Obama thanks Gates, Crowley for listening

President Obama on Thursday praised the African-American professor and the white police officer who arrested the scholar for helping show that "what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart."

Shortly after sharing a beer with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley, Obama issued a statement thanking them for coming to the White House for "a friendly, thoughtful conversation" in the Rose Garden.

"Even before we sat down for the beer, I learned that the two gentlemen spent some time together listening to one another, which is a testament to them," the president said.

At a separate news conference, Crowley said he and Gates agreed to continue their discussions. He said they have another meeting, though he would not say when or where it would be. Crowley called Thursday's meeting "cordial and productive." He said the men did not apologize to each other and "agreed to disagree on a particular issue."

Gates, in a statement posted on the Web magazine The Root after the meeting, said, "Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters ... in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control." Gates is editor in chief of the site.

Gates' arrest this month after he had to force his way into his house because the door was jammed prompted a national discussion on cable TV networks, in the White House and elsewhere about racial profiling.

Crowley said the men are determined to look forward. Of Gates, he said, "Certainly he has the credentials to enlighten me a little bit" and he hopes he can do the same for Gates in return.

Gates said, "I thank God (we) live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day."

Crowley said Obama didn't contribute much to the conversation. "He provided the beer," he said.

Earlier in the day, Obama expressed surprise at the hype around the event. "It's not a summit," he said. Media outlets had dubbed the tête-à-tête a "beer summit" because Obama said the men would gather for a chat over beers.

The three men and Vice President Biden ate peanuts and pretzels as they sipped beers at an outdoor table set up steps from the Oval Office. Obama drank a Bud Light, Gates a Sam Adams Light, Crowley a Blue Moon and Biden a non-alcoholic Buckler.

At a news conference July 22, Obama inflamed the situation when he said the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" when they arrested Gates. Two days later, Obama told reporters he wished he had "calibrated" his words differently and did not mean to malign the police. Obama said he believed Gates and Crowley had "overreacted" to events.

Last week, the president said he would like to turn tensions over Gates' arrest, which occurred after police responded to a call about a possible burglary at Gates' home, into a "teachable moment" on race.

There are signs the incident has damaged Obama politically. A poll by the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that 41% disapproved of Obama's handling of the Gates controversy, compared with 29% who approved.

The president's approval ratings also fell, especially among working class whites, as the focus of the Gates story shifted from details about the incident to Obama's remarks, the poll said. Among whites in general, more disapprove than approve of his comments by a 2-1 ratio.

The poll of 1,506 adults was conducted Wednesday to Sunday and had a margin of error of +/–3 percentage points.