Thursday, February 15, 2007

Paid Political Bloggers

Controversial blog entry by Amanda Marcotte, blogger for John Edwards

Well, I was considering taking a serious look at Edwards as a candidate. He moved too slow for me on this. In fact, he really didn’t move on it at all.

Every once in a while Anne will remind me that she wouldn’t mind me spending so much time writing a blog if I could get paid for it like the guy at the Daily Kos.

A lot of political bloggers are getting paid by various campaigns for their efforts, and I think it’s a bad idea, both for politics and for blogging in general. See the article Barbaric Blogging for the reasons why.

Case in point… dotCommonweal has run a couple of posts on the controversy stirred up by what has been perceived as vulgar anti-Catholic remarks made by a couple of bloggers working for the John Edwards campaign. See discussions here and here and here. The bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, have decided to resign from the campaign. Edwards did not fire them.

I don’t have a problem with people having an axe to grind with the Catholic Church. I’m used to that. There's a long line. Take a deli number and wait. I don’t expect people to love it. I take my own swipes at the hierarchy at times myself, but the Marcotte stuff is completely over the top.

Such are the pitfalls of paying people like bloggers to carry your water for you. Most people who visit blogs figure they are witnessing an individual’s exercise of the right of free speech. That’s fine, but do we realize how much the “grassroots” of the web has been co-opted by money and by political and corporate interests? Is either side being well-served by that? What have we come to anyway, when serious political candidates are willing to sign on with the crude and foul-mouthed antics of a writer like Marcotte? Have we sunk that low in our level of discourse?

And another thing… Are the Democrats going to throw another election down the drain by continuing to alienate people who are inclined to agree with them on the issues that happen to matter to most Americans? Do they like making people feel as if they have no possible place to go but the Republican Party?

There are serious, serious problems in the world right now, issues ranging from hugely dangerous challenges surrounding war and peace, the destruction of the environment, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the collapse of the health care system, declining standards of education, ballooning government and personal debt, unchecked corporate influence and power, the dismantling of industries and the McDonaldization of work in this country. Are they going to sacrifice the swing vote once more by concentrating primarily on taking extreme stands on gender and orientation special-interest politics again and again?

31 comments:

crystal said...

I guess we're an odd demographic - liberal and religious. I was considering Edwards for my vote, but not anymore ... ugh!

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, thanks for the post and all the links to other articles. I agree with you that bloggers getting paid by the political parties is a bad idea for both politics and blogs. Well-known bloggers are a strange breed in that they want to be considered along the lines of journalists, but in the end, they're not. They tend to be very partisan; they tend to say outrageous things; and they don't maintain basic rules of the journalistic profession (of course, a lot of journalists don't anymore either.) I suppose they're more like columnists than journalists. On the other hand, I don't see the trend abating, because the candidates are too out of touch with new technology on their own NOT to hire people who use it all the time. The Edwards incident is just one example, I think, of possible problems that will arise in the future.

I have to disagree with you on Edwards' response, however. I thought he handled the situation very well. Or as well as could be expected given the circumstances. And I don't know why you say he moved to slowly or didn't move at all. He moved very quickly. I suppose you mean he just didn't move in the way you wanted. If he made an error, in my mind, it was an error in judgment in hiring Marcotte and McEwan in the first place. BUT, we're talking about a new phenomenon - bloggers working for presidential campaigns, and I'm not sure ANY candidate had thought through the issue very much. I think it's unfair to look at this as an isolated incident that pertains only to John Edwards. AFTER this incident, I'm sure candidates will be much more careful in screening the bloggers, but I don't think it's only John Edwards this could have happened to. McCain, for one, has also had trouble with bloggers working for him.

