So, yesterday, Shirley Sherrod, the USDA's rural development director for the state of Georgia, was sacked because she dared to appear in a video truncated to make her appear to be some racist land-reform zealot. The video was subsequently blasted around the world by Andrew Breitbart, who wanted to mislead people just as fast as he could.
Later, it was reported that Sherrod was about the furthest thing from a racist -- which means she wasn't fired for cause, she was fired because everyone panicked in the face of a media scandal that turned out to be non-existent and which unraveled the moment people began the work of diligent verification.
Since then, my cynical heart has been tickled to watch the Obama administration frantically back away from the stupid decision to fire Sherrod. I've been led to believe that this was all Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's call.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Sherrod's resignation in a statement, saying the department has "zero tolerance" for discrimination. Sherrod told CNN that Cheryl Cook, deputy undersecretary for Rural Development, called her three times on Monday to eventually demand her resignation on behalf of the White House.
And, via Ben Smith, here's how the White House sees it:
A White House official told me just now that the White House backs Vilsack's decision -- but that it was Vilsack's alone. The official said the White House -- contrary to the Sherrod's charge -- did not pressure the Department to fire her.
I can easily understand why the Obama administration wants nothing to do with this decision, seeing as how it would look for all the world that the White House serves at the pleasure of Breitbart's agitated humors, but this is just silly: it cannot be Vilsack's decision "alone" if it has the backing of the White House.
Here's some Real Talk: if we can accept that the dudes aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig who made a bunch of bad decisions that led to the destruction of the Gulf coast are part of the "Tony Hayward administration," then Tom Vilsack is definitely a part of the "Obama administration." And responsibility accretes along similar lines. Full stop.