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Why the White House really Rushed to Judgment on Sherrod

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Capitol Hill reporters relentless peppered White House press secretary Robert Gibbs with questions of why the White House rushed to judgment and demanded the resignation of Shirley Sherrod. A clearly flustered Gibbs could only say and repeat that the White House made its horrible decisions on faulty information. Gibbs promised a review to get to the bottom of why and how it happened. The surface reason the White House dumped Sherrod was made on faulty information, a doctored video, and simple ignorance of the true facts. It wouldn't have taken much of an investigation to find the truth. That wasn't done. Former Civil Rights Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry and others claim that Obama is scared stiff of being ripped by Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck and the conservative smear machine. That's just as spurious. If Obama sneezes, they'd attack him for polluting the Ozone, so there's no real fear of them. The decision to can Sherrod had everything to do with politics, and the tight cornered racial parameter of his presidency.

This was set the very first day of his presidential campaign. In his candidate declaration speech in Springfield, Illinois in February 2007, he made only the barest mention of race. The focus was on change, change for everyone. He had little choice. The institution of the presidency, and what it takes to get it, demands that racial typecasting be scrapped. Obama would have had no hope of winning the Democratic presidential nomination, let alone the presidency, if there had been any hint that he embraced the race-tinged politics of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. His campaign would have been marginalized and compartmentalized as merely the politics of racial symbolism. The month after he got in the White House he mildly chided Attorney General Eric Holder for calling Americans cowards for not candidly talking about race.

The term for that is racial overcompensation. He must react, hard and swift, to any appearance of anyone connected with his administration that says or does anything that can be construed as racial favoritism. The doctored Sherrod speech was a near textbook fit of the requirement to punish any real, imagined, or put up racial transgression with firing, reprimand, and a quick distancing from the offending party.

Obama got a bitter taste of the misery that race can cause a president him when in an unscripted moment he spoke his mind and blasted a Cambridge cop for cuffing and manhandling Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates. The loud squeals that he was a bigot, racist and anti police for siding with Gates bounced off the Oval Office walls. A chagrined Obama back pedaled fast and asked all for forgiveness. There would no White House repeat of the Gates fiasco.


Obama has clung tightly to the centrist blueprint Bill Clinton laid out for a Democratic presidential candidate to win elections, and to govern after he won. The blueprint requires that the Democratic presidential candidate tout a strong defense, the war against terrorism, a vague plan for winding down the Iraq War, tepid proposals to control greenhouse emissions, mild tax reform for the middle class, a cautious plan for affordable health care, pro business solutions to joblessness, and make only the most genteel reproach of Wall Street.

The Clinton blueprint also requires a Democratic president to formulate a moderate agenda on civil rights, poverty, failing inner city public schools, the HIV-AIDS crisis, and the racially skewed criminal justice system in written policy statements. And then say little about them or low key their approach to them in the White House. Obama's silence, extreme low key approach to these policy issues, occasional reminder that he's the American president, not black president irked the Congressional Black Caucus and at times other civil rights groups.

Obama well knows that the GOP lost an election, but it still packs a punch. It and its tea party shock troops can disrupt, obstruct, and create chaos for his administration, his political agenda, and him personally. And it does it not only because that's the warfare that Republicans wage against Democrats anyway, but because the GOP has masterfully reignited its populist base against Obama. The base is rock solid conservative, lower income white male loyalists, with a heavy mix of hard line Christian fundamentalists. Despite the GOP's and tea party activists wail that racism has nothing to do with the white fury at Obama, the bitter truth is that many white voters do not and will not accept a black president.

If Obama talked candidly about race and tried to spark a dialogue on race as some clamor for him to do it would turn his administration into a referendum on race. This would turn the GOP and tea party counterinsurgency into a red hot fire.

Obama's rush to judgment on Sherrod had nothing to do with fear and only tangentially with a terrible misread of the information about her purported racial statement. It had everything to do with the price of White House governance. The price is a politically constricted, race neutral presidency.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson

 

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a nationally acclaimed author and political analyst. He has authored ten books; his articles are published in newspapers and magazines nationally in the United States. Three of his books have been published in other (more...)
 
