“I don’t think a single black person was consulted before Shirley Sherrod was fired — I mean c’mon, “ said Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, a black lawmaker so temperate that he agreed with an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal on Friday by Senator James Webb of Virginia, which urged that “government-directed diversity programs should end.”

“The president’s getting hurt real bad,” Clyburn told me. “He needs some black people around him.” He said Obama’s inner circle keeps “screwing up” on race: “Some people over there are not sensitive at all about race. They really feel that the extent to which he allows himself to talk about race would tend to pigeonhole him or cost him support, when a lot of people saw his election as a way to get the issue behind us. I don’t think people elected him to disengage on race. Just the opposite.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s House delegate, agreed: “The president needs some advisers or friends who have a greater sense of the pulse of the African-American community, or who at least have been around the mulberry bush.”