Sunday, July 25, 2010

Daniel Schorr - Farewell to a Fearless and Legendary Newsman

July 25th, 2010

My Dear America:

Daniel Schorr is dead and the news business has lost another legendary Newsman.

I don't exactly recall the circumstances of when I first saw Daniel Schorr presenting a story on CBS News with Walter Cronkite as he did for so many years.  I do remember thinking, however, how in the world is this guy on a network newscast when he sounded like he had a speech impediment.  He did not really have a speech impediment, of course.  Its just that his laid back speech sound and his rather plain ordinary face did not match up with the booming authoritative voices and the pretty boy good looks of many other Television newscasters at the time.  

Why was Dan Schorr on television with CBS?  The answer was because he was one hell of a newsman and had been one at CBS since first getting picked by Edward R. Murrow to become one of his select few correspondents at CBS News.

CBS Newsman, Robert Schieffer, himself a standout in the field of Television Newsmen, gave Howard Kurtz of CNN and the Washington Post some of his memories of his colleague, Daniel Schorr, this morning.  Schieffer recalled a time when Schorr was using a cane due to a leg injury or an operation or something and when attending a press opportunity on Capitol Hill used the cane as a weapon to clear a path for himself to get to the front of the press pack limping badly as he hurtled himself forward.  Schieffer also recalled that Schorr, who was quite proud of his status as being close to the top of Richard Nixon's famed "Enemies List", found out that he was on the list on live television when having come up with the list he was reading the list and reporting on camera when he found his own name close to the top of the the notorious list.  According to Schieffer he thought Dan Schorr would probably want his inclusion on the "Nixon Enemies List" to be on his gravestone. 

There was a good reason that Daniel Schorr was on the "Nixon Enemies List".  Schorr was a probing and fearless White House Reporter who was constantly trying to find the leaks in the Nixon Administration's Ship of State and when he found them he was not satisfied just to report them.  He constantly wanted to find more out about the dark dealings of the Nixon Administration and did so consistently.  Although Daniel Schorr did not break many of the stories on Watergate that eventually sunk the Nixon Administration, he and CBS News were for a long period of time the only national Television News Organization that reported those stories to the National Television Audience.  In the research I did for my book on Watergate, "Letters To A Lost Nation: A Watergate Chronicle" I list only Daniel Schorr and Walter Cronkite of CBS and Carl Stern of NBC as the only Network Reporters who regularly contributed Watergate stories to Network news prior to the Senate Watergate Hearings.

Schiedffer and Kurtz also talked about the fact that Daniel Schorr not only stood up to politicians like Nixon in the White House but also to his bosses at CBS News, as well.  He left CBS News due to a heated dispute about reports he did on the CIA that CBS refused to air.  He moved on to CNN where he only agreed to take a job as Correspondent if Ted Turner and company promised him complete autonomy and independence and freedom from interference.

Schorr eventually had problems with the CNN brass also and left CNN ending up on NPR Radio for the last 25, or so, years of his life.  When he died this week he was 93 years old and had given his last NPR News Analysis only a couple of weeks before his passing.  

Dan died with his family beside him and it is hoped that the integrity that he showed throughout his career will somehow be emulated by others in later years in what will be left of the News Business.   

He was clearly one of the last surviving members of a dying breed of Courageous and Legendary Reporters and I will personally miss his compelling News Analysis Reports on NPR.

He was an example in so many ways of what a Reporter should and could be in America and he will be missed terribly by NPR News Junkies like me.  

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Case of Mistaken Ideology - The Strange Misunderstanding about Shirley Sherrod

July 22nd, 2010

My Dear America:

It has been a half a week from Hell for former United States Department of Agriculture Administrator, Shirley Sherrod. 

Recently the NAACP in a very almost cordial way requested that the Tea Party Movement lighten up on the Racist Rhetoric and Racially charged Signs that some super extremists in the movement have been presenting.  In what I seem to feel is at least a showing of good faith the National Tea Party Movement apparently did pass the word to their members to lighten up on the blatant racism and even expelled one of their groups whose leader put a racially charged post on his blog after the word went out.

Apparently in reaction to the mild chastising of the Tea Party Movement by the NAACP a Conservative Blogger named Andrew Breitbart put on his Blog a video that apparently showed United States Department of Agriculture Official Shirley Sherrod talking at an NAACP Dinner about how 20 years ago she was put off by a white farmer acting superior to her while requesting her help in saving his farm.  Shirley commented in her speech that she did enough but not as much as she could have for the white farmer but did put the farmer in touch with one of his "own kind" for further help.

Clearly the video when initially viewed was disturbing in its blatant reverse racism of this black woman toward that white man seeking her help.  Apparently officials in the Obama Administration and in the Agriculture Department without checking out the facts with Shirley Sherrod immediately asked for her resignation, which she gave them, without being allowed to explain how, when and why she gave her speech and what the extenuating circumstances were behind the video.

The Administration, The Agricuture Department and the NAACP all condemned the video and the person in the video, Shirley Sherrod.

