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I don't disagree with John Kass that the administration, as opposed to the USDA alone, needs more blowback than it's getting over the nihilistically depressing Shirley Sherrod debacle, but the question above is an easy one:
Tom Vilsack didn't fall, he jumped. This is an important Teaching Moment for anyone finding themselves in middle management.
Someone made Sherrod resign. Vilsack claims he did it. Sherrod says the pressure—or the decision?— came from above Vilsack. Which suggests the following possibilities:
1. Vilsack had nothing to do with it, and is providing cover for other people who fucked up and fucked him over. While he may have his reasons, that's at best undignified.
2. Vilsack was told to do a thing by his bosses that he shouldn't have done, which isn't an excuse.
3. Vilsack was primarily or highly involved in the decision, in which case he's not a fall guy.
As to whether having to grovel before the press for a few minutes is tantamount to being a "fall guy," well, I tend to agree with the great Doghouse Riley that that's sort of naive:
Thousands of rank amateurs in this county heard "released by Andrew Breitbart" or "wall-to-wall on FOX News" and knew immediately that the overwhelming odds were the thing was a sack of shit. He was handed a transcript, of an edited video, and dove in headfirst. If he's held to the same standard as lowly employees, he shouldn't apologize, he should resign (and let the President decide whether to accept). Of course he's not held to the same standard; he's a big shot. They don't resign for mistakes unless doing so is part of the plea bargain.
It reminds me of what Steve Rhodes observed after tales of Rod Blagojevich's gross negligence became courtroom fodder:
And none of these aides said a thing. They served their own careers instead of the public who was paying their salaries. And they aided and abetted the man's re-election. They should all go to jail together.