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February 8, 2007
Edwards Backs Down

We'll be discussing this on CQ Radio at 9 pm CT tonight, with Daniel Glover of Beltway Blogroll. Be sure to join the conversation by calling 646-652-4889.

John Edwards had to pick between two bad choices today in order to contain the damage from the controversial prior writings of two bloggers hired by his campaign as liaisons to Internet activists. The former VP nominee, stuck between offending Christians and angering the progressive community that the two bloggers were hired to engage, made the best possible lemonade from the lemons handed him by Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan. He announced that, while he was "personally offended" by their attacks on Catholic and Christian belief, he would keep them on the staff:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Thursday he was personally offended by the provocative messages two of his campaign bloggers wrote criticizing the Catholic church, but he's not going to fire them.

Edwards issued a statement and answered questions about the fate of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, two days after the head of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights demanded they be fired for messages they wrote before working on the campaign.

"I talked personally to the two women who were involved. They gave me their word they, under no circumstances, intended to denigrate any church or anybody's religion and offered their apologies for anything that indicated otherwise. I took them at their word," Edwards told reporters during a campaign stop in Charleston, S.C.

It seemed more apparent that he took the activist leaders in the liberal blogosphere at their word. After someone in the campaign leaked to Salon yesterday that the Edwards campaign would cut loose Marcotte and McEwan, outrage erupted through the Leftosphere. Many excoriated Edwards for capitulating to the "right wing attack machine", and the one niche in the political Left that could sustain his campaign threatened to revolt. Edwards apparently reversed himself as a result, showing the power of the progressive activists.

It's a smart move for this moment in the campaign, and probably the only one he could possibly make. He has dropped behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in public perception anyway, and he can't afford to lose the few friends he has left. His Democratic opponents will not likely make too much of the controversy; after all, Hillary will need these activists when she wins the nomination, and Obama has too much of an affinity for this portion of the base. The only real risk to Edwards for keeping the bloggers comes if he manages to win the nomination -- a long shot now more than ever. By that point, Edwards can bank on the issue being old news.

However, it's difficult to give much credence to Edwards' explanation. He says that both bloggers have "assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith," but given the quoted material, it's almost impossible to reach any other conclusion. Calling Christians "misogynists" for their beliefs on the nature of life and the Virgin Birth, and that their opposition to abortion aims to force women to produce more tithing Catholics, certainly qualifies as intentionally malignant. It's a convenient dodge, as were the "apologies" from the pair for having been misunderstood.

Contrary to the opinions of some well-intentioned bloggers, this never had anything to do with free speech. It had to do with the judgment of the Edwards campaign in hiring two incendiary bloggers known in part for their hostility to Christians. It's really no different than the eruption of attacks from the Left after Spocko went after KSFO and its incendiary talk-show hosts. He and other bloggers organized campaigns to scare advertisers away from the station and its shows after their own "hate speech" offended him.

Spocko and the rest of his allies had the right to object to the speech of KSFO's hosts and pressure advertisers to abandon them. However, as soon as the shoe is on the other foot and their own allies commit the hate speech, they object to the exercise of free speech and holding Edwards responsible for hiring the pair. Had John McCain hired one of the KSFO radio hosts as his press secretary, can you imagine the screams we would hear from the Left?

Right now, the bloggers who defended Marcotte and McEwan are congratulating themselves for protecting their jobs with the Edwards campaign. They have not yet considered the fact that they have rendered Edwards unelectable in November, even if he managed to limp his way to the nomination. His campaign blew a basic hiring decision on a couple of bloggers -- and voters will not likely trust him with any hiring decisions for more important positions.

UPDATE: Leftosphere, not dextrosphere. Maybe I should stick to "port" and "starboard"! Thanks to Malclave in the comments for the correction.

UPDATE II: And as I predicted yesterday, liberal Christians find themselves marginalized and insulted by the party who claimed to want them in the Democratic big tent:

"We have gone so far to rebuild that coalition [between Democrats and religious Christians] and something like this sets it back," said Brian O'Dwyer, a New York lawyer and Irish-American leader who chairs the National Democratic Ethnic Leadership Council, a Democratic Party group. O'Dwyer said Edwards should have fired the bloggers. "It's not only wrong morally – it's stupid politically."

O'Dwyer e-mailed a statement to reporters saying: "Senator Edwards is condoning bigotry by keeping the two bloggers on his staff. Playing to the cheap seats with anti-Catholic bigotry has no place in the Democratic Party." ...

“I thought his explanation was not satisfying," said Cornell's Penalver. "It's obvious that they did mean to give offense."

"You imagine a similar kind of comment directed at the Jewish community or at the gay community – something at this level of intentional offensiveness -- and I have a hard time believing it gets resolved in the same way," he said.

So much for the outreach to religious moderates.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 8, 2007 7:02 PM

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Tracked on February 8, 2007 9:29 PM


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