Friday, February 09, 2007

The Edwards Blog-ha-ha: Some Final Thoughts.

This thing needs to die, but some things I'm not hearing said need to be.

1. The Messenger Is Not the Message.

Yes, Donahue and Malkin are intolerant, viscious, hypocritical windbags. And yes, the media should have acknowledged their far more egregious comments when reporting that they were shocked, shocked. But just because someone is an intolerant, hypocritical windbag, does not make that person automatically wrong about everything, every time. Broken clocks and blind pigs and all that.

2. The posts were problematic.

The two posts in question were coarse criticisms of the Catholic faith. The comment suggesting that the Church is against birth control to generate more tithing Catholics argues that a Church teaching is based on greed. This one on Pandagon crudely mocks the doctrine of immaculate conception – a sacred tenet of the faith.

We might as well start admitting this to ourselves now, because things aren’t going to get any easier. The reason many people of faith believe the Democratic party is hostile to religion is that an identifiable segment of the party is hostile to religion. Or to put it more succinctly, people who are hostile to religion and who pick a party pick the Democrats. (Very much like people who are hostile to minorities and pick a party these days pick Republicans, though I’d much prefer dealing with the former group than the latter.)

And by the way, the nasty about white, sticky holy spirit doesn’t even make sense in context. Here it is in its entirety:

    Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

    A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.
I’m hard pressed to find evidence that the doctrine of Immaculate Conception is used as a cover for misogyny. If anything, it gives women a role in getting out from under Original Sin – a truly pestilent and misogyny-generating doctrine if ever there was one. And one certainly open to feminist parody:

Q: What if we were given the far more likely scenario in which Satan appeared to Adam as a beautiful woman and promised to sleep with him if he bit the apple?

A: [etc.]

So the line wasn’t just bad politics, it was bad theology as well.

All that said, it should be noted that the bloggers in question aren’t the compulsive potty mouths one might assume from reading the media stories. They write plenty that I disagree with and their discussions of reproductive rights veer close to being anti-child, but for the most part they are just tough-dealing libs. It’s noteworthy that in their considerable blog work, we are talking in the main about one post each here.

3. Harsh, but not Bigotted.

The implicit message in Donahue's ranting is that disagreeing with church doctrine is tantamount to bigotry. Disagreement, bigotry -- two different things. I disagree with Catholic doctine. I don't hate people in my life who are Catholic as a result -- even those who side with the Church in all things. If I did, that would be bigotry. My Catholic friends love me even though I'm a Unitarian and therefore, by Catholic teaching, a heretic. Granted in the Donahue/Malkin universe there is no difference between disagreeing and hating, but for the both of us we can pull it off.

4. The Mistake was in the Vetting.

It might have taken some digging to unearth these two posts, but it wouldn’t have taken much work to figure out that the tone set by the two bloggers in question is inconsistent with that Edwards is trying to set. I can’t imagine what the campaign was thinking and can’t help wondering if someone else’s head will roll over this.

5. John Edwards Is a Standup Guy.

No one can know what the man was thinking, but my guess and my hope is that this keeping them on was a matter of keeping his commitment to them as much as avoiding blogosphere blowback. That works for me. The campaign made a mistake hiring them without fully vetting their public work, but it was the campaign’s mistake. It would be messed up to fire them for something they did before joining the campaign and which the campaign should have uncovered itself. Edwards manned up and agreed to take whatever hit there might be.

6. The Two Liberal Blogospheres.

At least two. In this case, we have a more professional blogosphere – bloggers associated with media outlets or long-time, well-established bloggers (think Drum, Marshall, Klein, etc.) in one and true-believer netroots (including dKos and MyDD) in the other. The netroots frankly wigged about this issue. The more professional blogosphere had some sharp things to say, but understood the issue through the lens of understanding how politics works – you don’t take on baggage unnecessarily. Witness this observation by Jon Chait by way of Yglesias.

The one exception to the rule was Glenn Greenwald who wigged impressively, mostly on the messenger-is-the-message tip.

Alright, this story has taken up far too much oxygen and now, let it be done. But hey, it kept us from talking about the untimely demise of Anna Nichole.


Michael said...

I have to agree with your entire essay on this matter.

