July 25, 2010
Clarice's Pieces: Know When to Hold 'EmBy Clarice Feldman
Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" is as good a start to this week's summary as I can think of:
In my view, Obama still doesn't know when to hold or fold his race cards. Neither does the NAACP. They've been bluffing the dummies so long they think they can get away with it forever. And they are wrong.
And when "the dealin's done, the Democrats and their friends in the press will find out that their decades-long race-baiting of their political and ideological opponents has lost its power to bluff. Let's start seeing and raising them every time they try it .
Obama ran and won in large part on a theme: this was going to be a post-racial presidency. We could end the Balkanization of American and begin working together. From the outset he danced a tightrope. To appease his base -- and perhaps because it fits his worldview -- he filled his administration with people who had a decidedly racialist/ spoils system view of government. The agenda was to increase the number of racial preferences while pretending it was not doing so.
One of his most important picks was Eric Holder as Attorney General. And one of Holder's first acts was to call the United States "a nation of cowards" on racial issues. "Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race," he said.
At the same time, his Department was dismissing a case it had won against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation and directing the staff of the Civil Rights Division to ignore similar cases in which the perpetrators of voter intimidation were black and the victims white (according to sworn and corroborated testimony). It was forcing jurisdictions still under the Voting Rights Act to adopt voting rules that would assure racial quotas were met in election outcomes. To date, the Department, instead of welcoming a debate on race and on its conduct, has refused to cooperate with any official inquiries on its conduct.
In the same vein, when the Administration stripped car dealerships from Chrysler and GM owners race was a factor in deciding who would be allowed to remain in business and who would not.
On the Hill, with Congressional assistance, new racial preferences were slipped into ObamaCare and the misnamed Financial Reform Act. All of this had the likely effect of driving further a wedge between citizens; violating our firmly held belief in equality of opportunity and creating more tensions and ill-will.
Last summer the President made an unforced error, attacking the Cambridge police Department for what he characterized as behaving stupidly in arresting Harvard Professor Gates. When it turned out that it was Gates who was at fault and Obama who had acted unfairly before the facts -- the "context" if you will -- were known, he tried to patch it over with a Rose garden Beer Summit.
This week, the President again acted precipitously in forcing the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, a USDA employee, for her remarks made in March to an NAACP group .When it appeared that her remarks -- while they were intemperate and would surely have been deemed racist if they'd been made by a white speaker, were somewhat ameliorated (but no less racist) by her claimed epiphany that the issue was class, not race -- he was forced once again to backtrack. Obama apologized and apparently another position was offered to her.
In the event you haven't watched all the ins and outs, here's a summary.
Shirley Sherrod was the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed her to this position on July 25 of last year, days after a group she'd formed with her husband and others won a thirteen million dollar settlement of a suit they'd file against Vilsack claiming the Department had discriminated against them, a case whose claims have mushroomed and for which taxpayers have already paid out over a billion dollars plus some millions in defense costs, in some cases to plaintiffs with dubious claims.
Speaking at an NAACP dinner in Georgia, she talked about how some years before while working at a non-government organization -- she'd not done all she should have to help a struggling white farmer. Her words are clearly racist. The audience signaled agreement with them.
Andrew Breitbart received a copy of this tape.
When the NAACP falsely charged Obama's opponents in the tea party with being racist, Breitbart who has repeatedly shown the claim against the tea party to be without foundation unloaded the tape, using it to show the hypocrisy of the NAACP:
In fact, Breitbart's aim was directed as much toward the media as the NAACP and Sherrod's class warfare language. He said, when presenting the video tapes:
Not on the version of the tape he had, but on the longer version in the NAACP's possession, Ms Sherrod later said she'd had an epiphany: Poor whites weren't the enemy. It was the rich folks who were harming the poor of all races.
Perhaps Breitbart should have made even clearer that he was not attacking her, but the NAACP. He later clarified that her admission of racist behavior concerned conduct which occurred before she was on the government payroll. It was clear nonetheless that what he'd given (two different snippets from the speech, the latter advising blacks to seek employment at the USDA here they wouldn't be fired) was not the entire tape. Fox news, signaled to its producers not to use the tape and with the exception of Bill O ‘ Reilly, they held off showing the video until she resigned though other media did run with it before the entire tape was found.
The NAACP leapt in and demanded she be fired, and the White House pressured her to resign.
When the full tape -- or at least more of it (there is an unexplained break in the tape) -- was made public, the NAACP backtracked, the White House apologized and there was a suggestion that she was going to be offered another job in "civil rights."
What Breitbart had done was a bit of judo, using the NAACP's hair trigger response to racism and its habit of using selective and not credibly evidenced reports against opponents like the tea party to embarrass the organization itself to demonstrate how careless it is in its accusations of racism. They stepped in it with both feet, embarrassing Ms. Sherrod, the White House and their own organization in the process. To my knowledge this is the first serious pushback against such NAACP techniques. There is a certain symmetry in all this.
As my friend JMH noted," They demanded that tea party leaders publicly excommunicate putative racists in their midst -- and then suddenly found themselves stumbling over their own petard."
Those who use this to attack Breitbart are wrong. He baited the hook and all the usual suspects leapt at it.
People are already hard at work trying to rewrite the history of this. In the new version Ms. Sherrod is another Dreyfus according to the laughably hyperbolic Keith Olbermann, but in her speech while on the government payroll she said,
After the forced resignation the NAACP had some "context" which in its mind softened the racism in the initial video, the NAACP blamed Fox and Breitbart for their own overreaction to the video.
She, too, blamed Fox. She said Fox showed no professionalism in continuing to bother her for an interview, but failing to correct their coverage.
In sum, in the new telling of the events Breitbart's own words are ignored and he was blamed for what were the White House and the NAACP's intemperate actions. Sherrod and the NAACP both blamed Fox, the network that held back on the basis they wanted to see the whole tape and would not run the story until it could see the whole thing and get some context for her remarks.
For Sherrod and the NAACP the enemy is Fox and Republicans. Not themselves or the White House. For Obama the fault is Vilsack's.
The story gained even more traction than it might have -- at least online. (Who knows what minimal information those who rely on old media have of any of this?)
The reason for that is the Daily Caller obtained the archives of the 400 member listserv JournoList emails which reveal the connivances of this band of journalists and academics.
There's a lot of unsavory meat being exposed. Not the least of it is the plan to tar any opposition to Obama and his policies during the presidential campaign as racist even though the claims were far fetched and baseless, and to prevent news of Obama's racist and Marxist Reverend Wright from being published.
Don Surber reviewed some of the campaign coverage and noted how often the reportage contained false accusations of racism.
The denouement comes too late to remedy the outrages perpetrated by the race baiters over the years. How much "context", for example, did civil rights activists give the decent Judge Pickering with a lifetime of working for better racial relations and square dealing? None, of course.
But this tactic has been so good to them, the examples of the bluffs' working are numerous. Thus Senator Byrd was given a hero's farewell in the Capitol, his role in blocking civil rights legislation for years was all but forgotten by the Democrats and most of the press when his party laid him to rest after a long career redolent of racism. But Byrd's an easy example of how public memories have been distorted by time and media disinformation. Here's a better test. Ask your family and friends if then Senator John F Kennedy, voted for or against President Eisenhower's 1957 Civil Rights Act.
When you realize how few know the correct answer, maybe you'll agree that the time to push back against this race card bluffing and media distortion of the truth is long overdue.