Monday, July 26, 2010

When the White House acts badly

by Don Klein

The Shirley Sherrod case is a perfect example of what happens when society becomes politically truculent. Somebody ends up tripping over his own feet. Nobody escaped this incident with clean skirts. But there were two kinds of disgrace citations to be awarded to those involved.

On one side we had the predictable underhanded troublemakers and on the other side we had the botched up stupidity of the do-gooders. I am not sure which is more harmful to the country in the long run.

I cannot image a single mentally sound person being surprised to learn that Fox News broadcast a phony, abridged video designed to discredit the NAACP and the Obama Administration. That’s their bread and butter. Their mother's milk. Lying and distorting news which defames their most favorite designated scapegoat is as natural to Fox as bananas are to monkeys.

Does anyone expect honest reporting and fair handling of news from a corporation whose owner is Rupert Murdoch, the Australian news mogul who makes his money selling trash wherever possible? His London tabloid, The Sun, for example, carries a daily page of naked young women to boost circulation and sadly tons of Brits plunk down their hard-earned moolah for this version of the "news."

He ruined the once liberal New York Post and now is on the way to infusing the erstwhile Wall Street Journal with his kind of questionable "journalism." When Murdoch is finished with it, the WSJ will be less than a shadow of its former self, much to the sorrow of all journalists and readers.

So there is no great surprise to learn that his television news network would sink to its lowest and portray in edited tape a decent government employee as a racist, especially since the record showed she was just the opposite. That’s the way Fox plays the news – hit someone below the belt, watch the confusion it creates and run for cover when the facts finally come out.

Then we have the other side of the controversy. It was more damaging, and to me very disheartening, the way Sherrod was treated by her superiors in the Obama Administration. Without a question, without a review of the phony tape, without even a second thought, she was asked to resign. They couldn’t even wait for her to get to her office. She was forced to fall on her sword on the side of the road while enroute to her destination.

Now let’s be clear. If a federal employee was found stealing paper clips and reams of stationery they would be hauled up before superiors and asked to explain their actions. Sherrod, a mid-level specialist in the Department of Agriculture, was denied that routine procedure expected by all employees. She was booted onto the sidewalk like an unruly drunk thrown out of a saloon.

Why? Allegedly because they expected Glenn Beck to feature her story on that evening’s broadcast on Fox. Her bosses wanted to get ahead of the story. So there was no time for her side to be told, nor was there time to review the entire video which exonerated her from any wrongdoing.

Slam dunk. She was out on her ear with not so much as a howdy do. That was worse than anything Fox did or Beck could have done (Beck did not mention the story that night). The Secretary of Agriculture violated this woman’s employment rights by dismissing her without a hearing on grounds that proved to be erroneous.

Shame. Is that what we should expect from our government? It is said she was asked to resign on the insistence of the White House. If that is true we need some house cleaning there. We have a bunch a nervous Nellies more concerned about what Beck might say than being fair with a longtime employee.

I never cared much for the people who surround Obama and provide him with advice. I often wonder if they were the ones who managed from behind the scenes the attempt to get bipartisan support for the Health Care bill by watering down its provisions. I wonder how much influence these people had in convincing Obama to accept a nearly toothless Financial Reform bill.

I will never forgive these opportunists on the Obama team for unjustly branding Bill Clinton a racist during the 2008 primary campaign. I know politics is rough and hard, but I viewed Obama as principled leader, a man who sought the higher plain of political participation.

But someone in his office gave the agriculture people reason to believe that Sherrod had to be jettisoned to avoid further conflict with Fox commentators. What crap. What cowardice. Loyalty requires that you stand up for you people and get the whole story before acting like jittery mice approaching a cheese-laden mousetrap.

I would hope that Obama, a decent man with honorable goals, will find out who pushed for Sherrod’s resignation and take that aide to the woodshed for a sound spanking. This incident did more harm to the Obama gang than anything they’ve done previously. This is not the act of an upfront, straight forward administration we thought we elected almost two years ago.

Obama should get rid of his overprotected adjutants (or at least reject their advice) and start being a pacesetter. As a Constitutional scholar he knows when a person’s rights have been violated. To have his administration guilty of such antics is a letdown to all his supporters.

1 comment:

Charlie Sorrentino said...

Nowhere is the story by Hans Christian Anderson, "The Emperor's New Suit" more prophetic than in the White House. It makes little difference which Administration, President's consistently surround themselves with people who feel their job is to protect the president at all costs. More than 3000 people are appointed by each new Administration into the highest policy making positions to reward them for their loyalty to the party. For the most part they literally run the functional aspects of each Department and Agency without regard for their experience or ability to actually carry out the mission of the agency. The syndrome trickles down with each appointment no matter what level from White House staff to cabinet members on down with each level preoccupied with self preservation. It is no wonder that somewhere along the way, the lofty ideological goals are lost in the press of business. To be sure you will see this dynamic in all organizations. But nowhere does it impact the world as it does in the White House. once said: "If the two of us always agree, then one of us is not necessary."