Commentary Magazine


Topic: Shirley Sherrod

Bum Rap?

Stanley McChrystal didn’t do what he was accused of doing. The New York Times reports:

An Army inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine article about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has found that it was not the general or senior officers on his staff who made the most egregious comments that led to his abrupt dismissal as the top Afghan commander in June, according to Army and Pentagon officials.

But the review, commissioned after an embarrassing and disruptive episode, does not wholly resolve who was responsible for the inflammatory quotations, most of which were anonymous.

Did tolerating others’ disparaging comments constitute grounds for firing him? Not so clear.

The assignment of Gen. David Petraeus to the Afghanistan command was certainly a good move. But that’s not what is at issue. The dismissal of McChrystal now looks unduly hasty and frankly a bit unfair.

It is yet one more indication that the White House decision-making process bounces between the slipshod (e.g., Shirley Sherrod, Stanley McChrystal) and the snail-like agonizing that characterized the Afghanistan strategy sessions. As to the latter, if Bob Woodward’s book is remotely accurate, the reason it took so long was that a recalcitrant president resisted the advice of his military advisers and was interested not in a war strategy but in a political one. Credit is due primarily to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who hung in there to get the best result obtainable from a president whose concerns were primarily political.

Stanley McChrystal didn’t do what he was accused of doing. The New York Times reports:

An Army inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine article about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has found that it was not the general or senior officers on his staff who made the most egregious comments that led to his abrupt dismissal as the top Afghan commander in June, according to Army and Pentagon officials.

But the review, commissioned after an embarrassing and disruptive episode, does not wholly resolve who was responsible for the inflammatory quotations, most of which were anonymous.

Did tolerating others’ disparaging comments constitute grounds for firing him? Not so clear.

The assignment of Gen. David Petraeus to the Afghanistan command was certainly a good move. But that’s not what is at issue. The dismissal of McChrystal now looks unduly hasty and frankly a bit unfair.

It is yet one more indication that the White House decision-making process bounces between the slipshod (e.g., Shirley Sherrod, Stanley McChrystal) and the snail-like agonizing that characterized the Afghanistan strategy sessions. As to the latter, if Bob Woodward’s book is remotely accurate, the reason it took so long was that a recalcitrant president resisted the advice of his military advisers and was interested not in a war strategy but in a political one. Credit is due primarily to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who hung in there to get the best result obtainable from a president whose concerns were primarily political.

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Flacking for the Ground Zero Mosque Imam

The State Department should stop digging. The decision to send Imam Rauf abroad at the American taxpayers’ expense is bad enough. But now the striped-pants guys are flacking for him, pushing the victimology meme:

The State Department’s top spokesman cautioned reporters Tuesday not to take snippets of edited remarks on the Internet by the “Ground Zero mosque” imam and use them to brand him a radical, lest they repeat the mistakes made by the media in calling former USDA official Shirley Sherrod a racist based on edited clips of her promoted on conservative websites. …

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters Tuesday that they shouldn’t be quick to take those remarks out of context.

“I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this, that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightly participating in this national speaking tour.”

The additional excerpts from the speech include many frothy generalizations about reconciliation and peace, but is the State Department really not able to find a Muslim who says those sorts of lovely things and who can manage to refrain from blaming the U.S. for 9/11? Is the administration so badly advised that it has no access to a Muslim spokesperson who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group?

The episode is among the more embarrassing ones for Hillary Clinton’s  State Department. That may explain, frankly, why she’s been mum on the subject. But if she hopes to salvage what splinters are left of her credibility, she might suggest that her spokesman stop flacking for the imam who thinks her country is as bad as al-Qaeda. There simply is no “context” that justifies or ameliorates such malice.

The State Department should stop digging. The decision to send Imam Rauf abroad at the American taxpayers’ expense is bad enough. But now the striped-pants guys are flacking for him, pushing the victimology meme:

The State Department’s top spokesman cautioned reporters Tuesday not to take snippets of edited remarks on the Internet by the “Ground Zero mosque” imam and use them to brand him a radical, lest they repeat the mistakes made by the media in calling former USDA official Shirley Sherrod a racist based on edited clips of her promoted on conservative websites. …

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters Tuesday that they shouldn’t be quick to take those remarks out of context.

