Tuesday, February 13

:: I'm Angry. What a Surprise.

Great. Just when I thought it was safe to feel good about John Edwards, I hear Amanda Marcotte has resigned. This is her announcement, reproduced for the good of the whole:

I was hired by the Edwards campaign for the skills and talents I bring to the table, and my willingness to work hard for what’s right. Unfortunately, Bill Donohue and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics (I’m anti-theocracy, for those who were keeping track). Bill Donohue—anti-Semite, right wing lackey whose entire job is to create non-controversies in order to derail liberal politics –has been running a scorched earth campaign to get me fired for my personal beliefs and my writings on this blog.

In fact, he’s made no bones about the fact that his intent is to “silence” me, as if he—a perfect stranger—should have a right to curtail my freedom of speech. Why? Because I’m a woman? Because I’m pro-choice? Because I’m not religious? All of the above, it seems.

Regardless, it was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. No matter what you think about the campaign, I signed on to be a supporter and a tireless employee for them, and if I can’t do the job I was hired to do because Bill Donohue doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than harass me, then I won’t do it. I resigned my position today and they accepted.

There is good news. The main good news is that I don’t have a conflict of interest issue anymore that was preventing me from defending myself against these baseless accusations. So it’s on. The other good news is that the blogosphere has risen as one and protested, loudly, the influence a handful of well-financed right wing shills have on the public discourse.

Bill Donohue doesn’t speak for Catholics, he speaks for the right wing noise machine. You guys pointed this out, you made a stink, you refused to walk into the same stupid trap that is laid out for liberals and Democrats by the right wing noise machine and I think you made a difference. While loyalty played into the pushback some, the real story is that we liberals are not taking this crap any longer and we’re pushing back. And now that I’m attached to only myself again, I’m ready and eager to join in the pushing back with you.

Obviously, I’m scatterbrained right now. But I’ll be raring to go soon. In the meantime, I want to share this letter Evan got from Frances Kissling, the president of an organization I adore called Catholics for a Free Choice. She wrote a letter defending free discourse and her religion from being hijacked by the likes of Bill Donohue and other people who dress their reactionary politics up in faith’s clothing. She sent it to the NY Times, and for some reason they didn’t run it.
First, I want to say that I do not buy the line many are peddling that Marcotte resigned from the Edwards campaign simply because she didn't want to be a distraction.

Why? If there’s one thing those of us from the kingdom of peaches, pears, figs and apricots know its how to read a letter of resignation. Ms. Marcotte's statement does not thank Edwards or the campaign for standing by her, nor does she thank Edwards for the opportunity to work for the campaign if only for a short time. Also conspicuously absent are words of praise for Edwards as a candidate. If she were truly falling on her sword for the good of the campaign I'd expect to see something like this:

“I want to thank John Edwards for giving me a chance to be part of the campaign, however briefly. Now more than ever I believe he is the right man to lead this country as we face the life-and-death issues of peace in the Middle East, health care reform, and economic fairness.”

I think Ms. Marcotte is a brave person who has come through this hellish scenario with her dignity and integrity intact. John Edwards, however, has managed to squander a lot of good will and set progressives against each other over a situation that never had to happen. I am sure Bill Donohue could not be more pleased.

We all know that the GOP smear machine is always in high gear. What we forget is that every attack, to be effective, has to have a tiny, porous grain of truth. The hyperbole, the hatred and the lies - the slime - are anchored to that grain, which is just factual enough to turn on a few reporters and turn off a few supporters. The smear about Edwards' sale of his old house and purchase of a new, expensive spread? Just enough truth there to justify an attack on him as a fat cat trial lawyer. The bogus story on Nancy Pelosi's request for a larger plane? Just enough truth to support the smear that she is too much of a snob to fly commerical. And the attack on Amanda Marcotte for making statements that are offensive to Catholics? Just enough truth to support bogus claims that she is a foul-mouthed bigot and extremist.

