Tom Foreman | BIO
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/07/21/navarrette.sherrod.race/smlvid.shirley.sherrod.phone.cnn.jpg caption="The real issue here, however, is not racism. It’s reaction-ism." width=300 height=169]
If you notice political punditas walking around with neck braces this weekend, it may be because they were whiplashed by the story of Shirley Sherrod. She’s the Agriculture Department official who was given the bum’s rush out of her job after she made a speech that was clipped by a blogger, that was posted online, that seemed to be racist, that lay in the house that Jack built. Or something like that.
Ag Secretary Vilsack (who up until now was pretty much just the answer to a current affairs trivia question) apologized for unceremoniously heaving her from the loft. Seems her comments were taken out of context; that the speech was made long ago, and it was actually about the need to overcome racism in all its nasty forms. Imagine.
The real issue here, however, is not racism. It’s reaction-ism. For years, Washington and the political media have ramped up the feeding frenzy mentality that passes for news in the same sense that BP passes for an environmental group. The appetite for scandal begat a hunger for instant scandal begat a craving for anything that even looks like scandal, even if the facts haven’t fallen into the furrow.
After all, why coax the seed of truth, when you can pile up the fertilizer of sensationalism? The water falls from the blogosphere, or is piped in by political schemers, many of whom have only a passing familiarity with the truth even on their best days. Their real passion lies in winning. Both sides have pursued this kind of instant, public pillorying with such gusto that each is now terrified of it.
So something like the Sherrod story splashes across the headlines, the damage control police start ringing their alarm bells, and before there is even reasonable time for facts to be determined and weighed, rash action is launched. (As an aside, notice how quickly Washington can move when political image is at stake instead of, oh say, jobs or the Gulf of Mexico.)
I’m neither defending nor condemning Ms. Sherrod, because I’ll readily admit I don’t know enough about her case. But others had no problem choosing their course of action, with no more information. And as a result, the Ag Department, the Administration, and many in the DC media are reaping a bitter harvest.
The owner of three pit bulls who killed a 2-year-old boy Thursday has been charged in connection with the child’s death, authorities in California said.
Steven Hayashi, 52, was arrested for child endangerment and possessing a mischievous animal that causes death or great bodily injury, the Concord Police Department said in a statement. He is being held on $120,000 bail.
According to police, the fatal attack occurred just after 8:45am on Thursday. The victim, who authorities said was the suspect’s step-grandchild, was inside the family’s home with two adult relatives and a young sibling.
The child walked into a garage where three of the family’s pit bulls were being kept, police said. The dogs mauled the boy, who was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Police continue to investigate the incident.
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Tom Foreman | BIO
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/07/22/obama.wasteful.spending.act/smlvid.obama.gi.jpg caption="Dear Pres. Obama: People do not always listen to what you say, but they watch what you do." width=300 height=169]
Reporter's Note: The president is planning another vacation, and this one could be unusually important. So it’s the subject of today’s letter to the White House.
Dear Mr. President,
You’re taking the family on a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico? Did I hear this right? Well, hooray and pass the crab claws. This is excellent news. I get so tired of politicians using their families for campaign ads and the occasional public service photo op (“Hey, we like reading! Look, we’re doing it!”) and I get just as crazy when we media types spend too many hours chewing over things like, oh, what kind of dog you’re going to get for the kids, what clothing you’re wearing, yadda yadda yadda.
But I really think sometimes simple decisions like this one can be important for a lot of symbolic reasons, and they don’t have to seem like grandstanding. Look, you’ve got to take the kids somewhere or they’ll be smashing up the China room, am I right? They’re too young for Vegas. Disney would be a complete zoo if you went there. (And you think the lines are long now…ha!) And I’m sure they are sick to death of hotsy totsy Chief Executive types vacas. “Nooooooo! Not Paris again!” (or wherever it is you have taken them. I can’t recall. Heck, I can barely recall breakfast.)
But some time on the Gulf? That will sure cure what ails you, and maybe what ails the Gulf too. The single most consistent message I’ve heard from locals every single time I’ve been here over the summer (and hey, I’ve been hanging out here for more hours than Biden spends in the Amtrak station) is that what is most hurting them with tourists is perception, not reality. Yes, some tar balls have washed up. Yes, some oil booms are out. But I honestly have to say that unless someone told you that something was wrong, I would bet that 95 percent of visitors would not have a clue. By and large the beaches are beautiful and clean, the water looks inviting, and the restaurants and hotels offer an unexpected amount of elbow room for what should be the height of the season.
And, I might add, although I have encountered a little imported shrimp now and then, I have not failed to find what I wanted on any menu in any restaurant in any visit down here this summer. Just tonight I had a crab stuffed snapper and some crawfish etouffee that was so good I wanted to rub it on my chest. It was at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House in Biloxi.
Anyway, send me a postcard when you get down here. It is so good that you are coming. Remember: People do not always listen to what you say, but they watch what you do. I know you’ll have a good time. And if you do, maybe some other tourists will too, and then maybe our good friends all along the Gulf will have something to celebrate too. They could use it!
Heading back to DC today. Will try to call over the weekend.
CNN Wire Staff
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/07/23/gulf.oil.disaster/story.bonnie.ts.cnn.jpg caption="Tropical Storm Bonnie could force a temporary scale back on efforts to search beneath the surface for leaking oil." width=300 height=169]
With Tropical Storm Bonnie nearing, efforts to dig a relief well remained suspended Friday as the rig involved in the operation and other boats around BP's ruptured Gulf of Mexico well prepared to evacuate.
"Some of the vessels may be able to remain on site, but we will err on the side of safety," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Thursday night.
Allen, who is leading the federal response to the spill, said many of the vessels and rigs began preparing to move Thursday night.