Obama Strategy on the Shirley Sherrod Case: Silence is Golden


There are days when the president seems to do whatever it takes to avoid speaking to the White House press corps - and this was one of those days.

Why? The White House officially denies it, but a pretty good guess is that he's avoiding questions on the Shirley Sherrod flap.

He apologized to her in a phone call from his private study just off the Oval Office today - perhaps the most media-free location in the known universe.

When a reporter shouted a Sherrod question during an event in the State Dining Room he ignored it. And just to make sure no Sherrod questions were asked when he signed the unemployment extension in the Oval Office - where it's harder to avoid questions because of the tight quarters - they excluded all reporters from the room. Still cameras only.

Disappointing, because his comments on race are often profound and moving. But not surprising.

After all, it was exactly one year ago today during a prime time news conference that the President Obama said the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting his friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. A media frenzy ensued.

Shirley Sherrod "Very Pleased" After Phone Call with Obama
Andrew Breitbart: Sherrod "Sees Things Through Racial Prism"

Conservative critics including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, pounced, with Beck accusing the president of "a deep-seated hatred for white people." The White House dismissed that as nothing more than a ratings grab, but for more than a week the president's agenda was all but obliterated.

Forced by circumstances, the president - unenthusiastically - called for a meeting of racial reconciliation in the Rose Garden - a session that has gone down in history as "the beer summit."

The Sherrod matter doesn't have that kind of firepower, but the White House seems to believe that silence is golden on the issue of race.

Robert Gibbs said yesterday that perhaps the president will have something to say publicly on the Sherrod case at some point. And the fact is he can't avoid us forever. But he can avoid us until the story cools off - and that appears to be his plan.

More Coverage of Shirley Sherrod:

Sherrod: I'd Consider Legal Action against Breitbart
Sherrod: Administration Too Sensitive to the Right
Sherrod Story Shows Ugly Side of 24-Hour News
Case Exposes Raw Wounds About Race
More Coverage in Hotsheet Blog

Chip Reid, CBS News chief White House Correspondent
Chip Reid is CBS News' chief White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.