Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama's White House: Its Own Worst Enemy

There are times when the Obama administration really seems to working well, passing legislation which appears to benefit working-class Americans over the obscenely wealthy (the recent financial services reform bill as an example), generally triumphing over the obstructionist Republican party and keeping some of the lofty campaign promises Obama freely made. Other times it appears as if the White House is secretly working for the far-right conservatives who leave no stone unturned in their self-declared war to make the current administration a failure in everything they attempt. The recent debacle with Shirley Sherrod, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shows in very painful clarity an example of the latter.

Sherrod gave a speech in the not-too-distant past regarding the DOA's history with poor farmers. A conservative blogger and disgusting toady to the right-wing named Andrew Breitbart found the video record of the speech and excerpted a two-minute segment, lifting it entirely out of context and posting it on the web as proof that the respected and highly-regarded Sherrod was racist against white people. If you listen to the whole speech nothing could be further than the truth, but that didn't matter. The clip was launched on the Internet and it went hyper-ballistic in minutes. It didn't take long before Fixed News, I mean Fox News, picked it up like a dog eating another dog's feces, and ran with it. The idiotic and incompetent Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, saw the clip and did not bother to do any sort of calling-around or fact-checking, and God forbid he would think of going directly TO HIS EMPLOYEE Ms. Sherrod and get her take on it. No, he just took the clip as being the Gospel truth and demanded her resignation. She in fact had to pull over in her car and submit her resignation via Blackberry.

Now, a huge screw-up by a high-level government stooge like Vilsack is not that much of a surprise, but what is truly, awfully astonishing is the White House doing the exact same thing - hearing about a video clip storming the Internet and also assuming it was valid, and then calling for Sherrod's head. Are they kidding us? They believe every ridiculous thing they see or read on the Internet? That's like watching Battlestar Galactica and then calling 911 because you think your neighbor is a Cylon. Are they four years old or something that they have to be cautioned not to believe everything they see or read on the Internet?

After this catastrophe exploded on the mainstream media, Breitbart was universally denounced as a non-journalist, a hack of the most base and vile nature, a totally amoral muckraker and someone who is not even worthy of the most utter contempt anyone can muster. After the White House figured out that 5 tons of the stinkiest manure imaginable just hit the giant fan they were standing in front of, they started furiously backpedaling, but as if often the case it was too little, too late. Vilsack started dithering around like a dog chasing his own tail, and Obama himself had to call Sherrod directly and apologize for the stupidity and incompetence of his staff. I so would have loved to listen in on that little chat, although I'm sure Ms. Sherrod (whose own father was murdered by a Ku Klux Klansman when she was a teenager and who has every conceivable right to have a problem with white people, but doesn't) showed enormous grace and magnanimity to the President who clearly felt like a moron for falling into a trap set by the right-wing, one that worked perfectly and flawlessly.

As my dear friend Julia pointed out, Obama is simply too much of a gentleman to go after Breitbart and call him an asshole, a craven coward, a galaxy-class douchebag and an ass-sucker of the highest magnitude, even though that and a whole lot worse is absolutely true. If this had happened in the previous administration, George Bush might have been too oblivious and distracted to care, but you can bet the mortgage that Cheney would have been all over it, sprouting horns and breathing fire into the face of whoever was responsible. Vice President Joe Biden is too enamored with his "elder-statesman" role to kick someone's ass, no matter how well-deserved, so the hatchet job should have fallen to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the White House's yappy little attack dog. Like a chihuahua with a bad attitude, Emanuel has a reputation for savage, one-on-one political combat and has a scorched-earth policy in regards to his political enemies. But they must have put little Rahmie on a short leash made of prozac recently because he was very conspicuous in his absence and his silence.

Bottom line, the Obama administration showed blinding, unbelievable incompetence by charging like a runaway freight train directly into a trap set by a brittle, angry, paranoid right-wing pundit, and they gave the far right exactly what they wanted - the legitimacy of knowing that the White House listens to what they say, unconditionally regards it as credible and reacts accordingly. The conservative movement in all its variations has stated in the clearest possible terms that they and Obama are deadly enemies in an almost classical, epic battle between good and evil, and they will take any action, tell any lie and exploit every opportunity, no matter how underhanded, immoral or unfounded, to discredit and embarrass this administration. This incident with Shirley Sherrod shows in a most discouraging fashion that the administration is all too willing to play along and provide them with a huge, slow-moving target that is too stupid and too incompetent to fight back, or even realize it is under attack.

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