Ed Driscoll

White House in Panic Mode

At Commentary, Jennifer Rubin writes:

The flap over Shirley Sherrod’s not-actually-racist remarks and her subsequent firing has likely set a record. Robert Gibbs blew it. The Secretary of Agriculture blew it. The new and the old media blew it. The NAACP blew it. Based on a snippet of video, they all concluded she was a racist, and she was forced to resign. In fact, hers was a heartfelt discussion — that conversation on race Eric Holder pines for — of her own struggle to overcome prejudice and anger. Now the apologies are flying, the president called her personally, and she has a job offer from the Ag Department.

It was a mass jump-before-you-look exercise. The administration’s culpability, however, is greatest. We’ve unfortunately come to expect very little from the media, but the government — any employer, really — should act with a modicum of care before firing someone.

This is the second jump-to-conclusion-about-race goof of the Obama administration. Both errors entailed the rush to judgment (recall Obama said the police in Gatesgate had acted “stupidly”) when the mere whiff of racism wafted through the White House. The administration has not learned or improved since Gatesgate. To the contrary, this is a White House in a defensive crouch, frenzied and running scared. It is entirely reactive and unreasoned these days. It shows.

In the aftermath of the election, maybe the White House will settle down, get some adult supervision, and stop reinforcing voters’ fears that the administration is not competent enough to handle itself, let alone whole sectors of the economy.

I’m not holding my breath — Mickey Kaus was looking for the proverbial “Wise Men” of politics to come out of the woodwork to rescue the White House back in January. But as Peggy Noonan wrote last week, good luck trying to find them:

What Mr. Obama needed the past 18 months was a wise man—more on that later—to offer counsel and perspective, a guy who just by walking into the room brings historical context. “Mr. President, the whole nation’s worried about this thing and you’re worried about that thing. They’re thinking money, and you’re thinking health care. Stop that, focus like a laser beam on the economy.” “My friend, you’re gonna get a win on this stimulus thing in the House, and you’re gonna do it without one Republican vote. That’s gonna make you feel good—flexing the muscle. But it’s gonna hurt you long-term. You need bipartisan cover or people will think you’re radical. Whatever you gotta do to get some Republicans on board you do it, bow to what they need. Don’t worry about your left, where they gonna go? Left attacks you, center’ll like you more.”

I know, “the wise men” are dead. Vietnam killed them. They were the last casualties, pushed off the roof with the helicopters. Their counsel on Vietnam was not good. But we learned the wrong lesson. We should have learned, “Wise men can be wrong, listen close and weigh all data.” Instead we learned, “Never listen to wise men,” and “Only the young and sparkling, not enthralled by the past, can lead us.”

And as Mencken once said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”