Especially as I personally view this as a very stand-up and classy move on his part under a difficult circumstance (re: Da' Media mainly).

If it'd been my campaign... well, I probably wouldn't have hired Amanda in the first place knowing her bent writing on certain subjects.

Then again, I also wouldn't hire myself!

I think I said something about this changing my view of Edwards slightly to the favorable side. What a turnaround a week or so - and some balls - can make.

ohdave said...

Nicely done.

I haven't really followed this story a whole lot. I think the right will latch on to ANYTHING to attack the dems and it's a mistake to react to it most of the time. So from that standpoint I am glad Edwards kept them on staff.

Village Green said...

I'm a "nothing's sacred" kind of person, but I do respect your viewpoint. Unfortunatley religionists hardly ever respect atheists. It isn't exactly pleasant to grow up surrounded by people who are convinced that I am going to boil in oil for all eternity because I don't believe in their god.

That said, I have a question about the hiring of bloggers. When politicians hire bloggers, what are they expecting them to do?

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

(Very much like people who are hostile to minorities and pick a party these days pick Republicans, though I’d much prefer dealing with the former group than the latter.)

Racism is evident among people in both political parties. The most blatant racism I ever encountered was when I was a UAW-represented autoworker. Those with the most seniority feel they can say anything and get away with it, and so they air out their prejudices openly--and they were staunch straight-ticket voting Democrats.

I once volunteered on a school board campaign in Oberlin by circulating petitions for a candidate who is African-American. Many didn't recognize the candidate's name as I was attempting to collect signatures, so I brought a photo of the candidate with me to help "introduce" the candidate to them as I explained what the candidate stood for. Oberlin is a very Democrat community. I happened to be canvassing some streets where many professors and retired professors live. It was taking a long time to gather a small amount of signatures, as many voters expressed reluctance to sign the petitions. I had to extend my petition drive to a second day. This time, I had failed to bring the photo with me. Shortly after starting off, a retired Oberlin professor told me, as we conversed on her front porch, "I'm so glad you brought this petition by, and I'll definitely give her a vote. Two of the people running are black, so I didn't know who I'd vote for. The blacks cause all of the trouble in this town." After the retired professor blurted this out, I didn't bother to tell her that she had just signed a petition for yet a 3rd African-American candidate for Oberlin's school board. I gathered more petition signatures in ninety minutes without my making a reference to the candidate's ethnicity than I had in four hours on a prior day with a photo of the candidate in hand. The eye-popping revelations on the retired professor's porch were just the first such of that day's work. Others had some not-so-nice things to say about an (African-American) incumbent who was running for re-election to the school board, and they had some disparaging things to say about the African-American community in Oberlin in tandem with their thoughts on the school board race. I spent the rest of the week in shock over what I heard that day out of the mouths of some notable Oberlin Democrats. I have, since that time, disabused myself of the notion that Democrats own a monopoly on championing diversity, as well as the notion that they would vigilantly root out racism within their ranks.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to note that bigot-appeal is indispensible to the Edwards campaign.

We might conclude that democratic support for "those educational components, programs and services necessary to prepare each Public School Pupil to carry out the duties of citizenship and to function at the highest level of his or her abilities" is window-dressing for a job-mill for adults rather than a serious commitment to inculcating the virtues of citizenship (and reducing the membership of Edwards' indispensible base).

Pho said...

Fair point, DJW. I've experienced the same thing in Dem politics.

I maintain R's have more of a race problem than we do. For that matter, they have more of a religion problem,in the sense that there's not much room for religious minorities.

Still, I was too flip on that point and, after reflection, was waiting for someone to call me on it.

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

Fair enough, Pho. I will continue to engage my fellow Republicans on those points.

Pho said...


At the risk of sounding flip again, that comment was damn near incoherent.

It sounds like your point is in part that Edwards kept the bloggers because he's trying to appeal to religious bigots. Regurgitating right-wing talking points right after I dismantle them doesn't impress me much. Want to give me an argument, I'm ready. Want to regurgitate whatever pat bon mot you just read on Malkin, take it somewhere else.

And what the hell any of that has to do with a flawed education amendment throroughly escapes me.


Anonymous said...

