It's plain to me that the real culprit in the Shirley Sherrod racial smear is Andrew Breitbart, who orchestrated the whole thing. Tom Vilsack, the media, etc. have hardly covered themselves in glory. But the purposeful deceit propagated by Breitbart is a mitigating factor for everyone but Breitbart. I have to agree with David Frum, though. It's rather amazing that Breitbart isn't being singled out for greater condemnation:
On the phone on the evening of July 20, a friend asked me: "Can Breitbart possibly survive?" I could only laugh incredulously. I answered: "Of course he'll survive, and undamaged. The incident won't matter at all."
There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart's role.
I hope that isn't true, although I fear it might be. Frum goes on to condemn conservatives like Rich Lowry and Glenn Beck for connecting the episode to the NAACP and the Obama administration, even as they (quite honorably, I thought) stated in no uncertain terms that Sherrod had been smeared. Beck's analogizing Sherrod's speech to a confessional offered at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting struck me as particularly astute, because it captures perfectly the element of emotional vulnerability inherent in any such endeavor--and thereby illustrates why what Breitbart has done is so appalling.
What I'm especially interested to see, though, is not so much how conservative commentators respond, but how advertisers on Breitbart's site, BigGovernment.com respond to this sort of race baiting--advertisers like Progressive Insurance, which is prominently featured on the site.