From a political standpoint, I don't see what you expected Edwards to do. If he had fired Marcotte and McEwan, he would have been seen as caving in to right-wing extremists like Bill Donahue. Another John Kerry who had no idea - despite being in Vietnam - how to handle the dirty war of politics. Yes, Edwards could have saved a few Catholic voters if he had fired the two, but I think he would have lost a lot more people by not standing up to someone like Donahue. I have to admit, right now I'm much more concerned that a candidate take on the Karl Rove-like tactics the Republicans continually use than I am about a stupid, adolescent remark by a blogger - a remark that was made before she was even working for Edwards. I'm glad he didn't fire them, that he said he refused to let the real debate about America be "hijacked" by someone like Donahue. Right on, I say. Up to this point, the only Democrat I thought might be able to handle this kind of crap was Hillary, but now I feel like Edwards may actually have some backbone.

At the same time, from a personal standpoint, I thought he made it very clear that he didn't agree with the kind of sentiment expressed by Marcotte: "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."

From the little I know of Edwards, I see no reason to doubt the genuine concern expressed in his statement. He basically forgave the two, giving them another chance. Is that not a Christ-like thing to do? How many other candidates would have the guts to do something like that these days? Most would have taken the easy way out and fired them right away. "Oh dear, G-d forbid we offend anyone. The polls, the polls." Typical liberal/Dem cowardice. I actually admire him more for standing up for them, despite his disagreement with what they said. I call that character. He felt genuinely bad about what they had said (again, not even when they working for him), made it clear that he would not tolerate such sentiment, and moved on. (Or tried to.)

I really don't get the sense that Edwards is anti-Catholic in any way whatsoever. If I really thought he was anti-religious, I wouldn't give him any consideration. My sense is that you're jumping to some conclusions (and you, too, Crystal) that don't seem fair. How much do you really know about him? Can you really make the assumption that he's just another liberal who hates religious people? Is that fair? That's a pretty harsh and quick judgment to make, and neither of you strike me as being judgmental people.

If you really are concerned about the "hugely dangerous challenges surrounding war and peace, the destruction of the environment, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the collapse of the health care system, declining standards of education, ballooning government and personal debt, unchecked corporate influence and power, the dismantling of industries and the McDonaldization of work in this country" - and I know you are - then I don't see how you can so easily cross Edwards off your list of possible candidates. I'm not saying you should vote for the man, but I think it's rash to eliminate him because of this incident. Where's his heart? If you really believe it's a heart of intolerance for your beliefs, then you should, by all means, look to other candidates. But I just don't think that's the case.

You're obviously very upset about this episode, and I can see why you would be. I suppose because I've heard so much worse - and to be honest, have said much worse things myself about the Church - and because I don't identify as a Catholic as strongly as you do, that the remarks didn't upset me in the same way. Or if I thought that Edwards was truly anti-religious, I might have been disgusted by the whole thing more. In the end, I don't think this has much to do with religion, though that's how the right-wing and his Democratic opponents are trying to paint it. I think it may have more to do, in the end, with attacking the netroots movement than it does with religion. I think relgion and Catholicism are simply an easy cover for something else. Republicans trying to bring the Culture Wars again. What, I have to decide between Bill Donahue and Amanda Marcotte? I don't think so. I think that's what the Republicans want people to think. you're either a righteous christian or a godless, homosexual feminist. I think Edwards' response showed that he was aware of what was going on underneath the surface accusation. By refusing to fire the two, he was saying that he wasn't going to let the Republicans pull the same Us vs. Them crap again.

Unfortunately, this kind of tactic seems to have worked in some wyas, because he you are, saying exactly what donahue and Rove and the others want you to say: "Are the Democrats going to throw another election down the drain by continuing to alienate people who are inclined to agree with them on the issues that happen to matter to most Americans? Do they like making people feel as if they have no possible place to go but the Republican Party?"

Are a lot of liberal bloggers assholes? Yes. I can't even read DailyKos anymore because of its nasty, self-righteous tone. Do a lot of people who vote Democrat hold ideas completely contrary to yours? Yes. But then again, a lot of them hold similar beliefs. And I think more and more people in the party are beginning to realize that some of their social issues have alienated people who might otherwise vote for them. Obama is certainly trying to reach out to socially conservative religious people, and he seems genuine about it. Hillary has made movements in this direction as well, though I personally don't believe she's genuine about it, but that's just me. And I think Edwards is trying to reach out to religious people as well. He made a mistake with Marcotte, it's true, but I don't think he picked hier because she said nasty things about the Catholics.

