Be an aggressor, or a counterpuncher. Anything but a stiff.
It seems the administration’s spokespersons, from Robert Gibbs all the way down, are motivated more by fear of Glenn Beck than by a desire to push the Democratic agenda.
You might think they’d be fighting for the interests of constituents against the slanderers who, more than ever, call the shots at right-wing media outlets. And yet, time and again, Barack Obama and his lieutenants have let themselves be bullied into unnecessary legislative compromises because they’ve ignored, or only tepidly challenged, Republicans who lie about the administration’s policy goals and personnel.
The most recent Obama fiasco involves Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture official and black woman who was accused of racism by right-wingers in connection with a video speech she made that was posted on a right-wing website. According to Sherrod, the undersecretary of the department, upon hearing of the posting on Tuesday, told her to resign after first voicing fear that the video was “going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.”
Amazing. Obama’s people dumped Sherrod because they were afraid that a borderline basket case on Fox News would accuse them of treating white farmers in a racist manner. If they’d made a few phone calls or seen the video materials, they quickly could have confirmed that she was a hard worker for poor farmers, black and white, and anything but a racist.
As everyone now knows, the smoking gun turned out to be a snippet from the original video served up by Andrew Breitbart, a right-wing hack and point man for Republican smear campaigns. The difference between Breitbart and Beck is like that between a maggot and a fly. The Breitbarts of the world carry lies that are in the larval stage. The Becks — and the Sean Hannitys, Bill O’Reillys, and so on — help these lies take wing and buzz around long enough to spread contagion.
What’s maddening is that Obama and company don’t seem to be getting any better at countering these creatures. They don’t seem to understand that their enemies — our enemies — lie blatantly and repeatedly because they know Dems will challenge them halfheartedly and the mainstream media won’t challenge them at all.
And so it was that Gibbs and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered meek apologies to Sherrod but had nothing to say about the goons who fabricated and spread the racism story. Instead, Gibbs on Wednesday lamely suggested that some people had acted “without a full set of facts.” Beck’s almost immediate response to Gibbs’s remarks was “Bobbie, don’t try to spread the blame. I didn’t fire her. You did. Nobody here at Fox News fired her. You did. Yeah. Without the facts.”
The bottom line is that right-wingers were able to control the message. What should have been a story about Republicans inventing scandals became a story about how inept and cowardly Obama’s people are at countering Republicans who invent scandals.
Obama didn’t speak up for Sherrod until after the whole country knew she’d been slimed by a hack. He seems to have a deathly fear of being accused of “reverse racism,” an absurd concept, and to naively believe that the mainstream media is committed to helping the public distinguish between facts and lies. His failure to respond in a passionate and coherent way to Republican lies regarding the stimulus package, health care reform, the gulf oil spill, jobless benefits and other issues large and small has cost us dearly. We all lose every time he fails to fight back.