When several members of Congress set out in the early 1990s to improve fiscal reporting and internal controls in the federal government, one thing they certainly had a right to expect is that the press would report on lapses as embarrassments, and that otherwise nonchalant or reluctant bureaucrats would figure out that it would be in their best interest to tighten their ships. It hasn't happened, largely because the press quickly got bored, enabling the bureaucrats to thumb their noses at those who called them out for weak reporting or control violations.
To name just one glaring example: Concerning the Internal Revenue Service, in August of last year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration happily reported "the downgrade of the information security material weakness to a significant deficiency during the Fiscal Year 2012 financial statement audit," and that "the IRS removed it from the December 31, 2012, remediation plan" (that's bureaucratese for "finally solved the problem") — 19 years after it was first identified in 1993. In that context, let's look at an outrageous situation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Ozark, Missouri-based children's magician Marty Hahne uses a three-pound rabbit in his magic act.
In a development which probably won't become a news story because it makes the government look bad, Hahne has informed blogger Bob McCarty that "I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc.," and "what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly." It's really a two-page letter accompanied by six pages of densely-worded instructions, guidance and reprints from the Federal Register, and would probably take up at least a dozen regularly typewritten pages.
Earlier today, Shirley Sherrod, who, according to the current version of ruling class wisdom, was prematurely evacuated from the USDA by Director Tom Vilsack, decided not to accept an offer to return to the agency.
Instead, according to Politico's Matt Negrin, "she hasn’t accepted the department’s offer to work there again, but that she wants 'some type of relationship' with it later." We wouldn't closure or anything, would we?
Five weeks or so have intervened since Andrew Breitbart posted a video excerpt of Sherrod's speech at an NAACP event. (It should be noted USAactionnews.com actually posted the video earlier; though their link has been taken down, their original July 15 tweet is here.)
In that time, the establishment press has either seriously downplayed or totally ignored the several important items relating to the background and outlook of Ms. Sherrod and her husband Charles.
A full version of the speech shows that was a set-up to Sherrod's tale of racial reconciliation, though there are questions of how far her racial reconciliation really goes. That same speech reveals Sherrod accusing Republicans of being racist by opposing Obama and Obama-care, and Sherrod has gone on to accuse Fox News of using her as a "pawn" for its own reactionary, racist purposes.
Fox News didn't run a report on the controversy until after Sherrod had resigned under White House pressure and after the NAACP had issued a press release condemning Sherrod. Yet in "For Fired Agriculture Official, Flurry of Apologies and Job Offer," reported by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Shaila Dewan, and Brian Stelter, and written by Stolberg, the Times chose to blame a cabal of "right-wing Web sites" and Fox News for fostering the Sherrod scandal which led to her dismissal. As if Fox forced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do its right-wing bidding without ever actually running a single story on Sherrod until after her firing, when the point became moot.
The White House and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized profusely and repeatedly on Wednesday to a black midlevel official for the way she had been humiliated and forced to resign her Agriculture Department job after a conservative blogger put out a misleading video clip that seemed to show her admitting antipathy toward a white farmer.
By the end of the day, the official, Shirley Sherrod, had gained instant fame and emerged as the heroine of a compelling story about race and redemption.
UPDATE at end of post: Glenn Beck skewers Olbermann for this pathetic rant!
Quite predictably, his greater than twelve minute tirade largely focused on Fox News and Andrew Breitbart -- the latter repeatedly referred to as "scum" as well as a "pornographer of propaganda" -- who he claimed "assassinated" Sherrod.
After starting his rant by pompously comparing the former USDA official to Alfred Dreyfus, the French artillery officer falsely accused of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island, the "Countdown" host tore into almost everyone on the planet (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
Operator, oh could you help me place this call?
You see the number on the matchbook is old and faded. Jim Croce, 'Operator,' 1972
The Obama administration, the folks that want to run our health care and who knows how much else of our economy and our lives, can't get a simple phone call through to one of its former officials.
In this afternoon's press conference, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly said that the Obama administration, through the person of its Agriculture Secretary, has tried but failed to have a phone conversation with Shirley Sherrod, the USDA official it forced out yesterday.
View the edited video clip of Vilsack crooning Hillary's "Change Chorus" here.
UPDATE: 11-13 9:35 AM: Did Hillary answer a second planted question at the event? See foot.
What did Hillary Clinton know about the planted question in Iowa and when did she know it?
The Clinton campaign and apparently Clinton herself are denying she had any idea she was calling on a plant. But according to information in the New York Times, Clinton campaign aides had in fact prompted her to call on the plant.
At 10:51 AM ET this morning, MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall interviewed Hillary campaign co-chair Tom Vilsack, the former Dem governor of Iowa.
TAMRON HALL: Senator Clinton herself said she knew nothing about this and promised it would not happen again . . .
TOM VILSACK: Obviously Hillary Clinton does not condone the planting of questions; she did not know that this young person had been given that question.
View video here.
Vilsack elaborated on his answer later in the interview.