G-d knows I have serious problems with the Democrats - ask Liam! I'm an Indepedent, and I like being one. I've written some of the nastiest letters of my life to the Democratic National Party and to my two "Democratic" Senators. I get sick and tired of some of the liberal social issues - try hanging out with poets and writers and New York! Oh man. But, having said that, I don't think it's fair to say the whole party leans in one direction, any more than it's fair to say the Catholic Church is just a bunch of fascist child molesters because it's supported fasciscts and molested children. Large organisms are many things at the same time, are they not?

(Liam, look, I'm defending the Democrats! Quick, take a picture or something!)

In the end, I say be upset, but don't let it cloud your normally considered judgment - especially about the other things you care about as well. Personally, I have no idea who I'm voting for at this point. But I think Edwards has recently done a much better job than other candidates at taking on national helath care (see Paul Krugman's excellent article in last Friday's NY Times ("Edwars Gets it Right"), pushing the Iraq withdrawl issue, developing plans to take on poverty, etc.

Anyway, gone on too long. Sorry! Hope we can discuss more.

crystal said...

But William, if he had fired them, instead of caring that he would be seen as caving in to catholics, could he not just have been disgusted with the idea of those representing him being bigots?

He forgave them? It wasn't him thay offended.

He cared too much about how he was perceived (as being a manly man and not caving in to conservative catholics). He should have cared more about having pure tools.

I've been a democrat since the first time I ever voted, and I'm not changing. This isn't about democrat vs republican or religious vs non-religious, I think. It is about being a bigot or not. I'd happily vote for a liberal atheist who was ethical. At any rate, I'll probably end up voting for Hillary.

Mike McG... said...

Interesting comments, all. Good repartee, hereabouts.

I've read everything I can get my hands on regarding this matter and believe it is symbolically rich. It is particularly interesting to me because John Edwards is the only politician I've ever made a contribution to. I admired his bravery in eschewing the standard pandering to the 'middle class' in favor of addressing the problems of the poor.

Ironically, before 'Bloggergate' I became quite disillusioned with him over his construction of a 28,000(!) square foot home. It seemed (and still seems) to me that it is bad form to be simultaneously the candidate speaking about 'the two Americas' when you so publicly flaunt your membership in the one of them you deplore. I think John 'gets' poverty as an absolute condition. I'm convinced he doesn't 'get' relative deprivation as it is experienced in the USA.

As Cowboyangel points out, once having selected these bloggers (dumb move) he was between a rock and a hard place. Alienating political activists of the left would have been Democratic primary suicide. The Catholic demographic is much more diffuse. While it matters greatly in the general election, it's not like Edwards would have captured lots of Catholic votes by coming down harder on the bloggers. Let's face it, the subset of Catholic progressives who take offense at these bloggers aren't going to influence the primaries...and they're likely to vote Democratic no matter who the nominee is, given the Republican alternatives.

Marcotte's comments were vile, abhorrent, outrageous. But they aren't the only story line here. Complicating matters is the bald partisanship and dismal track record of the Catholic League's Bill Donohue. He illustrates to me is how very imprecise the term Catholic is. Donohue is Catholic, but his read on Catholic is far from universal.

Quite remarkable are the responses of Catholics on progressive blogs. Some, seemingly a majority, are not offended at all, even to the point of endorsing Marcotte's comments. Others, a minority, are horrified at the bias displayed by their fellow progressives. Both Catholics? Yes, but perhaps for the former 'Catholic' is a quasi-ethnic designation for a problematic but unavoidable legacy they share. Yet for the latter 'Catholic' is a revered, living religious community. The differences get buried in the common 'Catholic' moniker.

I'm intrigued with the following 'what if': What if authenticity is absolutely disqualifying for political office? Seems to me that anyone who doesn't fit into the liberal-conservative binary as jointly defined by ideologues of left and right cannot possibly make it though the primaries.

Jeff said...