“I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this, that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightly participating in this national speaking tour.”

The additional excerpts from the speech include many frothy generalizations about reconciliation and peace, but is the State Department really not able to find a Muslim who says those sorts of lovely things and who can manage to refrain from blaming the U.S. for 9/11? Is the administration so badly advised that it has no access to a Muslim spokesperson who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group?

The episode is among the more embarrassing ones for Hillary Clinton’s  State Department. That may explain, frankly, why she’s been mum on the subject. But if she hopes to salvage what splinters are left of her credibility, she might suggest that her spokesman stop flacking for the imam who thinks her country is as bad as al-Qaeda. There simply is no “context” that justifies or ameliorates such malice.

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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

It seems as though Shirley Sherrod’s has not run out yet:

Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official ousted during a racial firestorm last month, declined Tuesday to return to the agency, though she said it was tempting.

Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that she may work with the agency in a consulting capacity in the future to help it improve its outreach to minorities. She told reporters she did not think she could say yes to a job “at this point, with all that has happened.”

“I look forward to some type of relationship with the department in the future,” she said. “We do need to work on the issues of discrimination and race in this country.”

Translation: “You gotta be nuts — go back to paper pushing at the Agriculture Department when I can get a TV gig, write a book and become a professional gadfly!?”

Nothing in this dreary story of bad behavior turned out exactly as it initially appeared. Sherrod was a racist, and then she wasn’t, and then she appeared to be merely one of many in the civil rights grievance-mongering business. The tape was stunning, and then it was misleading. The administration acted unreasonably and then, … well that part is still true. Also true is that there is a cottage industry of 15-minute stars — Joe the Plumber, Shirley Sherrod — who soon mistake attention for talent and eventually vanish from the public eye. If only it took a mere 15 minutes.

It seems as though Shirley Sherrod’s has not run out yet:

Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official ousted during a racial firestorm last month, declined Tuesday to return to the agency, though she said it was tempting.

Sherrod and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that she may work with the agency in a consulting capacity in the future to help it improve its outreach to minorities. She told reporters she did not think she could say yes to a job “at this point, with all that has happened.”

“I look forward to some type of relationship with the department in the future,” she said. “We do need to work on the issues of discrimination and race in this country.”

Translation: “You gotta be nuts — go back to paper pushing at the Agriculture Department when I can get a TV gig, write a book and become a professional gadfly!?”

Nothing in this dreary story of bad behavior turned out exactly as it initially appeared. Sherrod was a racist, and then she wasn’t, and then she appeared to be merely one of many in the civil rights grievance-mongering business. The tape was stunning, and then it was misleading. The administration acted unreasonably and then, … well that part is still true. Also true is that there is a cottage industry of 15-minute stars — Joe the Plumber, Shirley Sherrod — who soon mistake attention for talent and eventually vanish from the public eye. If only it took a mere 15 minutes.

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Gerson vs. Robinson

You have to give the Washington Post credit — their editors certainly offer a contrast on their op-ed pages. Today, needless to say, you have a Michael Gerson and Eugene Robinson. The difference is stark, and revealing.

From Gerson you have a measured analysis, which takes into account the series of events that have transformed Obama from a cult-like figure into a struggling and rather radioactive one. He writes:

The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval — it is the gap between aspiration and reality.

The Manhattan mosque controversy showed the problem in compressed form. First came the Obama of high-toned principle (largely the right principle, in my view). Then a politically motivated recalibration. Then a scrambling staff explanation. Then an embarrassed silence, since it is difficult to clarify the clarification of a clarification. Then the president’s regretful assertion of “no regrets.”

I don’t agree with Gerson’s position on the mosque, but his rendition of the fact is exact and his list of other examples is overwhelmingly persuasive. He explains, “From the firing of Shirley Sherrod to the obsession with Fox News to lashing out at the ‘professional left,’ the Obama administration engages in a daily hypocrisy.” And then he provides still more examples to support his conclusion:

Politicians have been known to say one thing and do another. And high ideals and high rhetoric always create the potential for hypocrisy. But the disappointment with Obama is especially acute. He won office by providing new voters with intoxicating hopes. America was tipsy with idealism — resulting in a particularly difficult hangover. … All politicians fall — but not from such a height.

