When John Edwards hired the bloggers who wrote at Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister, I thought it was a great move. Both are excellent writers, and it’s always nice to see great writers and great bloggers moving into paid political positions. Hiring them suggested that Edwards groks the blogosphere in a way that few of the other candidates do.
Of course, the two bloggers have, in their years of blogging, produced some incendiary comments which, taken into the context of professional campaign communications, would be inappropriate. Various professional bigots, people like Michelle “Concentration Camps” Malkin and Bill “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate … Catholics” Donohue, have been going after the two bloggers and John Edwards, and it appears that Edwards was the first to blink. There are reports that both women were fired, though there is apparently still a shoe to drop. The campaign is treating this as a controversy and hunkering down.
This is entirely the wrong decision.
When George Bush hired Tony Snow to be his new press secretary, people brought up the various insane things he had said on Fox News over the years. No one tried to claim that everything Fox had ever done was suddenly official White House policy, and neither is it reasonable to think that John Edwards bought into everything that Amanda and Melissa ever wrote.
John Edwards could have impressed a lot of people and scored major points by either:
- treating this as the nonstory it is
- going after the extremists on the Bush, McCain and Romney staffs
- painting his critics as out of touch and over-sensitive
Or any combination of those. In truth, there is no story here. The controversy makes no sense if the Edwards camp would simply reject the premise that what these people wrote on their private blogs has any bearing on their work for the campaign. If he would deny that, and point out that his critics just don’t understand the new era.
Blogging is a hobby. If every politician were held to account for every off-color comment he made on the golf course, Washington would be deserted. John Edwards hired bloggers for a reason, and the response to attacks on them shouldn’t have been to fire them for past statements.
The simplest statement he could have made is that when he hires someone, he doesn’t adopt their views. From there, he can refuse to discuss the matter, or point out how this is distracting from serious issues. Heck, he could call the attackers sexist for going after his two female bloggers.
At this point he can’t avoid looking like he caved, and that’s an awkward position to be in, even a year away from the primaries.
edited to add: KagroX is exactly right. The other campaigns should be stepping up to defend the bloggers, and by extension all bloggers.