Crystal, William, and Mike,

Thanks for bearing with me on this rant. I only found about about this story yesterday, and sort of shot from the hip. Pay me no mind, if I’m just blowing off some steam. After all, it’s only me. I’m pretty harmless. I just get frustrated sometimes, because I find myself wondering on occasion if my whole reason for doing this blog thing is a quixotic venture. I’m having a hard time figuring out where to fit in. Most people can identify with some kind of camp or another. I’m having a real hard time doing that, both theologically and politically.

The pace of cultural change has been moving quickly over the last couple of decades, but really started accelerating at about the time that Anne and I settled down and started having children (like bunnies, Amanda!) From having our heads down taking care of all that, I’m feeling out of touch in a lot of ways. I’m recognizing the country I grew up in less and less.

William, I sensed that you were getting a little angrier with me as your post went on. Maybe being a bit out of touch is what Edwards’ problem was here too. Who knows if he even ever read Marcotte and McEwan before this all started? Some young staffer or consultant probably explained to him that he needed talented young progressive female bloggers to get the buzz going at the grassroots level on the net, and these two fit the bill perfectly. Can’t blame him for going along with that. William is right in pointing out that McCain has had blogger problems going for him too. Therefore, Edwards might be as out of touch as I am. I don’t spend a lot of times reading progressive blogs, and I can use a bit of profanity in my everyday speech, but I don’t write much of it. On some of these progressive blogs, I’m a bit put off by all the “fuck”, “wingnut” amd “asshole” references that get laced all throughout them. Is this what we’ve come to? Is this normal published discourse now? I suppose it is. Journalistic standards have been slipping too, which doesn’t hellp matters. The web is a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t always bring out the best in us, does it? There is a lot of devolution and deconstruction going on in our society. It is undeniable. In some ways we’ve gotten better, but certainly not in all ways.

Having said that, do I think that Edwards did the right thing? No, I don’t think so, although William, it is true that I don’t like seeing people lose their jobs, and I do like bosses who take the heat for underlings. Like I said, I don’t expect to get a pass for being Catholic. The Catholic Church throws its weight around in the public sphere, so it’s going to take its lumps in the rough and tumble of public debate. Fair enough. I critcicize my own Church hierarchy. I’ve made some pointed criticism of evangelicals here from time to time too. That is to be expected. That sort of thing is legitimate, but Marcotte’s remarks were just an affront to the basic human decency that should go into any dialogue. I think McWhorter put it very well in the Barbaric Blogging article, “This is, quite simply, swill — which I believe despite being neither Catholic nor religious. Innocent people raised in and living by a faith don't deserve this.” You don’t need to be Catholic to be offended by this. The remarks would have been just as unacceptable if it they been made about any other faith. I don’t think Edwards should have tolerated it. I’m a bit puzzled by some of the Catholic reaction on those blogs too. “I am Spartacus too! William Donohue doesn’t speak for me as a Catholic!” Well, heck… If Amanda Marcotte’s comments about Catholicism doesn’t offend them, what possibly ever could??

William Donohue has nothing to do with this as far as I’m concerned. I don’t need Donohue to tell me if I should be offended by this or not. I’m not a fan of his either. In this particular case he happens to be right, but it’s irrelevant. I’m sickened by the canard that these poor women were victims of Big Bad William Donohue and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. They got hung up in their own electronic trail, with stuff they’d written before they even got hired. Stuff, quite franky, that should have been vetted by Edwards’ people. I think it’s cynical for Edwards and his staff to figure that they would offend more potential supporters by caving in to the right than by taking steps with these bloggers, because they figure Catholics who listen to William Donohue weren’t ever going to vote for them anyhow. It makes Catholics like Mike McG and I feel like we don’t exist. I agree with you that he isn’t anti-Catholic, but I don’t think he gives it a lot of thought either way.