Then there is Eugene Robinson, who understandably must be at his wit’s end, as the politician in whom he and so many others on the left invested so much effort and so much of their own credibility to promote is now stumbling. His thesis is as bizarre as it is unsupported: “President Obama Is on a Winning Streak,” is the title of his column. Bet you’re confused, since he’s at an all-time low in the polls, his party faces an electoral wipe-out, his predictions of a summer of recovery have proven to be ludicrous, his party is so desperate as to promise to “improve” his “historic” health-care legislation, and he’s incurred the wrath of both supporters and critics of the Ground Zero mosque.

So what is Robinson’s argument based on (other than wishful thinking)? Well, there is Obama’s success in Iraq. Bet you thought that was George W. Bush’s (over the objections of Robinson and Obama), but now all praise is due to Obama because he said he’d bring the troops home. “When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge,” is how Robinson evades the historical record. That would be the surge, which led to an American victory and permitted Obama to bring home troops “on the heels” of a remarkable accomplishment. And he seems unaware of or chooses to ignore criticism from the right that the departure timetable is too abrupt and puts at risk the gains we have made. (“Even his scorched-earth Republican critics, by their silence, are acknowledging that the president has fulfilled his campaign promise to be ‘just as careful getting out of Iraq as we were reckless getting in.'”)  One half-truth, built on an evasion, topped off by a misrepresentation.

OK, what else does Robinson have? The GM bailout: “The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.” Yes, but we haven’t gotten our money back. And in typical Keynesian fashion, he forgets that all the money spent on GM wasn’t used someplace else in the economy, perhaps to create more jobs in industries with a brighter future. But I will concede that it turned out better than many expected.

Then there is the BP oil spill. Robinson treats in this way the Democrats’ anger over the administration’s misrepresentation of the extent of the clean-up: “The administration’s claim that three-quarters of the oil was disposed of — by nature or by human intervention — before it could despoil the environment looks overly optimistic to some researchers. … But a few months ago, who imagined that the president and his family would so soon be able to enjoy a day on a gulf beach and a meal of gulf seafood?” And who could have imagined that he would have given a widely panned Oval Office speech, sent his poll numbers skidding, advertised the limits of overarching liberal government, and caught flack for not going to the Gulf on his first vacation? (He had to do a day of make-up later in the summer). Listen, I don’t think there’s a Democrat on the ballot willing to tout the BP oil spill as an Obama “win.”

And then, the cherry on the top of his frothy column is the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Big win for Obama. He must be joking, right? Nope.”Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.” And reversed himself within twenty-four hours. And incurred the ire of the left. And is giving his own party fits. Well, all that was left out.

What is missing in Robinson’s take — the economy, the poll news, the complete Mosque debacle — makes Gerson’s point. The gap between aspirations and results is now so wide that the only way to bridge it is to fudge the facts and leave out much of what has transpired over the last year. Robinson and Gerson come from opposing political perspectives. But the most noticeable difference is the degree to which they attend to the facts and are able to draw therefrom persuasive conclusions. In that department, there is no comparison.

You have to give the Washington Post credit — their editors certainly offer a contrast on their op-ed pages. Today, needless to say, you have a Michael Gerson and Eugene Robinson. The difference is stark, and revealing.

From Gerson you have a measured analysis, which takes into account the series of events that have transformed Obama from a cult-like figure into a struggling and rather radioactive one. He writes:

The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval — it is the gap between aspiration and reality.

The Manhattan mosque controversy showed the problem in compressed form. First came the Obama of high-toned principle (largely the right principle, in my view). Then a politically motivated recalibration. Then a scrambling staff explanation. Then an embarrassed silence, since it is difficult to clarify the clarification of a clarification. Then the president’s regretful assertion of “no regrets.”

I don’t agree with Gerson’s position on the mosque, but his rendition of the fact is exact and his list of other examples is overwhelmingly persuasive. He explains, “From the firing of Shirley Sherrod to the obsession with Fox News to lashing out at the ‘professional left,’ the Obama administration engages in a daily hypocrisy.” And then he provides still more examples to support his conclusion:

Politicians have been known to say one thing and do another. And high ideals and high rhetoric always create the potential for hypocrisy. But the disappointment with Obama is especially acute. He won office by providing new voters with intoxicating hopes. America was tipsy with idealism — resulting in a particularly difficult hangover. … All politicians fall — but not from such a height.

