Obama, Beer, Supplier Diversity and Good Old American Xenophobia

Every once in a while a story hits the "10 day news cycle" and becomes so preposterous in its unraveling that it could never have been made up. Such a story -- well, three stories converging actually -- began "about two weeks ago when Sgt. Crowley, who is white, arrested Mr. Gates, who is black, at his Cambridge home after responding to a call about a suspected break-in there. Each man accused the other of belligerence [and] President Barack Obama added fuel to the fire last week by saying the police had behaved 'stupidly'," as reported by the WSJ. Then, in an attempt to un-ruffle a sack of feathers, President Obama invited Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley to the White House for beers. But not just any beers, mind you ...

Well, in the President's attempt to host a little domestic peacemaking pow wow, he learned very quickly that the same country who elected its first black President last Fall is rapidly descending a slippery slope of protectionism that sounds awfully like a hatred of everything foreign. The plot thickened as "White House spokesman Robert Gibbs hinted the presidential cooler will likely be stocked with what he understood to be the two guests' own personal favorites -- Red Stripe and Blue Moon. But 'the president will drink Bud Light,' Mr. Gibbs added. The problem is that all three beers are products of foreign companies. Red Stripe is brewed by London-based Diageo PLC. Blue Moon is sold by a joint venture in which London-based SABMiller has a majority stake." And Bud is now owned by inBev.

Whether or not the President served beer made by a US owned company would probably have never made the headlines if the economy were flourishing. But there is no difference buying a Bud made in American vs. buying a Honda made in America. What's more interesting is that while President Obama may not personally swallow all the "Buy American" rhetoric in his policies, he failed to seize the opportunity to promote entrepreneurism and small business diversity by not bringing local miro-brews to the table, let alone truly "made in America" beers. Not only is this hypocrisy at it's finest (e.g., part of the stimulus package bans government spending on non Big-three fleet cars even if they're made in America), it's watered-down diplomacy at its essence, just like the very beer President Obama quaffed that night. It feels like while "supplier diversity" might be in the President's vernacular and overall game plan for Federal procurement, it's most certainly not when it comes time for bust'in suds.

William Busch

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