chose Jamaica's Red Stripe Lager but actually enjoyed a Sam Adams Light during the Summit.  This red stripe lagerunfortunately may split the buying power of his sympathizers, or, conversely, it may benefit both brands.  I haven't read an explanation of the change of beer,  but I hope Mr. Gates chose the beer he most wanted and didn't chose a domestic to be politically correct. SamAdamsLightLogo In any case, it was a likely a wise play to choose a revered hometown brand.  Mr. Gates would no doubt have an opposite demographic moving to embrace these brands - liberals, those who do not trust authority or who have been victimized, the NAACP and others sensitive to racism.

And, finally, we have our President's choice, a Bud Light. I would have to hope that this was an intentional move to "the center," recognizing Bud Light Beerthat his guests already occupied the poles.  The brand is as bland as it is popular, and, in these days of corporate mistrust, I might have expected the President to support a flavorful craft brew.  Be that as it may, Bud Light now carries with it the approval of the Office of the President.  This is no small thing!  But will the millions comfortable with a mellow middle consume even more of the most generic of light beers?

We shall see.

What I've read on the original case is limited. I think it's reasonable that many would think that Officer Crowley overreacted to the provocation, and as many would tend to fault the provocation as the cause of the offending result.  I wasn't there. 

If this episode may be behind us, I'm certain another is around the corner.  I understand that I don't have the cultural sensitivity that African Americans (or other minorities) might have amidst transgressions in this country's history, past or present.  Whenever race relations come up, it's not so much the points being made by either side that tend to aggravate me, it's the terminology. 

racism –noun

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

prejudice –noun

1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

2. any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.

3. unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, esp. of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group.

Prejudice seems to often apply when there are difficulties in race relations, but this term doesn't capture media attention (or special interest groups or attorneys) like charges of racism does.  It also encompasses the bias of all participants, whereas racism places all of the bias on the shoulders of the alleged racist.

This is truly unfortunate, because racism necessarily involves accusations that cause people to assume postures of offense and defense.  If only the appropriate term was used, it would allow opportunities for learning and understanding.  These are the only real solutions when there are cultural (or individual) biases or differences, and they can only happen in a less  heated environment.

In other words, maybe a few beers would help.

Obama Likes Beer


  1. Now I'm thirsty.

    Good point on the terminology. I think most of us would admit to being prejudiced about many things. However, to fit the definition of being a racist is something all together different. Thanks for pointing this out. Words have meanings.

  2. Just a little TV trivia--I don't think Peter Bergman plays a doctor on "The Young and the Restless". He used to do those commercials when he was playing Cliff (a doctor) on "All My Children" in the 70s and 80s. Actually, Dr. Rick Webber of "General Hospital" originated those commercials, followed by Dr. Tony Jones (both characters now deceased on their show, unfortunately!).

    Soap Opera doctors WAS the point of the article, right? haha


  3. Just out of curiosity, I wonder what the vice president drank?

  4. A nonalcoholic beer, making him irrelevant - quite suitable for a VP.