"just because someone is an intolerant, hypocritical windbag, does not make that person automatically wrong"

Specifically, here are relevant Ohio Academic Standards that address duties of citizenship: English: "Distinguish between valid and invalid inferences and provide evidence to support the findings, noting instances of unsupported inferences, fallacious reasoning, propaganda techniques, bias and stereotyping." Citizenship: "Determine the credibility of sources by considering the following: ... Recognition of stereotypes"

Any high school graduate ought to be able to apply the standard to evaluate fitness for "duties of citizenship." Looks to me like (assuming you can't improve upon mediamatters examples for "intolerant, viscious, hypocritical windbag.") you and Edwards were just bested by a partisan hack.

"posts were problematic"

Calling Catholicism misogynistic "ancient mythology" certainly qualifies as "coarse criticisms of the Catholic faith," as does "truly pestilent and misogyny-generating doctrine ..." What sort of students are our public schools graduating?

"Harsh, but not Bigotted .. Disagreement, bigotry -- two different things"

There's some semantics to sort through here. Bigotry needn't imply hatred; Misogyny might be a stronger statement than "anti-woman bigotry" or not, depending on which definitions are applied. Donohue's use of insulting, incendiary, inflammatory, anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots isn't much of a stretch. Personally, I'd prefer "conduct unbecoming an Ohio high school graduate." The bloggers' tone is not one of civil disagreement.

"Vetting ... the tone set by the two bloggers in question is inconsistent with that Edwards is trying to set"

The bloggers' tone suggests neither they nor their audience have the skills associated with the "duties of citizenship." As Chief Justice Moyer said to Nick Pittner during DeRolph oral argument, "Counsel, let me stop you there, really, we don't need that." Apparently, audience appeal trumped tone.

"John Edwards Is a Standup Guy ... avoiding blogosphere blowback ... and agreed to take whatever hit there might be"

That hit would be "panders to an audience unfit for the 'duties of citizenship.'" What percentage of Ohio high school civics teachers would concur with Edwards that it was "never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word." Why keep people who (unintentinally, apparently) "crudely mock ... sacred tenets of [other's] faith."

"what the hell any of that has to do with a flawed education amendment"

The need to pander to party loyalists (right or left), regardless of their ability to exercise high school civics skills. Care to bet whether there's an inverse relationship between per pupil expenditure and high school graduates prepared to assume the "duties of citizenship?"

Pho said...

Anon, I still can't tell what you are saying and I'm not going to argue against my guess at your point. Not that I'm inviting you to clarify. An argument that needs a Rosetta Stone to be deciphered is not an argument. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Exposition having failed, permit me to propose project learning. Here are three activities for your consideration:

1. Describe the role of K12 curriculum standards (e.g. English and Social Studies) for inculcating the social contract and duties of citizenship in public school students.

2. Describe rubrics to assesses those goals.

3. Score and rank the "Edwards Blog-ha-ha" players (Marcotte, McEwan, Donohue, Malkin and Edwards) by that rubric.

My guess is Donohue (the anti-gay bigot) bests Edwards & Co., but that won't prejudice my evaluation of performance at the bachelors level (items 1 and 2) or grade 12 level (item 3).

Any takers?

Pho said...


Why are you still here? No soup for you. NEXT!

Anonymous said...

So much for project learning; next, homework! And please, don't let intransigence artificially inflate the cost of a high quality eduation! (Lead a horse to water, and all that...)

Assignment: Relate episodes of The West Wing to current events and the "duties of citizenship"

Q: What Would Leo Do?
A: We do not strut ever.

Josephine McGarry: I understand they've already started beating the drums over me. ... This is going to be a big victory for us, Leo. I will have support lined up from the AFT, NEA... I will have support...
Leo: Jo, I want you to withdraw your name from consideration. ... A few years ago on a campaign swing through the south, I met a stringer photographer named Odabee Jones. Was an unusual name and so I've remembered it. He told me he had you to thank for starting his career in photojournalism 'cause you'd given him a head's up when there was going to be something worth shooting. ... You called the photographer! You wanted a picture taken of that. Those kids are commendable in this day in age, those kids are phenomenal... Now we have laws and they are difficult and they have to be enforced, and it's right that they're enforced... but we do not strut ever!