Colin Powell: Gates Should Have 'Reflected'

Obama hopes Suds Summit with Gates and Crowley fosters dialogue about race.

ByABC News
July 28, 2009, 7:09 AM

July 28, 2009— -- As President Obama gets ready to hoist a cold one with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge police officer who arrested him, another prominent African American is saying the Harvard professor "should have reflected" on his actions in dealing with the cop.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King to air tonight, former secretary of state Colin Powell, when asked whether "Skip" Gates was wrong, said, "I am saying Skip, perhaps in this instance, might have waited a while, come outside, talked to the officer and that might have been the end of it. I think he should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal."

At the same time, Powell does not take the blame fully away from the police officer and added that Gates, who had just returned from a trip to China and found his front door to be jammed, was probably "in a mood where he said something."

The Bush-era official says the issue, which has garnered national attention, "might well have been resolved in a different matter" if Gates -- who he said has been his "friend for many years" -- and the arresting sergeant did not get into a verbal spat.

Powell told King he himself has been racially profiled many times and even though it's frustrating, "it's kind of a better course of action to take it easy and don't let your anger make the current situation worse."

Gates and Sgt. James Crowley -- the two men who have found themselves at the center of a national debate on race -- are set to meet Obama on Thursday evening in what might be the first case of beer diplomacy at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today the session will not have a formal agenda, but rather, it will offer the opportunity to "step back a bit" and have a dialogue.

"This is about having a beer," he said.

According to Gibbs, Gates and Crowley are paying for their own transportation to Washington.

Crowley is expected to bring his family with him to visit the White House but the meeting will take place only between himself, Gates and Obama. The three men will sit outside at the picnic table by the White House's new swing set.

Gibbs said the meeting will be a "poignant moment" and communicate the message that "despite what was said after that, we can still sit down and discuss issues that are important like this, that we can, I think, as the president has said many times, disagree without being disagreeable."

Crowley arrested Gates, former host of the PBS show "African-American Lives," on charges of disorderly conduct after responding to a 911 call of a suspected break-in. Gates, returning from a trip to China, was trying to get into his house after being locked out.

The charges were later dropped, but Gates claims Crowley treated him unfairly and would not respond to his requests for his badge number.

Crowley says the professor was loud, accused him of arresting Gates because he "was a black man in America," and even made a reference to Crowley's mother.