This has the faint sound of a novel: Although it apparently wasn’t his, George Burns was famous for saying it:
“Sincerity is everything in show business. Once you learn to fake that, you’ve got it made.”
That’s how it works in show business. To understand the American discourse, you have to master three basic concepts: Novels, scripts and “zombie facts.” (Paul Krugman; just click here.)
When Michelle Rhee sat down with Charlie Rose, Charlie inquired about her husband. Rhee is married to Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA all-star.
Johnson has also been involved in urban education. Until we’re shown that he has failed in some grotesque way, we very much respect his efforts. But when Rhee responded to the (leading) question from Rose, we thought we were possibly hearing a novel.
After Charlie told Rhee who her husband was, this is the story Rhee told:
ROSE (2/18/13): Does Kevin Johnson believe the same things you do about teachers unions?Did that actually happen? Presumably, the school is question is Sacramento High, Johnson’s alma mater, which he opened as a charter in 2003.
RHEE: You know, so—
ROSE: He’s your husband.
RHEE: This is my husband who is—
ROSE: The mayor.
RHEE: —the mayor of Sacramento.
ROSE: Former NBA all-star.
RHEE: That’s right. It was interesting. When I first met Kevin Johnson I was— I was listening to him speak, and he was talking about the fact that when he retired from the NBA, he decided to go back home to the neighborhood that he grew up in and start a charter school. And he said that when he went into the school, it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the city and he said, “This is what I’m going to do, we’re going to make this school great again,” and the teachers you know all clapped.
And he said, "A week later I came back and people were hissing and booing as I came in and I realized the teachers union had come in and told them, ‘This is terrible, you’re going to lose your jobs,’ etc.”
But did that story actually happen? To us, it has the feel of a novel. First, the teachers all clapped for Johnson. But wouldn't you know it? Just one week later, “people” were hissing and booing!
In that week, the fiendish union had struck—the fiendish teachers union.
As we said, we respect Johnson’s efforts. Beyond that, teachers and their unions aren’t always sensible or right. But did that story actually happen? In a slightly saner world, we would expect a major broadcaster to challenge or question a tale which seemed to have such a novelized feel.
That isn’t what happened here. Here’s how Rose reacted:
ROSE (continuing directly): Yes, yes.“It’s good to see you, too,” Rhee said. We’ll guess she really meant it.
RHEE: And the teachers union spent $750,000 to try to make sure that he couldn’t open the charter school. And when he— When he told that story and I listened to it and I thought, “Wow, we have something in common!”
ROSE: "Radical: Fighting to Put Students First." Michelle Rhee, thank you.
RHEE: Thank you.
ROSE: Good to see you.
RHEE: It’s good to see you, too