"Sometimes a beer is just a beer," said John Dickerson in Slate. But not when it's mixed with politics. President Obama is hoping to defuse a racially charged situation by talking over beers with black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and James Crowley—the white police sergeant who arrested Gates. Beer, you see, is the drink of the backyard and the ballgame, so it's "the antithesis of the strutting and overreacting that gripped all three male actors in this drama."

Please, said Julie Mason in the Washington Examiner. Obama's White House "beer-fest" is nothing more than a "pointless and contrived photo op." The president, who plunged into the affair by saying that the police had acted "stupidly" by arresting Gates when investigating a possible break-in at the professor's home, is supposedly going to use the get-together as a "teachable moment" on race, but "at least half the point of the deal was for the three to be photographed together, smiling and holding beer."

Precisely, said Lynn Sweet, the journalist who asked Obama about the Gates arrest at a news conference, in Politics Daily. "The 'teachable' moment may be that conversations don't have to be stuck in the loop of a soundbite." Maybe by hoisting a beer with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley on Thursday evening the president wants to show "that sometimes people say things they regret."