Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jump? How high?

Obama needs to fix this. Now.

John Cole:
This Never Gets Old

The usual suspects release a heavily edited video, the MSM rolls with it, a good person gets fired, and the administration and the left are silent. Yeehaw!

ACORN! NAACP ARE THE REAL RACISTS! What do you think, Dancin’ David Gregory? Would you like a martini with your filet, Mr. Broder?

*** Update ***

Here’s the farmer’s wife saying that the smears are bullshit, and that she helped them.

John Cole: NAACP Backtracks

Good for them:

“The NAACP has a zero tolerance policy against racial discrimination, whether practiced by blacks, whites, or any other group.

The NAACP also has long championed and embraced transformation by people who have moved beyond racial bias. Most notably, we have done so for late Alabama Governor George Wallace and late US Senator Robert Byrd—each a man who had associated with and supported white supremacists and their cause before embracing civil rights for all.

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.

Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.


Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding. The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.

I’m not sure what exactly it will take before everyone realizes what they are dealing with every time these guys release a tape. Will the media learn a lesson as the NAACP did? Or, more likely, are we just a few days away from Clark Hoyt and Andrew Alexander apologizing to the wingnuts for not coming out against Sherrod in a more timely manner.

And for all of you who have given into fits of angst over my comments earlier saying no one in the administration or “the left” came to her defense, I include myself in that. I just meant that no one defended the poor woman, no one said “slow down, these guys did the same thing with ACORN.” Myself included.

*** Update ***

This sort of speaks for itself:

Meanwhile, the farmer referenced in the clip told CNN he credits Sherrod with helping his family save their farm.

“I don’t know what brought up the racist mess,” Roger Spooner told CNN’s “Rick’s List.” “They just want to stir up some trouble, it sounds to me in my opinion.”

Spooner says Sherrod accompanied him and his wife to a lawyer in Americus, Georgia, who was able to help them file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which ultimately saved their farm.

“If it hadn’t been for her, we would’ve never known who to see or what to do,” he said. “She led us right to our success.”

Spooner’s wife, Eloise, remembered Sherrod as “nice-mannered, thoughtful, friendly; a good person.”

She said that when she saw the story of the tape and Sherrod’s resignation on television, “I said, ‘That ain’t right. They have not treated her right.’ “

The administration has an opportunity to do the right thing here, and they should.

Kevin Drum:
The full video of Shirley Sherrod doesn't show that she's a racist. What it shows is her telling a story about how, 24 years ago, she had to overcome her own underlying racial resentments in order to do her job properly. It shows her telling a story about how, with God's help, she learned that her job was about helping the poor, not about whether you're white or black or Hispanic. In other words, it's the exact opposite of what Andrew Breitbart tried to paint it as.

This should go without saying, but Tom Vilsack needs to apologize and rehire Sherrod, and he needs to do it with the same dispatch that he fired her with in the first place. If stories like Sherrod's are out of bounds, we've truly reached a new low in conservative mau mauing and racial cowardice.

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Dennis G.: When they say it is not about race… is about race.

Back in the late sixties the Democratic Party had broken their century long bond with the Confederate Party: those folks who believed (and still believe) that the cause of the South was just, that it was about State’s Rights and (on the hush-hush) that whites are the dominant race. Of these three beliefs the first two can always be uttered out loud but the last one must be said in code (damn those hippies and the NAACP!).

Richard Nixon thought he could bring this energy into the Republican Party and control it. For a while it worked. Reagan road this wave of bile to victory and with him came a generation of code talkers deeply skilled at spinning whenever the issue of race came up.

ConfederateGOP Logo

Today, these Confederate nostalgics control the Republican Party—lock, stock and barrel. Nixon and Reagan would both get the Arlen Specter treatment if they were still alive to see the product of their deal with the demons of our fears. It is a bitter cup of tea indeed.

Of course one must not speak of the racism at the core of the modern conservative/republican/teabagger movement. That would be rude. Instead, we are advised that we should allow them to play their games, like they did today when a highly edited clip got some poor bureaucrat fired and made the Obama Administration and the NAACP look like easy marks taken in by a quick hustle of three card monty on Houston Street.

Really? WTF! Rehire this women and fight back!. It really is past time to push back on these race-baiting fuckwads of hate. It is time to call them out and make them own their bile.

The dickless weasel who posted this clip is famous for race-baiting. It is all he does. His only gig is to promote fear of a black planet, a black President and a black or brown other hnding in the shadows to ‘Get Whitey’ . Regardless of his spin, everything he does is only about race. But he is not alone, he is just following the Confederate Party playbook.

The entire Republican Confederate campaign for 2010 is built on dog whistles to race-baiting. Old folks vote and the fools who voted for Reagan in 1980 are all eligible for AARP membership. These boomers grew up in an age where racism was celebrated. They hear the race baited whistles with clarity and it comforts them. It is important to call attention to this racism and disrupt the comfort of these baby boomers. It is important to smash the idealized black and white world of their collective neo-Confederate fantasies. Some may even turn away from this appeal to the demons of their fears. Others are just hopeless. Sure, they can cast a vote for the Confederate world view—it is their right—but they don’t get to pretend that race has nothing to do with it. Especially when race is why they embrace wingnutopia in the first place. It is time to make these cowards uncomfortable.

The Confederacy is dying. It will not survive much longer, but is is a dangerous philosophy of hate and it will not go quietly to the dustbin of history. The good news is that over time the hate they promote will fade. The sad news is that those boomers who feed on that hate will be around for some time to come and their ears are very turned to these dog whistles. As they play their games we must be ready to call them out.

BooMan:Vilsack or Obama Must Reinstate Sherrod
After the NAACP called on the Tea Party to condemn the racism in its midst, Andrew Breitbart promised to produce a tape of " a NAACP dinner" and told the president of the NAACP to "go to hell." He then produced a video that showed Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod admitting to a NAACP audience that she had once withheld help from a white farmer because of his race. Ms. Sherrod, who worked for the USDA in Georgia, was promptly fired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod’s resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia.

Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.

The problem is that Tom Vilsack just got punk'd. Think Progress explains:

Within less than a day, Sherrod resigned from her USDA post under heavy pressure from the White House, saying she received “at least three” frantic phone calls from superiors demanding her resignation. At first glance, the forced resignation seemed fair — even the NAACP endorsed it, calling her comments “shameful.”

However, new evidence suggests that BigGovernment selectively edited the video to grossly distort what actually happened.

Here's what Ms. Sherrod told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Sherrod [told the Atlanta Journal Constitution] that what online viewers weren’t told in reports posted throughout the day Monday was that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.

Sherrod said the short video clip excluded the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with the farmer and his wife. [...]

“The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it’s about the people who have and the people who don’t. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race.“

Indeed, after nearly a quarter century, Ms. Sherrod remains close friends with this family.

Indeed, the wife of the white farmer in question, 82-year-old Eloise Spooner, confirmed the story and called Sherrod a “friend for life.” She told CNN that Sherrod “treated us really good and got us all we could.” “She’s the one I give credit to with helping us save our farm.”

So, Tom Vilsack just forced an employee to resign based on a doctored video recounting a 24 year old event that occurred before she was even employed by the Department of Agriculture. She was sacked for explaining how she unlearned racism (a quarter of a century ago). And, Vilsack's explanation is that "right or wrong" these allegations would make it difficult to do her job effectively.

If this stands then the administration has no spine and no brain. Andrew Breitbart was also the brain that destroyed ACORN using doctored video, and he has a long history of playing the media.

One thing Breitbart will say about [Matt] Drudge, though, is that his mentor introduced him to Arianna Huffington, then a right-wing pundit and Drudge confidant. Breitbart became her researcher and Web guru. By her side, he learned that the media could be more than scooped — it could be hacked. The first exploit was almost an accident: In September 1998, he suggested that Drudge and Huffington go to the embezzlement trial of former Clinton business associate Susan McDougal. The Los Angeles Times took note of their attendance the next day in a headline and a few sentences in the Metro section. Publicists have been pulling similar tricks since silent-movie days, sending celebrity clients to public events. But to Breitbart, the move was a revelation. “You can play the media. You can force them to cover things,” he says. “This is not just stenography. There’s a performance art to it.”

In this case, the performance art made Vilsack make a very poor decision and cost a fine women her job and her reputation. The NAACP has now backtracked on their condemnation and admitted they were 'snookered.'

With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.

Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.

It's time for Vilsack to make the same admission and reinstate her. If he hesitates out of embarrassment, then Obama should reinstate her himself. No leader worth a damn can allow his employees to get victimized by a dirty trickster like Breitbart.

Update [2010-7-20 21:58:2 by BooMan]: Here is the unedited video of her speech.

Kurtz: Point of Clarification

There's been some confusion today over one aspect of this Breitbart/USDA story that I want to try to clear up.

Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official forced out, did an on camera interview with CNN at midday. In the interview, Sherrod described the pressure she came under yesterday from within the USDA to resign her post in light of the Breitbart video. Shortly after that, the Washington Post had a write-up of the interview in which they quote Sherrod as saying, "I got three calls from the White House. 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."

Now that purported declaration -- that she got three calls from the White House demanding her resignation -- seems off to anyone who follows these things. Sherrod is a low-level official. The White House wouldn't need to get involved so directly and rarely ever wants to. Why get involved directly in a mess that you can leave to a cabinet department to handle? So if Sherrod's account of what happened yesterday is off, then how reliable is her account of the speech she gave back in March?

