The flap over Shirley Sherrod’s not-actually-racist remarks and her subsequent firing has likely set a record. Robert Gibbs blew it. The Secretary of Agriculture blew it. The new and the old media blew it. The NAACP blew it. Based on a snippet of video, they all concluded she was a racist, and she was forced to resign. In fact, hers was a heartfelt discussion — that conversation on race Eric Holder pines for — of her own struggle to overcome prejudice and anger. Now the apologies are flying, the president called her personally, and she has a job offer from the Ag Department.
It was a mass jump-before-you-look exercise. The administration’s culpability, however, is greatest. We’ve unfortunately come to expect very little from the media, but the government — any employer, really — should act with a modicum of care before firing someone.
This is the second jump-to-conclusion-about-race goof of the Obama administration. Both errors entailed the rush to judgment (recall Obama said the police in Gatesgate had acted “stupidly”) when the mere whiff of racism wafted through the White House. The administration has not learned or improved since Gatesgate. To the contrary, this is a White House in a defensive crouch, frenzied and running scared. It is entirely reactive and unreasoned these days. It shows.
In the aftermath of the election, maybe the White House will settle down, get some adult supervision, and stop reinforcing voters’ fears that the administration is not competent enough to handle itself, let alone whole sectors of the economy.