2010/07/20

The Obama Administration should hang its head in shame

Shirley Sherrod, the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, told a story from 24 years ago, the heavily-edited tape from that speech was shown and the Obama Administration acted like a bunch of hysterical children, firing Sherrod immediately. Did they get her side of the story first? They say they did, but that appears to an after-the-fact butt-covering excuse. The statement by Tom Vilsack, the US Secretary of Agriculture, said:

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.

But if her statements were completely fair and appropriate, and the statements were made at an NAACP Freedom Fund dinner, and somehow nobody there got the impression that there was anything controversial about them, then I dunno, but it seems to me that the Cabinet member, and most likely the President who backed up the decision, overreacted to a smear job.

A right-wing blogger, the Anchoress, suspected right off the bat that there was a lot more to the speech by Sherrod than the heavily-edited tape that was released by Andrew Breitbart was letting on:

Doesn't it seem like, after all of that sort of winking, "you and I know how they really are" racist crap wherein Sherrod-intentionally or not-indicts her own narrow focus, she was heading to a more edifying message? What did it open her eyes about? Was she about to say "I took him to one of his own, but it shouldn't have mattered about that; my job was to serve all the farmers who needed help."
Was she about to say, "I learned about myself and about how far we still have to go?" [all emphases in original]

At the same link, MMFA reviews Breitbart's frequent problems with the truth, which of course makes the Obama Administration look even worse. They apparently took the word of a known con man over that of one of their own employees. Speaking from my own experience, I was in the Navy for almost a decade. If I had been caught in an embarrassing posture like Sherrod was, the procedures for my supervisors to have followed would have been crystal clear. My immediate supervisor would have been called. My supervisor would have huddled with me. He/she and I would have gone up the chain of command and would have spoken to the Department Head or the Executive Officer. After that, various huddles would have been held, with people bringing their viewpoints to the Commanding Officer and would probably have resulted in a meeting of myself, my supervisor, my Department Head, the XO and the CO. The final decision would have been something that more or less everybody would have been satisfied was the right thing to do. If I had been right, the chain of command would have stood by me. Had I been wrong, they would have dumped me overboard. But this kind of hasty, panicked decision? This kind of unhinged hysteria?

Sherrod told CNN on Tuesday that she was told repeatedly to resign Monday afternoon after the clip surfaced. "They harassed me," she said. "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."

Seriously, the White House needs to hang its collective head in shame.

Update by Susan (DailyKos): And some rollback and apologies begin, according to Bloomberg:
The Obama administration apologized to a black USDA employee who was forced to resign after an edited video clip of her remarks suggested she acted with racial bias in dealing with a white farmer 24 years ago.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acted without having all the information about the speech by Shirley Sherrod at an NAACP banquet in Georgia in March. Vilsack is trying to contact Sherrod to discuss whether she will return to the agency, he said.
“A disservice was done,” Gibbs said at a White House briefing. “The secretary will apologize for the actions that have taken place over the past 24 to 36 hours.”
"Disservice" is putting it mildly.
Update: Shirley Sherrod has accepted the apology.

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