Now a few days later, after she was essentially fired by USDA, circumstances have changed.  Shirley Sherrod is no longer the victimizer she appeared to be in the video because the video was a short clip from a 45 minute speech in which she was trying to show how her racial views had changed since that time many years ago when she was working with a Non Profit organization helping rural farmers.  

Now, after the spectre of the video being shown on Glen Beck's show is past and most people have heard the other side of the story the entire incident has turned into an embarassment for Barack Obama and USDA head, Tom Vilsack.  Shirley Sherrod will probably be offered another position with USDA although she has indicated that she might not be willing to come back to an organization that was so quick to make rash judgements about who she is and what type of person she is.

Understandably enough, the news media jumped on this story and joined in on the initial condemnation.  I have to admit that when I first saw the video clip I was also shocked and apalled at what appeared to be Shirley Sherrod's racism.  

Now I can only respect her for the magnificent way Shirley Sherrod has conducted herself in what must have been a living nightmare for her.  Andrew Breitbart has semi apologized stating that he wasn't after Sherrod but was merely trying to tarnish the reputation of the NAACP.  The NAACP has also apologized to Sherrod for their quick condemnation without finding out the facts.

CNN has shown interviews with individuals in the audience for Shirley's speech that night and they all found the speech one that was condemning racism in any form and was especially encouraging to young people.  CNN has also broadcast interviews with the white farmer that Shirley talked about in the video and his wife.  The farmer and his wife state that Shirley Sherrod was responsible for helping them save their farm and since the time that Shirley talks about in the video they have been good friends with Shirley Sherrod.

Clearly the Obama Administration and USDA jumped the gun on this situation and I hope that they learn some valuable lessons from this incident.  First of all, a video clip taken out of context can be manipulated in many ways, as this one was.  Secondly, cooperating with the Republican Party should not be given up on entirely but it certainly should be put into perspective.  Bipartisanship certainly has a place in our government but when bipartisanship is only one sided it is not bipartisanship, it is foolishmness.  And please don't be guided by what is going to be showing up on Glen Beck's show, or any Fox news show.  Investigate what is really happening before you just chop off a hand that has been giving to you for a long time.

On the positive side, Barack Obama and Tom Vilsack could have written off Shirley Sherrod, and weathered the storm of criticism from all sides that this entire situation has produced and not backed down from their mistakes.  They have not done that.  They have looked at the facts and from their statements seem to have learned from their mistakes and seem to be doing what they can to help restore Shirley Sherrod's reputation. 

Barack Obama, I believe, owes Shirley Sherrod and her husband, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinading Committee, at least a beer summit and quite possibly a dinner party with the Obamas and the Vilsacks.

I just hope that Shirley Sherrod's reputation is able to be restored and that she is able to go on with either USDA or elsewhere to continue to teach others the lessons of Tolerance and Respect.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America - You look Good for a Country that is 234 Years Old

July 4th, 2010

My Dear America:

Happy Birthday, America.  I'll bet you are as surprised as anyone that you have made it this far, 234 Years old.  I think that's how old you are, but who's counting. 

I just saw an interesting series called "The Revolution" on the History Channel yesterday.  Although there wasn't a whole lot of new information there were some interesting facts that I hadn't known about your birth. 

For instance, France invested so much money, millions in their time and what would have been billions in our time, as well as provided troops and naval support.  The end result of France helping U.S in our struggle was that their own financially strapped average citizens revolted themselves against their own Government once they saw what we had accomplished.  Their bloodbath of a Revolution put into practice, however, a democracy which, like ours, still survives. 

What is also interesting when you think about your birth is just how close we came to losing the Revolutionary War.  And if we lost what would have happened to us.  We would probably still be under the thumb of British Rule.  Who knows.  All of our Revolutionary heroes would probably have been hanged or shot and would never even have been mentioned in American History.

But you did make it, America, and you're still making it.  You are struggling, yes, and you will undoutedly continue to struggle but even with the awful partisanship of Washington I know that we will get through our struggles just like we have done countless times before and we will hopefully survive many more centuries to come. 

Yes, we will have problems but sooner or later our Democracy will produce solutions to those problems.  I know it.  We make a lot of noise in our Democracy but noise is better than silence that is forced and ominous.  We have our share of gutless politicians at the present time who are either too timid to do what is right or too dumb to realize that they are destryong America by trying to destroy it's President.

Certainly our President has made and I'm sure will make some serious mistakes as all Presidents before him have but at least he is trying to do some things that need doing.

Republicans standing in the way of Health Care Reform, Economic Reform and Immigration Reform are, I am convinced, going to learn  a serious political lesson in November of this year when voters who are fed up with Obstructionists in Congress vote them out.  Republicans who continue to try to strangle the Government from doing anything are going to wake up on Election Day and find out that the electorate was not as stupid as they had counted on.  I am sure of it.

As we celebrate your birthday today we look forward to that Day of Reckoning in November when the American People get out, go to their polls and "Vote the Rascals Out" one more time in America.

Once More, America, Happy Birthday To You.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher