Why Obama is serving beer to the professor and the police officer.
In entertaining Gates and Crowley, Obama will probably not be able to match Lyndon Johnson, who also used beer to break the ice in tense situations. Johnson used to take reporters on "speed and beer" drives on his ranch. He'd pop some cold ones and race off into the dust of the ranch. Obama can't do this, obviously—as spacious as the White House grounds are, they're no LBJ ranch—but even if he tried, Crowley would have to arrest him. And that's how this mess started in the first place.
Correction, July 31, 2009: This article originally implied beer was a spirit. Technically a spirit is a liquid that has been distilled, whereas beer is produced by fermentation. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)