But here's the thing: We can't find any evidence she actually said that, either in the video or in CNN's transcript. What she did say, our review of the video shows, was: "I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign."

That's very, very different.

Elsewhere in the interview, Sherrod identified the person who called her as Cheryl Cook, a deputy undersecretary at USDA. Did Cook invoke the White House in demanding her resignation? That seems to be what Sherrod is suggesting and that sounds much more plausible given what we know about how White Houses work in these situations. For the record, the White House denies any involvement.

It's a minor point in the overall story but it's led to some confusion today.

Kurtz: Way To Stay Strong, Tom

It's easy to pop Andrew Breitbart in this whole mess, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack isn't exactly covering himself with glory. Vilsack was on CNN earlier essentially saying that it doesn't matter whether Breitbart's video turns out to be a bogus smear of Shirley Sherrod. No, Vilsack demanded Sherrod's resignation because the whole episode could open her up to charges of racism in the future and impair her ability to do her job.

So I guess if I were to write that Tom Vilsack doesn't have his people's back and won't even do a cursory investigation before throwing his employees to the wolves, then that could open him up to charges that he doesn't have the confidence of USDA employees and impair his ability to do his job.

Dangerous logic.

Jonathan Bernstein: Appalling. Disgusting. Awful.
I don't really want to be in the business of commenting on every crazy thing that the crazy portions of the right (or left, for that matter) come up with, but since it's become a governing story, I suppose I'll say something.

But first, the facts as I understand them, based on this WaPo story: Shirley Sherrod, who worked at the Ag Department, told what apparently was a trite and formulaic story in public about how she learned when she was young that it was wrong to discriminate against anyone. Carefully edited and released by racemonger and bottom-feeder Andrew Breitbart, it was turned into a statement that she discriminates against white people, and of course immediately became a major flap in the conservative world.

Just to stop right there: this is in fact appalling, disgusting, and awful behavior. To selectively edit a video to incite racial doesn't get a lot more slimy than that. Second, it's pathetic. Really, that's the best you got?

OK, enough of my editorializing, and on to the presidential side of it. As soon as the story went nuts, Sherrod was asked to resign from her job, apparently on the basis that the smear against her was either true, or as Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement, because "The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia."

Liberals have been outraged that she lost her job, and rightly so -- if Democrats go around firing everyone who draws the fire of Breitbart, Beck, and the rest of them without any regard for the merit of the accusations, the Obama administration will be unable to function. In response, the Vilsack put out his statement, and the White House is denying any involvement, claiming to Greg Sargent and others that USDA acted alone.

This isn't good enough. Reputation matters in these things. The White House, in my opinion, did an excellent job of handling these things last year, letting Van Jones go when something specific they were wise not to defend surfaced, but ignoring other attacks if they were based on phony smears. This one doesn't fit the pattern. Sherrod, as far as I can tell from what's on the record so far, did absolutely nothing wrong, and shouldn't have been fired for it.

The White House has (whether accurately or not) set up Vilsack as the scapegoat for this, but that's not good enough. Externally, Obama needs to make it absolutely clear that it's a mistake: he should very publicly take Vilsack to the woodshed. Internally, whoever panicked at the thought of Glenn Beck yelling, or sobbing, or whatever about this needs to go, whether it's someone at the White House or, more likely I think, at the Ag Department.

(Why is my guess that it was someone at Ag? Because everyone at the White House has dealt with this stuff on a daily basis, and they don't have a pattern of knee-jerk caving. So my guess is that it was someone in the sleepy mid-level bureaucracy at a sleepy agency that just didn't know how to deal with it. Just to be clear, though, I'm guessing about that).

The key here is that the president himself needs to make it clear that this was a mistake if he doesn't want his reputation damaged, and while I don't think Vilsack needs to lose his job, Obama needs to make clear that both the original decision to fire her without knowing the facts, and Vilsack's statement, do not reflect administration policy. Mistakes happen, but a president doesn't want a low-level mistake (or for that matter a high-level one, if it really was someone in the upper levels of the White House who was responsible) to hurt his reputation.

This isn't going to be the last time the crazies target someone. The Van Jones standard was a good one, and it's worked well for the last several months. It's going to take a high-profile move by Barack Obama to restore that standard, and he should do it, and soon.
Kurtz: Vilsack To Reconsider?

The AP is reporting that in a very early morning statement Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is "willing" to reconsider the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod. But I'm not sure what to make of this line that AP quotes from the statement: "I am of course willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner."

Hasn't he figured out yet that this isn't about "providing services in a fair and equitable manner"? Hello. That's the manufactured Breitbart/Fox narrative. Vilsack still seems stuck in the wrong narrative.

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