Maureen Dowd hints: The White House had a role in pushing Sherrod out

Great catch by Tom Maguire of a tidbit buried in MoDo’s crude, racially reductive attempt to blame l’affaire Sherrod on the “overprotective white guys” who surround The One. It’s unclear from what she writes whether anyone called the White House before Sherrod was forced to resign or only later that day after it happened, but I’d sure like to know the timeline. Was it Vilsack’s decision to let her go and, even if it was, if the White House had reason to believe that the initial clip was fishy before he canned her, why didn’t they reach out and tell him to exercise caution?

The West Wing white guys who pushed to ditch Shirley Sherrod before Glenn Beck could pounce not only didn’t bother to Google, they weren’t familiar enough with civil rights history to recognize the name Sherrod. And they didn’t return the calls and e-mail of prominent blacks who tried to alert them that something was wrong

“I’ve known these two individuals — the husband for more than 50 years and the wife for at least 35, 40 — and there’s not a racist hair on their heads or anyplace else on their bodies,” [Rep. John] Lewis said…

“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.”

Imagine the reaction of America’s first black president, who famously spent time in Chicago as a community organizer, opening his copy of the Times today to find that Manhattanite caricature Maureen Dowd doesn’t think he’s sensitive enough to racial concerns. Same for Valerie Jarrett, one of The One’s top advisors, whose counsel on racial matters is evidently suspect because she lived in Iran until she was, um, five. In fact, file this one away for future use: According to one of the NYT’s resident Pulitzer-winners, the entire brain trust of this very Democratic, very liberal White House — Obama, Jarrett, Axelrod, Emanuel, Biden, Gibbs, on down — is racially tone-deaf. Good to know.

As for the rest of it, and as usual for MoDo, I’m not quite sure what her point is. John Lewis’s argument is clear enough — he knows the Sherrods and could have told Axelrod, Vilsack, etc., that the stuff in the initial clip didn’t sound like her — but I don’t see what having more black advisors surrounding Obama would have accomplished in handling the early uproar over the tape. Is Clyburn suggesting that a black advisor would have been more sensitive to the possibility that she was being taken out of context? The Anchoress managed to be pretty darned sensitive about that and, last I checked, she’s white (and conservative!). In fact, Dowd and Clyburn actually end up letting Obama’s team off the hook by suggesting that they can’t be expected to exercise due diligence when handling a racial hot potato because of their racial make-up. Per MoDo, it’s not that Rahm and Axelrod should take a deep breath and try not to wet their pants the next time they’re forced to wade into some racial subject, it’s that they’re incapable of doing so and therefore need lots more advice from black aides. Note her advice to Obama on Sherrod: “He should give her a new job: Director of Black Outreach. This White House needs one.” The first black president needs a director of outreach to a community among whom he usually polls well above 90 percent?

For a shrewder take on why Obama dropped the ball in the Sherrod case, try this piece by David Ignatius. The teleprompter president doesn’t like venturing off-script, so when he gets surprised by some volatile, unpredictable media clusterfark, his instinct naturally is to make it go away as quickly as possible. Exit quotation:

A man who knows Obama well speculated a few months ago that this president isn’t in love with the White House. The Post had run an article saying that with his dry intellect, Obama would be happier on the Supreme Court than in the Oval Office. The insider nodded his head. “That’s true,” he said.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on June 02, 2023