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The Triumph of Reverend Bacon
By Dana Milbank, Friday, April 13, 4:12 PM
The Rev. Al Sharpton is lord of all he surveys.
“Check out this,” the flamboyant civil rights leader told me during breakfast at his organization’s annual meeting this week. He flipped through the program until he found a full-page ad with the logos of Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. “News Corporation Proudly Supports National Action Network’s 2012 Convention,” it said.
Sharpton grinned. “They bash me on Fox News,” he said. “But they sponsor my conference.”
Everybody wants to be on Sharpton’s good side these days. No fewer than five Cabinet officers and a senior White House official went to this year’s convention to kiss his ring. President Obama spoke at last year’s conference and has sought Sharpton’s advice on policy. Sharpton has a show on MSNBC five nights a week, and he doles out airtime to a procession of politicians and journalists (including me).
Wednesday night brought the sweetest moment yet in Sharpton’s long and controversial career: the announcement that Florida authorities would charge Trayvon Martin’s shooter. Sharpton, at the request of the boy’s parents, had done more than anyone else to bring the case national attention.
Just hours before the announcement that George Zimmerman would be charged with second-degree murder, Martin’s parents held a joint news conference with Sharpton — and a few hours before that, Attorney General Eric Holder, also at the convention, praised Sharpton for his “tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless.”
It was confirmation that Sharpton has pulled off one of the rarest second acts in American public life: from pariah to power player.
“It was a huge moment, because it was the coming together of everything,” Sharpton said, with his trademark vainglory. “We had the attorney general here and one of the biggest civil rights cases of the 21st century, and having to do TV and radio shows at the same time, it was all combined for everybody to see.” ...
On Thursday, the day after his most visible career triumph, Sharpton worked the ballroom at Washington’s convention center, grinning for photographs. Opening up for his breakfast speaker, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Sharpton regaled the crowd with a story of how Obama invited him and Newt Gingrich to the Oval Office and asked them to launch a five-city tour promoting education reform. When Duncan took the microphone, he requested “a huge round of applause for our leader, Reverend Al Sharpton.”
I suspect Milbank will get the message quickly: Ixnay on the Sharptonian Triumphalism (Rev. Al 24x7 is not one of Team Obama's re-election talking points).