Left: Godzilla vs. King Kong (from Lincolnsblog).
I'm a big supporter of John Edwards, and I'm glad he's chosen to keep on his staff his newly-hired bloggers, the ones who raised the ire of many Catholics with their insulting rhetoric.
Edwards released the following statement on his blog:
The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwen'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.What the bloggers said was offensive, but they said it on their own blogs, and not speaking on behalf of the Edwards campaign. Their insults appeared to be aimed (mostly) at Catholic beliefs (with the likely exception of some of what Marcotte wrote), rather than Catholics per se (which would be bigotry), and as pointed out by Cenk Uygur, in a free society, religious beliefs are fair game for debate:
And therein lies the big difference between actual bigots like Donohue and the views of Marcotte and McEwen. Donohue attacks people for who they are. Marcotte and McEwen challenge people for what they believe.As Friend Gabe points out, at least one blogger got Catholic doctrine incorrect, but then again, it's usually not a firing offense to be wrong, particularly when you were speaking on behalf of yourself at the time.
Attacking someone's religious identity is unacceptable. Attacking their religious views, on the other hand, must be fair game. Saying all "Catholics are bad people" is crazy talk; saying "Catholic ideology on contraception is wrong" is obviously a perfectly acceptable opinion.
Does Edwards taint himself by associating with bloggers who disdain Catholic beliefs? Maybe, which is unfortunate, because Edwards does not manifest any ill will towards Catholics, but the bloggers are rather low in his organization, and it's impossible to police the beliefs of everyone in his organization.
What annoys me is, since when do the staff members of any political campaign have to pass a litmus test imposed by a member of the political opposition (i.e., William Donohue)? If that's the new test, then, given all the inflammatory right-wing bloggers that will likely work on the campaigns of the 2008 Republican candidates, it will be a long two years indeed as we left-wing bloggers get to work.
Gabe also points out this Web Site catering to Catholics, where the discussion is just excellent. I agree with several people there including the suggestion of what Edwards should have said:
"I think Marcotte's post goes beyond simply criticizing the Church's positions on contraception, etc. on the merits and attacks the institution as a whole in ways that resonate with traditionally anti-Catholic rhetoric from the bad old days. There are plenty of substantive grounds on which to criticize the Church's position on contraception without resorting to rhetoric that consciously aims to offend."
"For Edwards to take Marcotte at her word -- that she did not intend to offend -- is pretty much to tell those who are offended that there is something wrong with them. If he felt he could not fire her (perhaps because of a fear of being viewed as having caved in to hacks like Donohue and Michelle Malkin), it would have been better for Edwards to draw a different line, saying that he would not hold people responsible for blog posts written before they came to work for him, or something like that. To say that he actually believes that she did not intend to offend Catholics either means he is a sucker (because he believes her, even though she clearly did intend to offend) or he thinks Catholics who were offended are suckers (because he thinks they'll believe that he believed Marcotte did not intend to offend)."
"Well, then, is sauce for the goose sauce for the gander? I took a look at Brownback's presidential committee, and on that Committee is Father Frank Pavone, the anti-abortion activist. His language is not much different from Donahues on some topics. There are pro-life activists, and strategists, who are less prophetic--if you will--in their rhetoric. How would people respond if there were a demand to take Father Pavone off the committe because of his pro-life rhetoric, which insults people who morally disagree with him, and doesn't merely express those disagreements politely?"
"To be honest, I think people who are willing to say things no holds barred using images that shock is valuable. I think, for instance, that the abuse scandal was a lot worse because no one stood up in a public forum and asked quite graphically why the bishop was willing to put up with what Father So and So had done. I can never stop thinking that they depended on the decency and rectitude and yes, the hang ups, of their parishioners. Similarly, when someone stood up in a public forum and asked Antonin Scalia whether he has anal sex with his wife and Scalia said it's none of anybody's business, well, a rather valuable point was made about the mismatch between Scalia's expectations of privacy for himself and his legal theories that dismiss other people's expectations of privacy for themselves. It is abundantly clear that many people profess shock when, in truth, they just can't or don't want to address pointed criticisms of their own beliefs or actions. Having said all of that, I was a bit shocked that Edwards hired Amanda Marcotte because, to put it mildly, nothing she says is temperate, but then, she never set out to be a politician and I think it might have occurred to both of them that it was unlikely to be a good fit. But anti-Catholic? No, more just like, she's willing to say out loud what a lot of other people, yes, even Catholic people, are already thinking."