Wednesday, July 21, 2010

conservative = liar?

I think that whenever a new President comes into office, political partisans on both sides and particularly on the extremes tie themselves into knots. Think about the reactions to the second Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and JFK. People were practically calling their respective Presidencies either the solution to all our problems and the end of history or the coming of the apocalypse (then). I think Gerry Ford and the first Bush were greeted with more muted reactions, the former because the country wanted to get away from Nixon-esgue drama, the later because he just wasn't that exciting (until the first gulf war).

So I am not going to say the current drama in DC is unprecedented or the worst things have ever been (although you could argue that short of the drama of the civil war or the depression, we are up there). But things are weird, and in many ways bad.

I will say I was never one to suggest Obama was some sort of messiah, or that he would solve all our problems (and I defy anyone to find a place where I did say such a thing). I was (and am) impressed with his intelligence and I certainly said I thought he was a better choice. But for those people who really build him up in their minds, and because the Republicans have been so bad in Congress and in general, there is now a problem; how to hold Obama accountable for what he does get wrong. It seems wrong to complain about a messiah, to suggest he is continuing the policies of the previous fallen angel, especially when the opposition party seems to be acting more and more like Satan.

All this is important because of a current conservative journalist misdeed. If you haven't heard of Shirley Sherrod by now, you must be living under a rock (or at least don't read online news sources). A low to mid level USDA official responsible for farm programs in Georgia, she was recently fired for being a racist. At which point we need to back up a little in the story.

What happened was that at some point (I don't know when, but recently), Sherrod gave a speech at a NAACP function (I think it was). She told the story of how, 25 or so years ago she was working at a non-profit organization set up to help poor African-American farmers. A poor white farmer on the verge of losing his farm came to her seeking her help. She thought to herself, this guy doesn't understand the point of our organization, and although she did give him the name of a (white) lawyer, she declined to help the farmer any more than that. All this had been filmed, it was obtained and edited by Andrew Breitbart, the conservative journalist and released by him. Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, heard about it, and put pressure on Ms Sherrod to resign, which she did (zero tolerance for racists).

Except that, unsurprisingly, the story is much more complicated than that. Sherrod's speech was about how any racism, white toward black or black toward white, is misguided. Sherrod recounts how she soon after felt bad about her treatment, sought him out, offered to and successfully helped him, and they became and remain to this day, friends. Breitbart edited out this part of the speech.

Of course, the question becomes, how do we get Vilsack to admit he made a mistake, and also, why did he trust Breitbart so completely? Which brings us back to my earlier question of how do we hold Obama accountable when not so long ago a lot of us were suggested he was a messiah of sorts.

I will say that the next time some posts a video or whatever from Breitbart, I will immediately talk about how Breitbart is a known distorter of fact.

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