Note to Sherrod: Kick the Tires of Vilsack’s Offer of “Unique Opportunity”

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Shirley Sherrod - FLAG Family Farm Champion-mini.JPGSecretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has backed up and apologized to the recently resigned/fired USDA Georgia Rural Development Director Shirley Sherrod.
And he’s offered her a new job, in his words “a unique opportunity” — the outlines of which have not yet been made public.
It would not be unreasonable to think that the job he has offered involves serving as a sort of USDA “Special Envoy” — bridging misunderstandings, class differences, or race differences — a sort of ombudsperson fixer — among the USDA’s constituents and within the Department.
If I was in the pickle that Vilsack was in, given that he probably still entertains visions of future political advancement, then I’d offer her some plum-sounding perch.
But note to Shirley Sherrod: KICK THE TIRES of the offer.
Call up any of the Special Envoys at the Department of State — Farah Pandith who is a star performer for Hillary Clinton as the Secretary’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities comes to mind — and ask if they have a “budget” of their own. Almost uniformly, the nearly two dozen or so special envoys with unique tasks don’t have funds to do anything with. They have jobs, and they have some staff — but they have zero funds of their own to go out and seed programs. They must beg, borrow and steal from other parts of government for their budgets.


So any time one sees “unique opportunity” as a qualifier before a government job — particularly when it is being offered to give the perpetrator of a wrong, in this case Secretary Vilsack, a way out of political hell — then demand “your own budget.”
Otherwise, the exploitation that began with Shirley Sherrod’s inappropriate firing will continue with Shirley Sherrod being hired back — all to the benefit of risk-averse and opportunistic pols.
Here is Vilsack’s statement and apology:

“Today, I reached out to Shirley Sherrod to apologize. I also told her I was sorry for the pain this caused her and her family and friends.
“I reacted too quickly. I should have taken the time to listen and learn.
“While I cannot change what happened, I can try to make something out of this difficult incident.
“As we know, Shirley has a unique and compelling story to tell. She and her family endured discrimination and overcame adversity. Fighting to advance justice and equality, she has helped farmers who were struggling to keep their land, fought for women in need of social and economic justice, and African-American men and women who faced discrimination. As USDA’s Georgia State Rural Development Director, she worked to promote economic opportunity for all people by enabling job creation and business growth. And Shirley has shown tremendous character through the events of the last few days.
“Shirley and I talked about a unique opportunity at USDA. With all that she has seen, endured and accomplished, it would be invaluable to have her experience, commitment and record of service at USDA. I hope she considers staying with the department.
“I did not handle this situation well. I will continue to review the circumstances that brought us to this day and I am committed to making sure it does not happen again.
“As part of this effort, I also want to renew my firm commitment to put behind all of us the USDA’s past record on civil rights. While we have made some progress over the last 18 months, more work is needed.”

– Steve Clemons

Comments

6 comments on “Note to Sherrod: Kick the Tires of Vilsack’s Offer of “Unique Opportunity”

  1. ML says:

    If Ms Sherrod plays her cards right — and so far she has — she
    could end up with a nice fellowship at a think tank and a big book
    offer. After having listened to her complete speech, I would be so
    interested in reading more of her story.

    Reply

  2. Linda says:

    Don’t worry about Shirley Sherrod as she will make the right decision for herself and her future. You will be reading more about her and her family who have been leaders in civil rights in Georgia for decades. She has been gracious, articulate, and eloquent through all of this.
    She sets a high standard from outside the Beltway of the kind of adult behavior that often is missing inside it.

    Reply

  3. Linda says:

    Don’t worry about Shirley Sherrod as she will make the right decision for herself and her future. You will be reading more about her and her family who have been leaders in civil rights in Georgia for decades. She has been gracious, articulate, and eloquent through all of this.
    She sets a high standard from outside the Beltway of the kind of adult behavior that often is missing inside it.

    Reply

  4. miscellany101 says:

    I disagree with the notion Sherrod should accept a plum job within the USDA and ask for a job with meaning with a budget to boot; she appears to have more integrity than to profit from her own misfortune…God knows she’s had enough of that. What I would hope she’d do is what the poster Don Bacon suggests and that is ask questions about the process by which her boss handled this debacle before she even thinks about going back to USDA. In her address she said she’s committed to living and working in the South and quite frankly that’s where I think she should stay. Washington is not the place for people, like Shirley Sherrod with morals and ideals.

    Reply

  5. Don Bacon says:

    The correct way would have been for Vilsack to be his own man, investigate all sides of the story and then decide what to do. That’s the normal procedure in an organization which trusts its managers.
    This was obviously not such an organization, and Vilsack was frightened enough for his own job not to do the right thing and simply do what he was told to do.
    So this, from what we know, is a president who listens to his generals and does what they recommend, but has a quite different relationship with his civilian subordinates and orders them (through Emanuel) to do what he has decided. And they do it.
    Why did he do it? Did Vilsack really believe he might be fired for not firing Sherrod? Or was he just weak? The latter is doubtful. It isn’t like he was never a manager — he was a state governor for eight years.
    Not a healthy situation. It ought to be investigated because it impacts the country, and the morale of its civilian government workforce.

    Reply

  6. Dan Kervick says:

    Even though this story blew up all of 24 hours ago, and so has passed beyond the horizon of political memory in Washington, I seem to recall from the ancient historical annals that Sherrod was fairly clear in stating that she was told, on at least two occasions, that it was the *White House* who wanted her fired.
    And if that is true, then while it is noble of Vilsack to fall on his sword for his superiors, there is still some sniveling coward in the White House who is skating away from a political hit-and-run accident without being held accountable.

    Reply

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