The case of USDA official Shirley Sherrod — who was fired after she was (falsely) accused of reverse racism — is still playing prominently in the news, a week after conservative media force Andrew Breitbart made her a household name and the Obama administration made her a cause célèbre. Here's a look at five lessons pundits have extracted from the Sherrod debacle: (Watch The Week's Sunday Talk Show Briefing about the Sherrod affair)
1. Racial tensions can't just be ignored
Everybody seems eager to wrap up the Sherrod fiasco as quickly as possible, so "we can all go on our vacations guilt-free, secure in the knowledge that our 'post-racial society' remains intact," say Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and Johanna Wald in The Washington Post. But we need to confront our "implicit bias" if we're to overcome it. And that means we have to listen to one another longer than "a single news cycle."
"After Shirley Sherrod, we all need to slow down and listen"
2. "The Obama White House is too white"
Change starts at home, and Obama's current residence is full of "overprotective white guys" who, along with Obama, are "cowards on race" and clueless about "Southern black culture," says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Obama was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, and black adviser Valerie Jarrett spent her early years in Iran. The Sherrod debacle made it painfully clear he needs an insider who understands "the slave thing." (Watch Sherrod criticize Obama's handling.)
"You'll never believe what this White House is missing"
3. Fox, Breitbart, and their ilk run the media
Blaming Obama for Breitbart's "journalistic felony" is "not only preposterous but verging on obscene," says Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo, but it's what passes for "media criticism" these days. "Most reporters are simply cowed by Fox and Breitbart and Beck and the rest of the organized forces of bamboozlement" to point out that truth — namely, that Breitbart and Fox News now specialize in "race-baiting attacks aimed at discrediting" Obama.
"Shame on Obama?"
4. The White House fears Fox
It's not just reporters who cowed, says Brent Budowsky in The Hill. The White House is awash with fear — fear of Fox, fear of race, "fear of being attacked even without cause." And that's "ominous and profoundly troubling." It turns out "the real teachable lesson" is that Team Obama has to stiffen its collective spine, pronto.
"Obama fears Drudge, Fox News, Breitbart"
5. Our politics is now officially umbrage-driven
The Sherrod flap is only a slightly exaggerated version of the "new normal" in a "political-media complex" fueled by ideological warfare, say John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei in Politico. And sadly, our "Age of Rage" won't end with this sorry spectacle: The incentives — money, attention, even fame — are all fueling an ever-greater tendency to "take umbrage" strategically and then to exploit it.
"The Age of rage"