I'm not the most political guy in the world - when I vote, I generally choose politicians based on their intelligence and ability to relate to the (collective) average person's experience (whatever that means). I guess it's no secret that I voted for Obama, and I've been pretty happy with that choice so far.
Consider Obama on the Gates incident. In the beginning, he reacted as many of us did, outraged that something like this could happen in 2009 - and in Cambridge of all places. But then he put initial assumptions aside and realized that maybe - just maybe - both of these men were decent men who overreacted and found themselves in a really unfortunate moment. And getting stuck in that moment wouldn't do anyone any good.
Obama suggested the whole incident could be worked out over a drink. "There was discussion about [the officer] and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House... my hope is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other and... all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity."
Yes. Instead of dwelling in the drama (or allowing us to), Obama's like "hey guys, why don't you come over to my house for a beer and let's just talk this out and get past it." If we were on facebook, I would check that little icon that says "Ben likes this." Because talking things out instead of getting stuck in assumptions is a good example for the country. (If you're an Oberlin student, consider getting involved with OCDC or SJI - we need more people promoting dialogue in the world.)
Note that this isn't meant to be any sort of commentary on the situation itself - I wasn't there and neither were you, so all we really know are two sides of a very unpleasant story... one that we can all agree should never have happened. I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of it - but regardless of who was wrong and who was right, the country needed to move forward, in a hurry, and Obama recognized this.
This commentary is simply about Obama, and how he handled a situation that wasn't going to resolve itself. He took what was shaping up to be a race-relations disaster, tried to make a teachable moment out of it, engineered necessary dialogue, and invited the key players over for beers.
That's a rockstar move. Major props, Mr. President. May we all learn from your actions.