People have asked me what I make of the Shirley Sherrod controversy. The tempting answer is to say that people are discovering we actually have a United States Department of Agriculture, the department helps farmers, and this controversy is the one thing we know the Secretary of Agriculture has done.
Clearly, the White House and Secretary of Agriculture panicked when a clearly edited videotape was made to misrepresent Sherrod in a long ago speech. And given Andrew Breitbart's reputation, many questions should have been asked before taking the tape at face value.
I had high hopes when President Barack Obama was elected, hoping he would pick an Agriculture Secretary that could keep up with the need to reform how government deals with the food supply. Clearly that hasn't happened with Vilsack, whose best known job before this was as governor of the farm-rich state of Iowa.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza said Vilsack had the Worst Week in Washington. Cillizza pointed out a Washington tradition: "Remember that old adage that the secretary of agriculture is meant to be seen but not heard?"
No offense to Cillizza, but as Americans who are growing frustrated with what is being done with our food supply, we need a loud and proud Ag Sec who will fight for the small farmer and the consumer.
There has been 35 years of poor government policy toward the food supply, and Vilsack or any other Ag Sec can't turn things around overnight. But with a president and First Lady who seem driven to improving our food supply, we should have an Agriculture Secretary who understands that.
This isn't to say Vilsack hasn't done anything in the last 18 months or so, but the Shirley Sherrod mess is where his name first comes up in minds outside the Beltway.
- There is legislation going slowly through Congress to improve school lunches. What is Vilsack doing on this front?
- The United States has an appalling lack of oversight as to the classification of food. Where is Vilsack?
- All the experts agree that our farm system is messed up for multiple parties involved. What is Vilsack doing in this area?
Vilsack is either doing wonders in these areas, and we don't know it (not likely) or these areas aren't receiving the care they deserve.
I remain hopelessly naive that government can help make things better for its citizens, provided their heart is in the right place and political capital is used to bypass the naysayers.