Obama pointed to Tom Vilsack as his spokeman to announce that Obama had made a mistake acting so hastily when firing Shirley Sherrod the other day. John Kass of the Chicago Tribune writes it this way:
“In post-racial America, whenever conservatives provoke liberals to foolishly overreact in a racial controversy and step right into the doo-doo, two things are required:
A ticket to “sensitivity school.” And a fall guy.
Lately, we can’t help getting hit with all the flying racial cards. Everything from whether LeBron James was treated like some “runaway slave” to whether the NAACP was racist by accusing tea party activists of being racists.
And now the latest. The knee-jerk reaction by the Obama administration in firing Department of Agriculture bureaucrat Shirley Sherrod, an African-American accused of racism when there wasn’t any.
So let’s meet the new fall guy, Sherrod’s boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsack is a perfect fall guy for racial controversies. He’s white. He’s male. He’s from Iowa. He’s got an ethnic “European”-sounding name.
Vilsack is the fall guy.
He now says it was his decision alone to fire Sherrod over a speech she made this year to the NAACP about an event 24 years ago.
In a two-minute segment that became viral on conservative blogs and then FOX News, Sherrod tells the black civil rights organization that, as an African-American who experienced discrimination, she wasn’t inclined to help white farmers who needed it.
But what wasn’t reported initially was the central theme of her speech: She realized that it doesn’t matter what color a farmer is, if he needs help, he needs help.
If only we all could act the Shirley Sherrod way. But then what would politicians and groups that leverage skin pigments for votes, power and government benefits do for a living?
As many of you know, Sherrod’s bosses ordered her to immediately type her resignation on her government BlackBerry.
She says the pressure actually came from the Obama White House.
So how is it that Vilsack is the fall guy?”
Because he’s the one who went before the TV cameras to say he’s sorry that “a good woman” was “put through hell.” He admitted to hasty action, apologized and offered her a better job.
Once a fall guy is chosen, the label must be firmly seared into the public mind. And so President Barack Obama called Sherrod on Thursday.
“The president expressed to Ms. Sherrod his regrets about the events of the last several days,” said the White House official version of history. “He emphasized that Secretary Vilsack was sincere in his apology yesterday, and in his work to rid USDA of discrimination.”
It ended with the president’s hope that Sherrod would use the “misfortune” to accept a new post and “continue her hard work on behalf of those in need.”
Such bureaucratic verbal surgery, while effective, is somewhat flat. So allow me to translate:
The president “regrets” what the guy with the bear on his head did to poor Ms. Sherrod, and he reinforces that it was the guy with the bear on his head — and not the president or Rahm or David or Michelle or Valerie — but the bear-head guy alone, who is very, very sorry and won’t do it again.
So we’re hoping she’ll take the new job at better pay and a nicer government car and benefits, even an iPhone, so she won’t be in the news anymore, because we feel really, really stupid, OK?
Sherrod is no fool. She accepted the Vilsack apology but not the job.
What I found most fascinating is what Sherrod said on the morning talk shows Thursday. She supports Obama yet still insists it was the White House that had her fired, and figures the president needs to learn some things.
“He hasn’t lived the kind of life I lived,” she told CNN. “I know that he’s African-American — or part African-American — many of us are not totally black in our genes, and I’m one of them,” she said.
“I’d like for him — he’s not someone who has experienced some of the things I’ve experienced through life, being a person of color. He might need to hear some of what I could say to him. I don’t know whether that would guide him in the way he deals with others like me. But I would at least like to have the opportunity to talk to him about it,” she said.
Is it just me or is she telling Obama that he needs to go to Sensitivity School to fully understand the black experience?
Straight away, she received a text message from the White House saying Obama had been trying to reach her since Wednesday. Imagine that. The president of the United States couldn’t find her. She must have left her BlackBerry off the hook.
Finally, they had their talk, and America got what it requires.
A little presidential sensitivity session.