The attacks on Ms. Marcotte were meant to put Edwards on the defensive. Sadly, the Edwards camp dithered for hours before they put out a statement. This meant the progressive blogging community had to do the heavy lifting against Bill Donohue by distributing the information about him from Media Matters and other groups and contacting the AP, NY Times and other MSM outlets. Loyal supporters were left guessing about what the candidate would do, unsure of what message would be supportive.

When the Edwards camp did finally release a statement, it was somewhat tepid. He was offended by the now notorious comments but believed in giving second chances. He reaffirmed his unqualified support for religion and his dislike of the right wing.

What the campaign did not do was seize the opportunity as soon as it emerged to make a strong statement against the use of faith as a weapon of divisiveness and hate. They should have buried the media, the blogosphere and the progressive community with a research brief on Donohue and his organization along with a clear statement of Edwards' values. Then Edwards could have reminded everyone that it was based on those values that he was focusing on health care, income inequality and so on.

This was a golden opportunity to show that Edwards is tough enough to stand up to the typical Republican attack-dog bullies. He could have seized the moment and used it to his advantage. It would have been great to see a headline like "Edwards, Under Attack, Comes Back Swinging."

Unfortunately, he didn't. He delayed, he fumbled, and now, by accepting the resignation of Ms. Marcotte so quickly, he has created the appearance that he changed his mind yet again and caved in to conservative pressure.

From this action I draw the following conclusions:
  1. Edwards is not typically described as the "calculating" candidate. We all know who gets that label. But if Edwards decided to throw a staffperson overboard because of a trumped-up scandal rather than risk a few votes in the primaries or general, that was as calculating a move as one could imagine.
  2. Donohue, Malkin et al will point to this as a personal victory as well as a de facto admission that they were right all along. Their clout among their supporters will increase, as will their credibility with the MSM for being able to mobilize conservative opinion.
  3. Economic conservatives who have lately eyed their religious conservative coalition partners with distrust (if not disgust) now know that there is merit to playing nicely together after all. Donohue managed to wound Edwards without anyone having to dirty their hands by opposing health care reform or justifying income inequality. The religious conservatives have shown that they are still useful when it comes to doing the dirty work.
  4. Donohue's extremism will be old news in the eyes of the media. His profile will rise along with his perceived power - after all, in Washington, power is legitimacy.
Edwards will be compared unfavorably to Barack Obama, whose response to Australian PM Howard's stupid remark about his candidacy (that al-Qaeda would “be praying as many times as possible for a victory for not only Obama but also for Democrats”) was rapid and right:
"If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home," [Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs] said. "It's easy to talk tough when it's not your country or your troops making the sacrifices."
Obama looked decisive and strong in standing up to a head of state; Edwards looks tepid and weak in caving to a bigot and bully. Further, Obama indirectly addressed the “experience” issue: those of us who wondered how he’d handle a scurrilous attack can now look to this response for clues. The clues Edwards leaves, unfortunately, lead nowhere good.

Remember when Bill Clinton was criticized for choosing nominees to federal posts and then backing off in his support for them? Whether the change of attitude was attributed to a staffperson improperly vetting the nominee or a calculated move to avoid criticism, Clinton took the hit for not being solid and dependable. Now Edwards gets to wear the special hat – which, by the way, is tall and pointy, sort of shaped like an upside-down ice cream cone.

In the eyes of many voters, the perception of being weak and indecisive is a far greater sin than hiring a mid-level staffperson who offended some Catholics.

All this is terribly disappointing. Edwards has many good ideas as well as good intentions. But without the courage to stand up to bullies and the judgment to formulate quick and effective responses, he is the wrong person to bring those good ideas to fruition.

Further, this was a living, breathing example of the double standard in action. Why is it that only women are asked to take one for the team and put their own careers/ interests aside for the greater good? Where are the repercussions for McCain for hiring his sleazy media firm, or the push back on Bush for his sliming of McCain in the 2000 primaries? No – only women and Democrats are supposed to back down.

All the more reason why I support Hillary. She would never throw a women’s issue overboard for the sake of convenience, and she knows how to handle bozos like Donohue. Enough of the John Edwards amateur hour.

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