How do I really feel about Edwards? I really want to like him. Yes, he seems like a man with a good heart, you’re right. He’s been through a lot of personal tragedy and carries it with dignity, and that carries some weight with me. Out of all the candidates, I like his position on trade the best, and it is an enormously important issue for me. If I cool off and decide that I still can’t vote for him, is that such a terrible thing? It’s not like there aren’t any other candidates who care about the issues I care about. I can only vote for one person anyway, and for some, I don’t even have a good reason not to... It’s not like I issued a fatwa on him (hey, anti-Muslim!). Does some of his trial-lawyeriness ever get to you at all? I saw him on Meet The Press a couple of weeks ago, and Tim Russert absolutely shredded him on statements he’s made in the past defending his Iraq vote (“I’d still have voted the same, even knowing now what I didn’t know then”). Mike brings up an interesting point about that sprawling compound of his. It reminds me of the place in Waco (hey, anti Branch-Davidian!). Well, there are lots of Dems like that. At least some of them don’t mind the idea of sharing the wealth a little bit. I don’t know… The election is still a long way off. Plenty of time left for people to mess up and/or redeem themselves.

Mike brings up a good point. The primaries tend to put up folks on the extreme ends. Maybe things were better when the party bosses used to work these things out in the smoke-filled rooms at the conventions.

cowboyangel said...

I woke up at 5 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I’m gazing out the window at the snowy road and the ice covered trees. A bird is chirping somewhere in the distance. Dawn slowly opens up in pinkish blue. Everything is so still and peaceful.

So, hey, let’s blog about dirty politics and nasty bloggers!!! :-)

William, I sensed that you were getting a little angrier with me as your post went on.

Really? I didn’t feel particularly angry - frustrated, perhaps. I was surprised by how quickly you and Crystal wrote off Edwards. But then, as I went on, I realized the situation was probably much more upsetting to you both than it was to me. Personally, I think this is 95% about politics and 5% about religion, but that’s just me. They say you’re not supposed to talk about religion or politics in public, but I’ve always found the intersection between the two quite fascinating. But it’s very tricky to carry on a dialog that doesn’t get heated. I don’t feel angry about this, though. I’m not sold on any of the candidates yet. Hell, I don’t even think it matters much, to be honest. In the end, I don’t believe presidents can do very much to help society. Although Bush has certainly made it clear to me that they can do a lot to damage it. I think it’s a mistake on our parts, specifically as Americans, to put so much emphasis on Presidential politics. It’s sort of like “Dad will make everything okay.” But I think real change takes place in other ways.

He forgave them? It wasn't him thay offended.

He said he was personally offended, and though I don't know the man, I think he probably was offended. Why do you assume he wasn’t? And . . . He wants to be President of the United States of America. I can't even begin to imagine the kind of drive, desire and ambition that requires. He's spending millions of dollars. He's working almost inhuman hours, criss-crossing the country, flying here and there. He's separated from his wife and kids. His life is probably in danger at times. His every move is analyzed and criticized. But he goes through it all (like the others) because he has this burning ambition. Then, with one stupid remark, Amanda Marcotte may have wrecked his life's dream. 2 weeks from now, you and I won't even remember her name. 2 months from now, we won't even remember what happened. But John Edwards and Amanda Marcotte have to deal with each other in real life (or maybe in second life). You don't think he was hurt and incredibly furious about all of this? In that regard, I think he probably has a lot to forgive. I'm surprised he didn't fire her. I'm sure he's very keenly aware of the damage her remarks have cost his campaign.

In the end, I just don't make the leap that Edwards is a bigot because of something someone else said, before they worked for him, when he's stated very clearly he won't tolerate that kind of sentiment. It's a gut thing, right? You get the feeling he's insincere about it all. For some reason, I don't.

He should have cared more about having pure tools.

There are no pure tools in presidential politics, period. The Church is supposed to be the realm of pure tools. “Politics,” as Bob Dylan once said, “is of the Devil.”

I'd happily vote for a liberal atheist who was ethical. At any rate, I'll probably end up voting for Hillary.

