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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Statement of the Edwards campaign

(updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)

Subject:
EDWARDS STATEMENT ON CAMPAIGN BLOGGERS AMANDA MARCOTTE AND MELISSA McEWEN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


February 8, 2007

EDWARDS STATEMENT ON CAMPAIGN BLOGGERS AMANDA MARCOTTE AND MELISSA McEWEN

Chapel Hill, North Carolina -- The statements of Senator John Edwards, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen in reference to their work as independent bloggers before joining the Edwards campaign are below.

Senator John Edwards:

"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."

Amanda Marcotte:

"My writings on my personal blog, Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism 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. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact."

Melissa McEwen:

"Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including 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."

_______________________________________________

This was a smart and potentially significant move by the Edwards campaign on several levels, the most significant of which is that it signals that Democratic campaigns aren't going to capitulate to contrived controversies manufactured by the lowest and basest precincts in our political culture. There is more Edwards could have done with this, but still, he stood resolute in the face of an intense and ugly coordinated media/right-wing swarm and rendered it impotent.

Nobody is going to be casting their votes a year from now based on the pre-campaign postings of Amanda Marcotte or Melissa McEwan, and the only ones who will ever speak of this again would never have voted for Edwards in the first place, and only raised these issues in the first place with the intent to harm Edwards specifically and Democrats generally. That faction is the last one to which Edwards and other Democrats ought to pay any attention. John McCain will have to spend the next year pandering to the Bill Donahues and Michelle Malkins of the world. There is no reason John Edwards should, and it is good to see that he will not.

UPDATE: The Associated Press' Nedra Pickler writes a much more balanced article on this matter than the one which made its way yesterday into The Washington Post. In today's story, Pickler conveys the important point made by McEwan on her blog that McEwan enthusiastically voted for a Catholic (John Kerry) for President in 2004, which suggests that she is hardly an "anti-Catholic bigot."

It is true that McEwan opposes specific Catholic doctrine applied by some right-wing Catholics to political questions, which -- despite Bill Donohue's best efforts -- is not the same as being "anti-Catholic" (just as opposing Pat Robertson's political agenda does not make one "anti-Christian," nor does opposing the policies of specific right-wing Israelis or American Jews make one "anti-semitic," nor does opposing specific views of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make one "racist"). The language they used was inflammatory -- almost certainly deliberately so -- but that hardly makes it "bigoted."

Pickler also includes -- as she and The New York Times should have done originally -- a small though illustrative excerpt from that Civility Crusader, Bill Donohue: "Donohue also doesn't shy away from blunt language sometimes in his criticism of gays, Hollywood's control by 'secular Jews who hate Christianity' and even the Edwards bloggers, whom he referred to as 'brats' in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC." That (along with Michelle Malkin and the likes of Jonah Goldberg) is who was masquerading as the Guardians of Elevated Political Discourse, and that is why it was so important not to indulge this charade.

UPDATE II: In Comments, Zack says:

This is all a big game to the right, and they were prepared to declare victory no matter what Edwards did. Edward’s careful response seems to have taken away the “anti-Catholic bigotry” from most of them (Donahue excepted, I’m sure), but they’ve now found a new tact.

Sister Toldjah loves this comment:

This is just a great endorsement for Edwards for President. If he doesn’t have the stones to stand up to the nutroots, I’m sure he’ll really be just the perfect man to stand up to Islamic Terrorists and Iran and North Korea. He’ll need a pair of knee pads pronto if he becomes President.

Did you notice how fast they switched gears? They’ve already nearly forgotten about the religious angle that they began with. ….. Yeah, well, okay, maybe he’s not an anti-Christian bigot, but by gosh he sure is a girly-man.

This wasn’t ever about “God-cum” - it was about intimidating those who disagree with them. If one smear doesn’t stick, they’ll just keep throwing them until one does. It’s a game they play to divert attention from the real issues and provide amusement for each other with their insults.

Other than screeching that the Terrorists are coming to get us all and that anyone who disagrees is themselves a Terrorist, the pro-Bush right has no ideas, no policies, no substance. They thrive on deeply personal lynch mob behavior -- waving purple hearts with band-aids, prattling on about John Kerry's joke and Nancy Pelosi's plane, searching for new scalps to satisfy their mob cravings, and depicting their political opponents as weak, girly, traitorous losers. That is the extent of them, and that is all this Edwards hysteria was ever about. And by brushing it aside, Edwards treated it as the petty nuisance it is, rather than endowing it and them with unwarranted credibility.

The idea that the right wing political movement in this country -- led by the filth-spewing likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, the Clinton impeachment obsessives, and all sorts of Daily Treason Accusers -- is committed to high levels of civility in our political discourse and sensitivity to the beliefs of others, and therefore was very, very offended by the commentary of these bloggers, is an absurd and transparent joke.

There is a reason that two of the most bigoted and offensive public figures in our political landscape -- Bill Donohue and Michelle Malkin -- led their crusade. That Donohue and Malkin were holding themselves out as the arbiter of proper political discourse and anti-bigotry standards reveals all one needs to know about the corrupt roots of this "controversy."

UPDATE III: Over at National Review's Media Blog, Steve Spruiell speculates (accurately, I believe):

This [Edwards announcement today] contradicts a report on Salon.com yesterday that the Edwards campaign had fired the bloggers.

I've previously been interviewed by Alex Koppelman (one of the Salon reporters who wrote the story), and from my experience with him he seems like a diligent and professional reporter — indicating that Salon's report was probably well-founded. So at one point, it's likely that the Edwards campaign had decided to fire the bloggers, only to reconsider in the face of pressure from left-wing netroots activists.


I also believe (without knowing for certain, though based on numerous facts) that this is, more or less, what happened. In the age where candidates listened only to their Beltway consultants, and national journalists were the exclusive gatekeeper and megaphone for all political opinion, I believe virtually every campaign would have fired these bloggers immediately. Why risk the controversy over low-level staffers, the super-smart consultant-rationale would have suggested.

But now there are multiple and disparate constituencies, and I don't think there is much question that the blogosphere enabled Edwards to keep these bloggers. I do not believe bloggers forced him to do something he did not want to do. I think it's more likely that the blogosphere created the option of keeping them and enabled Edwards to choose that option, though certainly the prospect of alienating all of the liberal blogosphere -- bloggers, readers and donors alike -- was a factor in Edwards' decision, and it should have been. Candidates should listen more to the people supporting their campaign and less to the national journalists and consultant class which previously dictated all of their decisions.

UPDATE IV: Salon's Koppelman and Traister just posted a new article essentially confirming the above theory:

After personal phone calls to the bloggers from the candidate, the Edwards campaign has rehired the bloggers who were fired yesterday, according to sources inside and close to the campaign.

Salon reported yesterday that on Wednesday morning the Edwards camp fired Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen, the two bloggers whose hiring had sparked an uproar by conservatives. That information was confirmed by sources in and close to the campaign. But almost as soon as the decision had been communicated to the bloggers, a struggle arose within the campaign about possibly reversing it, the sources said, as the liberal blogosphere exploded.

As I said, I think that reflects well on both the Edwards campaign and, even more so, on the emerging ability of the blogosphere to positively influence the outcome of matters such as this one.

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