Then there is Eugene Robinson, who understandably must be at his wit’s end, as the politician in whom he and so many others on the left invested so much effort and so much of their own credibility to promote is now stumbling. His thesis is as bizarre as it is unsupported: “President Obama Is on a Winning Streak,” is the title of his column. Bet you’re confused, since he’s at an all-time low in the polls, his party faces an electoral wipe-out, his predictions of a summer of recovery have proven to be ludicrous, his party is so desperate as to promise to “improve” his “historic” health-care legislation, and he’s incurred the wrath of both supporters and critics of the Ground Zero mosque.

So what is Robinson’s argument based on (other than wishful thinking)? Well, there is Obama’s success in Iraq. Bet you thought that was George W. Bush’s (over the objections of Robinson and Obama), but now all praise is due to Obama because he said he’d bring the troops home. “When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge,” is how Robinson evades the historical record. That would be the surge, which led to an American victory and permitted Obama to bring home troops “on the heels” of a remarkable accomplishment. And he seems unaware of or chooses to ignore criticism from the right that the departure timetable is too abrupt and puts at risk the gains we have made. (“Even his scorched-earth Republican critics, by their silence, are acknowledging that the president has fulfilled his campaign promise to be ‘just as careful getting out of Iraq as we were reckless getting in.'”)  One half-truth, built on an evasion, topped off by a misrepresentation.

OK, what else does Robinson have? The GM bailout: “The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.” Yes, but we haven’t gotten our money back. And in typical Keynesian fashion, he forgets that all the money spent on GM wasn’t used someplace else in the economy, perhaps to create more jobs in industries with a brighter future. But I will concede that it turned out better than many expected.

Then there is the BP oil spill. Robinson treats in this way the Democrats’ anger over the administration’s misrepresentation of the extent of the clean-up: “The administration’s claim that three-quarters of the oil was disposed of — by nature or by human intervention — before it could despoil the environment looks overly optimistic to some researchers. … But a few months ago, who imagined that the president and his family would so soon be able to enjoy a day on a gulf beach and a meal of gulf seafood?” And who could have imagined that he would have given a widely panned Oval Office speech, sent his poll numbers skidding, advertised the limits of overarching liberal government, and caught flack for not going to the Gulf on his first vacation? (He had to do a day of make-up later in the summer). Listen, I don’t think there’s a Democrat on the ballot willing to tout the BP oil spill as an Obama “win.”

And then, the cherry on the top of his frothy column is the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Big win for Obama. He must be joking, right? Nope.”Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.” And reversed himself within twenty-four hours. And incurred the ire of the left. And is giving his own party fits. Well, all that was left out.

What is missing in Robinson’s take — the economy, the poll news, the complete Mosque debacle — makes Gerson’s point. The gap between aspirations and results is now so wide that the only way to bridge it is to fudge the facts and leave out much of what has transpired over the last year. Robinson and Gerson come from opposing political perspectives. But the most noticeable difference is the degree to which they attend to the facts and are able to draw therefrom persuasive conclusions. In that department, there is no comparison.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Obama economy isn’t getting better anytime soon: “The U.S. economic recovery will remain slow deep into next year, held back by shoppers reluctant to spend and employers hesitant to hire, according to an Associated Press survey of leading economists. The latest quarterly AP Economy Survey shows economists have turned gloomier in the past three months. They foresee weaker growth and higher unemployment than they did before.”

The Obama Justice Department isn’t shy about its preferences. “The politically charged gang led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is more interested in helping felons vote than in helping the military to vote. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has put a legislative hold on the already troubled nomination of James M. Cole to be deputy attorney general until the attorney general ensures full protection for voting rights of our military (and associated civilian personnel) stationed abroad.”

The Obama presidency isn’t what liberals imagined it would be (subscription required): “The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 32 to 42 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 255 Democratic and 178 Republican House members and two vacant seats, one formerly held by a Democrat and one by a Republican. Republicans need to net 39 seats to reach a bare majority of 218 seats. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 5 to 7 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 57 Democrats, two independents that caucus with Democrats, and 41 Republican Senators. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 3 to 5 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 26 Democratic and 24 Republican Governors.”