See, that's interesting to me. You're concerned about purity and ethics in politics, but you like Hillary Clinton. I can't think of a candidate in either party who best exemplifies the "I'll do and say anything to get elected" brand of politics more than Hillary Clinton. Maybe Mitt Romney. I mean, they're all like that to a certain degree, but the Clintons are truly experts in this regard. My most cynical and dark side appreciates the two of them. But I have never associated them with purity or ethics. I'm not trying to criticize you here, I simply don't understand how you reach that conclusion. And why do you think she’s less politically calculating than Edwards? Or more supportive of religion?

What if authenticity is absolutely disqualifying for political office?

I think it’s absolutely disqualifying for the office of President, yes, but I’m fairly cynical. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve moved beyond cynicism into a kind of pure hopelessness. But I’ve stopped believing in authenticity as much as I have in purity and ethics when it comes to presidential politics. We’re talking about the man or woman who wants to run the Empire. You don’t get to run the Empire by being authentic or pure. That’s why I think The Godfather is the best film about politics. It makes it all very clear. What’s interesting is that the candidates still have to sell authenticity, and we keep buying it, hoping this time around it actually works. That’s the Obama factor in this election. He’s 100% Genuine Authentic! He really cares! He’s the new and improved candidate! Not like the other brands you’ve tried! He’s the real deal! Buy now while supplies last!

Most people can identify with some kind of camp or another.

Yeah, right. Come on, that’s the great thing about the internet, Jeff – now we know there are other people just as screwy as we are! Hey, cool, I’m not the only mass of unresolved contradictions, inexplicable loves and slightly off-kilter beliefs. Other people in the year 2007 do like Fred Astaire – I’m not such a freak after all! Somebody else reads books AND likes football. (He breathes a sign of relief.) I think most people are in several camps at the same time, some of which conflict with one another. Have you ever actually known anyone who you would say is “normal.” The only people who seem normal to me are those I don’t spend much time with. Once you get to know them a little, the secrets start spilling out.

William, I sensed that you were getting a little angrier with me as your post went on.

Really? I didn’t feel particularly angry. I was definitely surprised by how you and Crystal responded. But then, as I went on, I realized the situation was probably much more upsetting to you both than it was to me. Personally, I think this is 95% about politics and 5% about religion, but that’s just me. They say you’re not supposed to talk about religion or politics in public, but I’ve always found the intersection between the two quite fascinating. But it’s very tricky to carry on a dialog that doesn’t get heated. I don’t feel angry about this, though. I’m not sold on any of the candidates yet. Hell, I don’t even think it matters much, to be honest. In the end, I don’t believe presidents can do very much to help society. Although Bush has made it clear to me, I guess, that they can do a lot to damage it. I think it’s a mistake on our parts, specifically as Americans, to put so much emphasis on Presidential politics. It’s sort of like “Dad will make everything okay.” But I think real change takes place in other ways.

The web is a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t always bring out the best in us, does it?

The web doesn’t bring out the best in us? Or, the web makes it easier to see what’s not so good in us to begin with? I still think it’s a positive tool in the end. But people talk too much without thinking enough about what they’re saying (Marcotte, for example), and you can’t talk to someone face to face to read body language. It makes what should be personal impersonal, so that people say things to each other they wouldn’t dare say if they were face to face.

William Donohue has nothing to do with this as far as I’m concerned.

Well, don’t tell him that. He’s pretty damn sure it’s all about him.

And actually, why aren’t we talking about Donohoe? I mean, how is it possible for such an insufferable, self-righteous, incredibly mean-spirited, and MAJOR bigot able to attack someone else for being a bigot? Explain that to me. It’s okay because he’s Catholic? But somehow all the focus is on Edwards because he didn’t fire someone. And you tell me this isn’t about politics?!?! Yeah, right. If people really gave a damn about bigotry, Bill Donohoe wouldn’t have a job or get covered in the press.

I think it’s cynical for Edwards and his staff to figure that they would offend more potential supporters by caving in to the right than by taking steps with these bloggers, because they figure Catholics who listen to William Donohue weren’t ever going to vote for them anyhow.

Of course it’s cynical. But it’s also simple math. Name one candidate would risk losing people who are going to vote for them in order to please voters who aren’t going to vote for them. Why would you hold that against Edwards over the others?

