Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not Good Enough Yet, Mr. President

The complete collapse of the case against Shirley Sherrod, with virtually everyone declaring her a national hero or whatever, has obscured the real issue here for President Obama.  Yes, it's nice to know that a terrible injustice has been presumably averted; yes, it would be nice if the ability of racial agitators to plant divisive phony stories in the national press is hurt by all of this, although I'm not holding my breath on that one.

For Barack Obama, however, there's something more important at stake: sending a clear message that he is not easily intimidated by Beck, Rush, and the rest of the gang.  As I said before, the White House had established a de facto Van Jones standard.  I should explain that...Obama had shown that he would ignore smears on administration personnel in most cases, only acting if something turned up that (1) was clearly true, and that (2) mainstream Democrats found significant and unacceptable.

The problem is that the story so far doesn't at all confirm that standard.  Instead, what appears to have happened is that the administration was quick to eliminate a target when she was attacked, and backed down once she was no longer a target at all.  Now, there are all kinds of ambiguities here...we've been told that it was just the Ag Department, and not the White House, that panicked in the first place, and I'm sure everyone would claim that they weren't waiting for conservatives to give the okay before they reversed course.  As I said: Not Good Enough.  The only solution here is for Barack Obama himself, in person, to send a clear message that this was contrary to his policy, and that going forward no one's job is going to be put in jeopardy just because conservatives make a fuss. 

(Or anyone else -- if Washingtonians see that Obama can be bullied on personnel by the right-wing crazies, you can be sure that interest groups are going to want to test to see if they can get rid of administration opponents by planting stuff against them, including interest groups allied with the president).

So, Mr. President: make it clear.  You can't be bullied by the crazy.  Correct?

4 comments:

  1. Typo in 3rd para: "before they reserved course."
    =reversed (just to show I'm reading)

    I don't think I agree- or at least not yet. I think this one should simmer for a few more days.
    Let him wait until Sherrod decides what to do about the job- if she takes new improved job in Washington, let Obama welcome her to town; if she declines then let's arrange some event.

    I think having the administration "beat up" from the right for leaping to conclusions is ironically perfect. They should be allowed to keep beating this drum, until the general lesson sinks into their audience. It will pay future dividends.

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  2. That's a pretty good point...at the end of the day, I think Obama should make things clear, but I think I'll agree with you about the timing. Waiting a week won't change anything.

    (And thanks for the typo watch).

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  3. The whole episode is discouraging. The WH should not be paying attention to half-wits like Beck, hate-mongers like Limbaugh, and illiterates like Palin. I'm shocked to learn that the WH cares what these worms have to say.

    They represent a small percentage of Americans, the vast majority, I am sure, doesn't not pay attention to their drivel, it is more interested in issues that affect their pocketbooks.

    I guess it is a given in Washington to believe that what entertainers like the above mentioned have any influence on the rest of the country. It's like empowering Jay Leno to influence our government.

    Shame on those in Obama's administration who reacted so recklessly in this matter.

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  4. I think we may be reading too much into "the White House's response." The WH is responsible, because that's where the buck stops, but we may be making a mistake if we think that this involved very much deliberation at all on the part of the WH, and particularly Obama. He's got a big, scary agenda, and I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't even on it. Probably the first he heard of Sherrod was when Rahm passed him a memo or said something: Rahm; "Vilsack says he had to fire someone because she admitted, on tape, to discriminating against white people." Obama; "Damn." Thinks for a few seconds. "Okay"

    Now, you could argue that he should have spent more time considering whether to overrule his Ag Secretary. Maybe he should have - in hindsight he definitely should have. But, to read too much more into it than that may be overworking the limited evidence we have.

    That said, I'm totally on board with Obama making a speech saying that he's not going to be bullied. He still has a chance to come out of this looking better than Breitbart.

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