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facets to Obama being cornered on issues of race. ... by Steven Leser on Thursday, Jul 22, 2010 at 11:55:46 PM
With logic like that...Steven yourBlind Solidarity... by steve scheetz on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:11:45 PM
both parties are corrupted by the corporations. Th... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:30:01 PM
Michael, there's the small matter that FOX didn't ... by Recce1 on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 10:59:33 PM
First off it has already been proven Breitbart che... by Michael Shaw on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 11:56:56 AM
You might be right that Breitbart cherry picked or... by Recce1 on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 1:45:50 AM
That's not true! Every corporate media source in t... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 12:00:02 PM
angry black man analogy. That said, why was Obama ... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:34:45 PM
the same damn thing happened with ACORN who were c... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:37:36 PM
Just as LBJ fought for civil rights and Nixon spok... by ssg13565 on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 9:11:13 AM
Now that is a ticket I could get behind. Just imag... by John Shriver on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 9:36:29 AM
white southern republicans as the main problem, no... by Michael Shaw on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 12:24:32 PM
to look and act angry- he is not a President. Let'... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 9:21:11 AM
Why do so many people on this site want to call Ob... by ssg13565 on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 9:59:09 AM
I actually praised Obama a lot- read my other comm... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 11:50:03 AM
in the pursuit of the swing voter. Progressives ar... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 1:02:38 PM
As a tired old white woman, I see things about Oba... by Margaret Bassett on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 10:57:52 AM
indefeating a progressive candidate in Arkansas in... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:57:25 PM
most of the actions of the Obama Administration fr... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:20:13 PM
with the skill the current administration has with... by John Shriver on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 9:45:49 AM
and what I've found to be especially true of repub... by Michael Shaw on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 11:43:58 AM
Because she's one of the "small people."You know, ... by Miriam Callaghan on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 12:55:15 PM
is the main culprit. Sacrificing a liberal on the ... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 1:13:23 PM
You're right Michael. While it's said that governa... by Recce1 on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 11:06:22 PM
politicians serve themselves before the country. B... by Michael Shaw on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 12:19:41 PM
Again your right Michael, politicians serve themse... by Recce1 on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 2:39:02 AM
I disagree with you on issues. The GOP wuld never ... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 12:20:02 PM
You're right that the GOP wouldn't have brought un... by Recce1 on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 8:44:42 PM
Since the GOP wouldn't know socialism from fascism... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Jul 26, 2010 at 9:20:02 PM
No wonder one can't hold a cogent discussion with ... by Recce1 on Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010 at 4:48:23 AM
FYI The Partisans were freedom fighters in the Fre... by Michael Shaw on Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010 at 9:00:02 AM
What arcane definitions. I've stated often on OEN ... by Recce1 on Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010 at 3:51:38 PM
And I too have denounced the Obama administration ... by Michael Shaw on Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010 at 10:20:02 PM
I'm right wing in that I'm a conservative, more co... by Recce1 on Wednesday, Jul 28, 2010 at 6:12:46 PM
Michael, for sake of space I didn't put in the Ame... by Recce1 on Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010 at 5:54:26 PM
Your comment and mine may have crossed paths. Is O... by Margaret Bassett on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 1:02:19 PM
in every speech on the campaign trail or public ad... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 1:38:04 PM
I understand the issue. I am referring to black a... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 1:54:52 PM
In the mid-60's black or white would have been an ... by Margaret Bassett on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 2:47:50 PM
clearly indicates Obama's desire to exploit his bl... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 4:17:33 PM
Many presidential candidates feel obliged to campa... by Margaret Bassett on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 4:39:22 PM
The WH rushed to judgment because they are stupid,... by Bruce Morgan on Friday, Jul 23, 2010 at 9:38:37 PM
though certainly not as detrimental, it reminds me... by Michael Shaw on Saturday, Jul 24, 2010 at 12:41:57 PM
It would be most unrealistic and, I would suggest,... by Paul Karsh on Sunday, Jul 25, 2010 at 1:04:44 AM