Jones resigned in September 2009, presumably involuntarily. It had not been an easy summer for the White House. In addition to the tea parties and raucous town hall meetings on health care, the president had mishandled the summer's racial fireworks over Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and officer James Crowley. Inserting himself gratuitously into the controversy, the president popped off that the Boston police had acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates. Most Americans disagreed, and for the first time since his election, the president's approval ratings among whites and blacks diverged dramatically. The Pew Center found that among people who had heard "a lot" about the president's intervention in the issue, 41 percent disapproved while only 29 percent approved. Among African-Americans, 85 percent registered support for the president following the incident while only 48 percent of whites approved.
Last fall, Obama leaned heavily on New York Gov. David Paterson to pull out of the race for re-election. Paterson was facing ethics charges involving an aide accused of domestic violence as well as some penny ante corruption -- seeking free Yankees tickets. Obama intervened to shove Paterson toward the door.
Both Jones and Paterson arguably deserved to be kicked to the curb, as did the Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the campaign. But Sherrod, as the world now knows, did not. And it may be that Rangel does not. But in any case, it's beginning to seem that Obama has a hair trigger where African-Americans are concerned.
If so, he's overreacting. The gabosphere may hyperventilate over every fresh racial story, but there's zero evidence that race plays any role in the country's reaction to Obama. He was wildly popular at his inauguration and has lost standing as he has a) disregarded the electorate's wishes, and b) failed to improve the economy. By rushing around putting out perceived racial fires (and occasionally igniting them) he demonstrates only that he misunderstands the problem.