The Obama era isn’t “business as usual” inside the Beltway — it’s worse. “The House ethics committee announced 13 charges Thursday against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is accused of breaking House rules as well as federal statutes.”

The Obama administration isn’t about to take responsibility for anything. According to Obama, firing Shirley Sherrod was the media’s fault. The only thing surprising is that he didn’t find a way to blame George W. Bush for this.

The Obama “smart” diplomatic set isn’t going to take smart advice from Aaron David Miller: “One of the most enduring myths in the lore surrounding Arab-Israeli diplomacy is that direct negotiations provide the key to successful peacemaking. They don’t. The actual history of negotiations tells a far different story. Direct talks are often necessary, but have never been sufficient to ensure success. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, together with the Obama administration, should stop raising expectations and deluding themselves and the rest of us into thinking otherwise.”

The Obama UN team isn’t exactly wowing them. In fact, Susan Rice’s record is downright “embarrassing”: “Rice missed crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, she failed to speak out when Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, she failed to call-out Libya when they were elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, she recently delivered an Iran sanctions resolution with the least support Iran resolutions have ever had and she called her one and only press conference with the UN Secretary General on the issue of texting while driving. … Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence.  Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues.”

The Obama economy isn’t getting better anytime soon: “The U.S. economic recovery will remain slow deep into next year, held back by shoppers reluctant to spend and employers hesitant to hire, according to an Associated Press survey of leading economists. The latest quarterly AP Economy Survey shows economists have turned gloomier in the past three months. They foresee weaker growth and higher unemployment than they did before.”

The Obama Justice Department isn’t shy about its preferences. “The politically charged gang led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is more interested in helping felons vote than in helping the military to vote. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has put a legislative hold on the already troubled nomination of James M. Cole to be deputy attorney general until the attorney general ensures full protection for voting rights of our military (and associated civilian personnel) stationed abroad.”

The Obama presidency isn’t what liberals imagined it would be (subscription required): “The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 32 to 42 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 255 Democratic and 178 Republican House members and two vacant seats, one formerly held by a Democrat and one by a Republican. Republicans need to net 39 seats to reach a bare majority of 218 seats. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 5 to 7 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 57 Democrats, two independents that caucus with Democrats, and 41 Republican Senators. The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a 3 to 5 seat net gain for Republicans. Currently there are 26 Democratic and 24 Republican Governors.”

The Obama era isn’t “business as usual” inside the Beltway — it’s worse. “The House ethics committee announced 13 charges Thursday against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is accused of breaking House rules as well as federal statutes.”

The Obama administration isn’t about to take responsibility for anything. According to Obama, firing Shirley Sherrod was the media’s fault. The only thing surprising is that he didn’t find a way to blame George W. Bush for this.

The Obama “smart” diplomatic set isn’t going to take smart advice from Aaron David Miller: “One of the most enduring myths in the lore surrounding Arab-Israeli diplomacy is that direct negotiations provide the key to successful peacemaking. They don’t. The actual history of negotiations tells a far different story. Direct talks are often necessary, but have never been sufficient to ensure success. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, together with the Obama administration, should stop raising expectations and deluding themselves and the rest of us into thinking otherwise.”

The Obama UN team isn’t exactly wowing them. In fact, Susan Rice’s record is downright “embarrassing”: “Rice missed crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, she failed to speak out when Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, she failed to call-out Libya when they were elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council, she recently delivered an Iran sanctions resolution with the least support Iran resolutions have ever had and she called her one and only press conference with the UN Secretary General on the issue of texting while driving. … Much of the blame for the weakness belongs to Rice and her habitual silence.  Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues.”

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Using Sherrod to Undermine the New Black Panther Case

While Andrew Breitbart’s release of a misleading edited version of the now-famous Shirley Sherrod speech on race has led him to rightly note that he has become “public enemy number one,” the left is using the controversy he engendered to knock down a wide array of right-wing targets. Not surprising, they hope to drown the outrage over the New Black Panther Party case along with Breitbart.

