Thursday, February 08, 2007

Edwards Keeps Bloggers, But Defangs Them

[Posted by reader_iam]

Which is pretty much the best choice he had, given his competing interests here.

The statement on John Edwards08.
The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
Here's the Washington Post piece containing mea culpas, of a sort, from Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan.

From that article:
McEwen also posted the statement that the Edwards campaign distributed on Shakespeare's Sister on Thursday. Her portion said that she doesn't expect Edwards to agree with everything she's posted, but they share "an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs.

"It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way," McEwen's statement said.

Marcotte's statement said her writings on religion on her blog, Pandagon, are generally satirical criticisms of public policies and politics.

"My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics," Marcotte said. "Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact."
Does anyone really believe that first statement of Marcotte's? I doubt it. But that doesn't matter, because it's not really about sincerity (nor the philosophical question of whether an apology is really intended to express "sorry" when, for example, the words "if anyone was personally offended" are included in the phrasing).

It's about Edwards himself trying to cause as little offense and cover as many bases as possible, which is what candidates do, what politicians do and, truth be told, public officials do and often must. Because how else do you deal with diverse constituencies, a diverse country, practically speaking?

Here's an excerpt from an e-mail I wrote earlier this morning to a nonblogging friend, [added: who had heard about the story via the MSM and was curious enough to dip into the blogosphere and then contact me]:
I think a lot of commenters all over (and many other bloggers, not these) are really not getting it, however. The point is not what the rightwing does (or the leftwing) and all these equivalencies. The point is what People Out There think--you know, the people Edwards needs beyond the base. The point is the constituencies--ALL of them--which Edwards needs to reach, and that he needs to balance competing demands and values. He needs people who can help him do that, and who respect the fact that he needs to do that.

Marcotte--who's owed something, whatever she may have written, because after all, she quit her job in good faith, etc.--is someone who manifestly has provided evidence that her ability to do that is limited. "Sticky, white, hot"? Oh, c'mon. This is not someone who gives a rat's ass that there are people in the world with different views from hers and IS someone who's still stuck in the adolescent "gotta shock the grownups" mode.

That last sentence of mine precisely describes someone Edwards does not need, which he should have known. As Publius suggests, it's probably a mistake to dump Marcotte, but then Edwards probably needs to defang her, and Marcotte, if she wants to play in the big leagues, probably needs to accept defanging if she wants to stay. Is she grown-up enough to know that there are trade-offs in life? Probably not. Does she realize that when you join a campaign, it's not about finding an outlet for YOUR views and YOUR supporters, but about getting the candidate elected.

And McEwan should be treated as a separate case. HOWEVER, she, too, will need to demonstrate her understanding of fundamental realities associated with her having taken the job with Edwards. Her choice to do that limits other choices, for the duration of the time that she reaps the benefits (employment by a political campaign) she gained by exercising the first one. It's called a tradeoff. It's called limits. Those are things which many Netroots members seem to really, really struggle with. But if you truly want to be "reality based," in any grown-up sense of the phrase, this is part of it.
(Note: "Publius" refers to a blogger at Unfogged Obsidian Wings.
[Well, that was stupid. I went back to the original e-mail, where both blogs among others were referenced, and I was not confused there, at all (I mean, I read both blogs; I don't generally lump them together). In the redacting and cutting and pasting, I just plain got sloppy. Sorry for the dumb error. Oh, and the bloggers at Unfogged have done a number thoughtful posts--no error there.]

Looking at Edwards' statement, one has to expect that he has made somewhat of the same points I did here to my friend. Given what he said about "intolerant language" not being permitted, I assume he extracted some assurances from them not just about what they did or did not intend previously, but also how they will and will not conduct themselves going forward. In other words, defanged--at least relatively speaking.

One more thing about that statement: Notice how Edwards completely sidestepped issues of what he and Elizabeth*** did or did not know about Marcotte's posts (in particular, but also McEwan's), what sort of vetting was done, and so forth? Classic, and totally unsurprising.

So, did Edwards redeem the situation or not? What do you think?

***I keep including Elizabeth in the equation, quite deliberately, because it's know that she's followed the blogosphere for quite a while and even participates in comments sections from time to time. Of course it's unprovable, but every instinct I have is that she, at least, was fully aware of the general style of the blogs in question, if not every specific post. FWIW.