Today, President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, met with Reverend Al Sharpton, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. An odd assortment of people, all of whom have fundamental disagreements with one another. Yet all took time out of their day to help pursue one of the causes of Sharpton's National Action Network -- the closing of the racial achievement gap in education and the promotion of equal funding. All three men have come together to work on these matters, the thinking being that an unlikely coterie of supporters might draw attention to the issue.
It is, indeed, a situation, precisely the sort of situation for which you might construct a Room for Situations, staffed by Wolf Blitzer. And yet when Sharpton found himself inside the Situation Room, it became clear that no one at CNN was interested in talking about education. Instead, the pressing matter became: "OMGZ! Obama and Gingrich were in the same room! DISH, PLS!"
Granted, Sharpton tried, and for maybe a minute, Blitzer allowed him to mention the purpose of this alliance. But watch how quickly the discussion turns to gossip:
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK PRESIDENT: Well, I thought it was very good. You know, we're getting ready for a mass rally here in Washington May 16th, around the anniversary of "Brown v. The Board of Education." So I've been concerned and the National Action Network has, about the continued inequality in education -- 55 years later, still a race gap in how kids are educated. SO I invited Newt Gingrich to our National Action Network convention. He came...
BLITZER: So he's going to speak at your rally?
SHARPTON: He came last month April -- last month, in April. And he said that he would participate. He agreed we need equal funding. I don't agree with him on vouchers, but we all agree on equal funding. We all agree that every student should not be eliminated from the possibilities of being educated. We -- Vice President Biden came and spoke the next day. We asked for a meeting of the organization with the president. And the president said why don't we have unlikely people that don't agree -- I don't agree on vouchers, I'm not supporting Mayor Bloomberg for reelection or mayoral control. He said why don't we have unlikely people talk about it...
BLITZER: All right...
SHARPTON: ...so that people understand how serious this is.
BLITZER: This is an issue where, at least on some parts of education, you and Bloomberg and Gingrich agree, is that right?
SHARPTON: Equal funding, we agree; having teachers that are adequate, we agree; giving incentives to teachers, we agree; and we agree that there is a crisis in the country.
BLITZER: All right. Take us into the White House. You're sitting there with the president, Mayor Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich. How -- was it awkward, given...
BLITZER: ...given some of the politics of Newt Gingrich's criticisms of the president?
SHARPTON: I think it was different. In fact, Mr. Gingrich sat on the couch next to me. The president's sitting here. Mayor Bloomberg and...
BLITZER: In the Oval Office?
OMG! Was it the real Oval Office? And you sat on couches? And President Obama didn't try to crush Gingrich's head, with hammers? Wow! AWK-ward!
Sharpton, naively, tried to steer the conversation back toward substance, to no avail:
SHARPTON: This is a serious problem. In some cities, 52 percent of black kids not having a high school diploma, in an economy where we don't have unskilled jobs available anymore. And we said the fact that unlikely people coming together may give the attention that it needs.
BLITZER: Was there any tension there between the president and Newt Gingrich? Given some of the politics of Newt Gingrich's criticisms of the president?
Seriously, did the President act all nervous? Did Newt Gingrich blush? Was there a sexual tension that you could cut with a knife? Who is going to the prom with who?
BLITZER: So this was a...This was strictly a discussion on education...
SHARPTON: All the way.
BLITZER: You didn't get into other issues?
SHARPTON: We never discussed any other issues other than education and a fact -- the fact that we're 55 years past "Brown" and we're going to have this rally next weekend.
BLITZER: So what I hear, it was pretty cordial?
SHARPTON: It was very respectful, very cordial. But it was candid. We didn't act like we all are each other's buddies. We didn't act like we're going to hang out tonight and have dinner. We were saying this is a crisis. In a crisis, people that don't agree come together. That's what crises do, if you have real leadership.
You know, someone should maybe start some sort of evening news program, that reports on crises, maybe.