Shirley Sherrod has everyone from the president on down apologizing to her (well, except for Andrew Breitbart), but I'd bet she would rather just have a do-over of the past week.
Actually, it's not Sherrod who needs a do-over, but journalists, politicians, and government officials. What a shameful mess that's been created, thanks to knee-jerk reactions to a video snippet posted on an openly partisan site.
Journalists, politicians, the Secretary of Agriculture, and even President Obama himself all leaped to conclusions and willingly sacrificed Sherrod. Meanwhile, Sherrod's the only one who's survived this debacle with her credibility intact.
I'm not surprised by the maniacal behavior on the part of journalists -- not even Andrew Breitbart's blatant misuse of video for the purpose of taking down the NAACP while sacrificing Sherrod. In journalism, it's all about ratings, baby! The days of Walter Cronkite's thoughtful, measured reporting are long gone. Childish squabbling between cable news outlets is what we can expect now. (MSNBC and FOXNews, I'm looking at both of you.)
What really disappoints me is the reaction of the Obama administration. They took a "wait and see" approach on the Deepwater Horizon disaster (as BP continues to screw up even now), but they called immediately for Sherrod's resignation based on a deliberately incendiary -- and ultimately false -- charge that ought to have been viewed with far more skepticism.
But politics is all about ratings too, in the form of poll numbers. President Obama's favorability has been hovering in the mid-40s, and he's been in the red since last October. Coupled with criticism of his measured (or apathetic, depending who you ask) reaction to the BP disaster, he felt he had to react quickly and decisively to Breitbart's accusations -- which were really directed at the NAACP, not Sherrod.
Now that we know the rest of the story (seriously, doesn't this whole mess remind you of a Paul Harvey anecdote?), the president and Secretary Vilsack have apologized to Shirley Sherrod and offered her a new position -- a gracious gesture, but one which I don't blame her for being hesitant to accept.
But the president's still mishandling this mess. His latest faux pas came on Good Morning America, where he said that Secretary Vilsack "jumped the gun, partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles." Then he turned around and said, "We have to make sure that we're focusing on doing the right thing instead of what looks to be politically necessary at that very moment."
Meanwhile, liberal news outlets like HuffPo report that the White House was leading the call for Sherrod's resignation:
"Sherrod said she was on the road Monday when USDA deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook called her and told her the White House wanted her to resign because her comments were generating a cable news controversy.
"'They called me twice,' she told The Associated Press in an interview. 'The last time they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my BlackBerry, and that's what I did.'"
Who's in charge here, Mr. President? I've got no patience for leaders who shift blame, however masterfully you might wordsmith it. Not only was Sherrod a casualty of Breitbart's false charges, now you're throwing your Secretary of Agriculture under the bus as well? Seems to me that you're still focused on doing what you think is "politically necessary."
Sherrod for President in 2012! Who's with me?