"At one point they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it because you are going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."
-- former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, on the events leading up to her ouster.
I have no evidence that Shirley Sherrod is a racist. If you are being honest with yourself, neither do you. What's most important is neither did the officials in the Obama administration who ordered Sherrod to resign yesterday anyway, over nothing more than the fact that Andrew Breitbart and other conservatives had already judged her to be a racist. Tonight, the Sherrod case is a major national news story -- but not for the way it's playing right now on CNN not to mention...well, OK, let's not mention them. It's a major story because it shows the true reason the Obama presidency is foundering somewhat these days -- its complete lack of a spine.
The facts here are pretty simple. Someone sent an edited videotape of Sherrod, a Georgia development officer, speaking earlier this year to a local NAACP group, the right-wing media impressario Andrew Breitbart. The edited clip looks highly damning -- Sherrod confessing she didn't do all she could to help a particular white farmer because of his race. Breitbart, lacking any underlying info, races to air the edited video on his Big Government web site, where's it's adopted by all the usual conservative suspects. And before the day is through, Sherrod has resigned under pressure, and even the NAACP has condemned her. But then the NAACP goes back and watches the entire tape, unedited. According to the civil rights group, Sherrod is recounting a tale that took place 24 years ago, before she worked for the government, and it was a redemptive story, that she and the white farmer became friends (true story) and she learned to be a fighter for the poor, regardless of race.
That's what the NAACP says, and frankly its track record is much, much better than Andrew Breitbart's. And as I was writing this post, the entire video has now been put online, backing up the NAACP. In other words, I seriously doubt there'd be much legitimate pressure tonight for Sherrod to resign -- except that she's already out of a job. That's because Vilsack and his underlings got rid of Sherrod without any kind of investigative process or any fact-finding whatsoever. No, they forced her out of a job because Glenn Beck as going to go on the TV and say horrible things about her.
There used to be a word in places like Georgia for convicting people without due process and then stringing them up. It was called a lynching, and over the course of the day it's become increasingly clear that, in a political sense, that's what happened here.
It's hard to say here what is more pathetic about the Obama administration right now: Their rank cowardice or their political stupidity. The politiical stupidity comes from a supposedly change-minded White House worrying so much about the reactions of 15-20 million Beck-Limbaugh-Drudge fans who wouldn't vote for Obama if he rang their doorbell with the severed head of Osama bin Laden in one hand and a federal tax refund for $1 million in the other. Look, the real fight come Election Day is not over them but the less-politically obsessed in the middle -- most of these folks could care less about Shirley Sherrod but they do care whether their commander-in-chief looks strong, or appears weak. And to hijack the old cliche, how will the White House stand up to our real enemies when its knees buckle at the mere mention of Glenn Beck or Andrew Breitbart?
The cowardice is the worst part. In April 2008, right here in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama faced the biggest test of his political career over the issue of race, and he aced it. He aced it by speaking on the racial divide in America with honesty, frankness, and courage. That courage has melted away amid an entourage at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that likes to play Twister all day, with the directions called out by the anchors at Fox News Channel. To the extent that Obama's poll numbers are not what they should be, little -- if any -- of that is because of incidents like Shirley Sherrod, but some of it is because of their Chicken Little reactions to incidents like Shirley Sherrod. If they really want to fire people here, they could start with Visack and then move on to the political castrati in the White House political and media offices.
There are some reports tonight that White House is reviewing a bad decision. As somebody said on a poster once...hope.
UPDATE: Funny, but Beck and I are, sort of, on the same side here. But then Beck accused Sherrod of being a like a Maoist. Meanwhile, I did make a change near the top to more accurately reflect that it was Breitbart was driving the racism charge.