John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Shirley Sherrod

Posted on July 22, 2010
Glenn Beck is not necessarily my cup of tea.

But you have to give the guy credit.  His show is pretty entertaining.

And apparently it is watched with great interest at the White House.

Earlier this year, I went home to Chicago for my brother’s 40th birthday (yes, he is my younger brother and yes, it was a surprise), and all anybody could talk about was Glenn Beck.

And they were all positive comments.  Do you watch Glenn Beck?  Do you like Glenn Beck?  Did you hear what Glenn Beck said about this or that?

It was fascinating.  My family is not exactly a bunch of right-wingers.  They are mostly centrists who have grown tired of Barack Obama’s false promises.  They are concerned about the future of the country, about the debt, about the lack of jobs.

They watch Glenn Beck because they find his show entertaining and informative.

They aren’t the only ones.  I remember I spoke once to a fly-in for a member of Congress, and I said something less than positive about Mr. Beck, and I had to defend myself from a verbal attack from the Congressman’s mother, who is a rabid follower of him.

“He got Van Jones, didn’t he?” she said with great gusto in defense of her man Glenn.

Yes, he did.

And apparently, Van Jones is still on the mind of the top political strategists in the White House, because they reacted with pure panic when they heard the neatly edited comments from Shirley Sherrod, the USDA worker who was refreshingly frank in a speech of the NAACP earlier this year.

The edited version of Sherrod’s story is one of an African-American government employee who goes out of her way to screw a white person.

The longer version, one of a person overcoming her own racial prejudices to help a poor white farmer keep his home, only arrived on the scene after the White House had shown its typical loyalty by asking her to quit her job.

The White House and the Democrats immediately blamed Glenn Beck and Fox for their reaction to this story, which is interesting, because Fox didn’t do much with the story. Beck barely mentioned it.

That means to me that Obama and his friends have Beck on the brain and they can’t stop thinking of him.  In fact, in many ways, they seem intimidated by his antics.

Glenn Beck has many flaws.  He promotes a host of crackpot conspiracy theories.  He is overly dramatic and he is irresponsible with how he inflames the racial discussion in this country.

But he obviously has a way of getting under the President’s skin, and when he says jump, the White House usually jumps pretty high.

The best way for Mr. Obama to deal with Glenn Beck is to ignore him, but that doesn’t seem to be the way this President operates.

Any intelligent discussion of the problems that face this country cannot blithely ignore the persistent specter of racial animosity and misunderstanding.  But it cannot be fixated on it either.

Right-wing provocateurs deserve some blame for stirring up the pot of racial resentment in this latest episode, but they aren’t the only ones.  After all, it was the NAACP that initially started this firestorm by accusing the Tea Party of being a bunch of racists.

Had the NAACP not reacted negatively to a tape of Sherrod’s comments, it is doubtful that the White House would have moved to dump her.

It would be nice if we could talk with some rationality about the persistent negative effects of racial discrimination, the real and negative consequences on lower-income white people of affirmative action, and the problems of crime and failing schools that afflict both urban and rural areas and how race plays a role.

It would be nice, but given this media culture that we now live in --desperate for ratings and irresponsible in its news judgment as a result – that doesn’t seem too likely.

Nor does it seems likely that we will get any responsible guidance from our political leaders,  given the fact that Mr. Obama seems to be deathly afraid to talk about the issue in an adult matter since he got to the White House for fear of the political consequences and given the fact that too many Republicans would rather ride the Tea Party wave than actually confront the idiots who carry the racist signs at the various Tea Party gatherings.

The media is crazy, our politicians are feckless, and many of our citizens are jobless, broke and angry.

I doubt Shirley Sherrod is going to return to the USDA.  If I were her, I would write a book, hit the lecture circuit and get a talk show.  That would be sweet justice, actually.

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