That’s the not-so-subtle message of a New York Times feature published yesterday, which claims, as its headline insists, “When Race Is the Issue, Misleading Coverage Sets Off an Uproar.” Though the piece leads with Breitbart’s on-target charge that the left is seeking to brand everyone on the right as racist no matter what the facts of the case might be, the subject quickly changes to one the paper is more comfortable with: the idea that accusations of reverse racism (as the Sherrod speech was initially and wrongly thought to be) are all false. As reporter Brian Stelter puts it: “It is an open question whether conservative media outlets risk damage to their credibility when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion.”

And what, other than the Breitbart/Sherrod fiasco, can the Times produce to prove this thesis? None other than the New Black Panther case, in which an African-American hate group engaged in voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day in 2008. The fact that Fox News pursued the story of this crime, which went unpunished by local Philadelphia authorities and which the Justice Department has been reluctant to take up as a violation of civil rights, is presented by the Times as proof that Fox and its news anchor Megyn Kelly engaged in racist coverage.

As Jennifer has written, the mainstream media has been painfully slow to cover this story, which, as many others have said, would have been front-page news if, say, the equally small remnants of the Ku Klux Klan had stood outside of voting places threatening poll watchers and voters with sticks. But despite the fact that the Times itself did eventually get around to printing a story about the case and the allegations that a reluctance to prosecute a black group for offenses that were once solely the avocation of white racists is the reason why the crime is still unpunished, Stelter merely repeats without demurral the dismissal of the entire topic by liberal ideologues like Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Whatever one may think about whether the Justice Department has grounds to take on the New Black Panthers and those who have protected them from prosecution, there is nothing “obscure and misleading” about the uproar over what appears to be an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

While Breitbart is still taking a drubbing for his role in the Sherrod story, with Stelter’s piece, the Times more or less proves his point — that the liberal media’s goal is not truth or responsible journalism but rather the advancement of their own brand of partisan smear mongering.

While Andrew Breitbart’s release of a misleading edited version of the now-famous Shirley Sherrod speech on race has led him to rightly note that he has become “public enemy number one,” the left is using the controversy he engendered to knock down a wide array of right-wing targets. Not surprising, they hope to drown the outrage over the New Black Panther Party case along with Breitbart.

That’s the not-so-subtle message of a New York Times feature published yesterday, which claims, as its headline insists, “When Race Is the Issue, Misleading Coverage Sets Off an Uproar.” Though the piece leads with Breitbart’s on-target charge that the left is seeking to brand everyone on the right as racist no matter what the facts of the case might be, the subject quickly changes to one the paper is more comfortable with: the idea that accusations of reverse racism (as the Sherrod speech was initially and wrongly thought to be) are all false. As reporter Brian Stelter puts it: “It is an open question whether conservative media outlets risk damage to their credibility when obscure or misleading stories are blown out of proportion.”

And what, other than the Breitbart/Sherrod fiasco, can the Times produce to prove this thesis? None other than the New Black Panther case, in which an African-American hate group engaged in voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day in 2008. The fact that Fox News pursued the story of this crime, which went unpunished by local Philadelphia authorities and which the Justice Department has been reluctant to take up as a violation of civil rights, is presented by the Times as proof that Fox and its news anchor Megyn Kelly engaged in racist coverage.

As Jennifer has written, the mainstream media has been painfully slow to cover this story, which, as many others have said, would have been front-page news if, say, the equally small remnants of the Ku Klux Klan had stood outside of voting places threatening poll watchers and voters with sticks. But despite the fact that the Times itself did eventually get around to printing a story about the case and the allegations that a reluctance to prosecute a black group for offenses that were once solely the avocation of white racists is the reason why the crime is still unpunished, Stelter merely repeats without demurral the dismissal of the entire topic by liberal ideologues like Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Whatever one may think about whether the Justice Department has grounds to take on the New Black Panthers and those who have protected them from prosecution, there is nothing “obscure and misleading” about the uproar over what appears to be an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

While Breitbart is still taking a drubbing for his role in the Sherrod story, with Stelter’s piece, the Times more or less proves his point — that the liberal media’s goal is not truth or responsible journalism but rather the advancement of their own brand of partisan smear mongering.

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Shirley Sherrod for White House Adviser

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

Read Less

White House in Panic Mode

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.

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.

Read Less




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