Credit where credit is due. The New York Times' report on the White House's dissembling in the Shirley Sherrod affair sure raises a lot of questions about whether the administration was being truthful. Specifically, the claims that the famously effective White House operators were unable to reach Sherrod after repeated efforts to contact her:

Some presidential historians said they were shocked at how long it took a White House that prides itself on being tech savvy — President Obama, after all, fought to keep his BlackBerry — to get through.

“I was astonished,” said Richard Reeves, a professor at the University of Southern California and the author of several books about the presidency. “It seems impossible to me that the president can’t get to people anytime he wants to.”

Other historians and political strategists said they found it hard to believe that though the Agriculture Department managed to call Ms. Sherrod (three times, she says) on Monday to ask her to tender her resignation via BlackBerry, the White House could not reach her until Thursday.


Even though Ms. Sherrod was out of touch for a few hours, traveling on a plane to New York from Atlanta, and her voice mailbox not accepting new messages, running her down would have been a laughable challenge to the switchboard of yore.

“Let’s say she was on the plane,” Mr. Reeves said. “If they wanted to get a message to the pilot of that plane, they would have no trouble.”

Even historian Douglas Brinkley, who is famously cosy with Democrats, seems to think this is embarassing:

Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, had his own take: “It may be a metaphor for a kind of societal incompetence, where a 20-year-old intern for CNN or Fox or MSNBC can track down the main players, when the federal government can’t.”