If I cool off and decide that I still can’t vote for him, is that such a terrible thing?

Not at all. I wasn’t trying to convince you to vote for Edwards. And you shouldn’t assume I’m voting for Edwards. I don’t know at t his point who I’m voting for. I just felt like he’s a decent candidate who’s worth looking at as a whole rather than for the fact that he didn’t fire his idiot blogger. I was very upset at Obama for voting for the Fence. It’s such a racist symbol. How could an African-American, of all people, vote for racism? How could I possibly support someone who voted for racism in order to please some group of voters? I wrote him a long letter. In the end, however, I had to step back a bit and think about what else he’s done and what else he might do. I mean, come on, by the time this campaign is over, this incident may be the least of your disappointments in a candidate. This week the Catholics are offended by one of them. Last week it was the Blacks. (Wow, did Biden pull off the smoothest announcement for presidency of all-time, or what?) Next week, it will be women. (Which old white guy Republican will say the first stupid thing about a woman running for president?) Then the gays. Then the NASCAR fans. Then the hunters. Then the Latinos. Then the gay Latino Catholics, etc. ad infinitum. And each candidate will have their dirty tricks people digging all the garbage they can possibly find on their opponents. 18 months or this we have to look forward to. If you eliminate Edwards now this early in the race, I fear you won’t have anyone to vote for by the time the primaries come around. You’ve got to pace your rage and disillusionment. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a MIKE GRAVEL 2008 bumper sticker on your car.

cowboyangel said...

As if I hadn't gone on long enough . . .

Does some of his trial-lawyeriness ever get to you at all?

Yes, it does.

Tim Russert absolutely shredded him on statements he’s made in the past defending his Iraq vote

Yeah, well, Tim's got enough trouble of his own right now. Talk about getting shredded - his reputation after the Libby trial will never be the same. And now we know who Cheney and Bush go to when they're feeling the heat: "I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

Mike McG... said...

Cowboyangel, you generated some provocative comments for 5am. Maybe I should get up earlier! I think you hit the nail on the head with the devastating blow has been and may well continue to be for Edwards and your insight about the simultaneous presidential aspirant imperative to be crassly calculating and yet seem authentic.

I'm intrigued with several other comments:

First, "I think it’s a mistake on our parts, specifically as Americans, to put so much emphasis on Presidential politics. It’s sort of like 'Dad will make everything okay.' But I think real change takes place in other ways."

But "I’ve moved beyond cynicism into a kind of pure hopelessness."

I'd appreciate your reconciling these observations. What are your thoughts on how change *does* take place? What are the conditions that facilitate conversion, change of heart? I suspect the final sentence is more lament than fact, so what does ward off hopelessness for you?

I'd also like to probe your rejoinder to Jeff's comment that "Most people can identify with some kind of camp or another." Jeff's lament rings true to me.

You say, "Come on, that’s the great thing about the internet, Jeff – now we know there are other people just as screwy as we are! Hey, cool, I’m not the only mass of unresolved contradictions, inexplicable loves and slightly off-kilter beliefs...I think most people are in several camps at the same time, some of which conflict with one another."

I wish it were so. My observation is that most people cohere pretty closely to a small number of approved worldviews and that dissent is tightly constrained. It may well be that if you get close enough to people so that they feel really safe, indeed the secrets start spilling out. But in order to get close enough one needs to disguise oneself.

As Carol Becker says, "one must suppress many uncertainties, morally complicated personal experiences, inner value conflicts, and differences between oneself and one’s allies. Complexity and authenticity are sacrificed to the demands of presenting a unified front to the opponent.

Anomie is the price paid for resisting the zeitgeist. The alienation of being "I" rather than "we" can be quite painful.

Liam said...

Wow, this is quite a post and set of comments. I think everybody made some excellent points.

Jeff, you're absolutely right about democrats shooting themselves in the feet when it comes to situations like this, though I tend to think that this has been blown a bit out of proportion.

For the most part I agree with William. He and I had a bit of an email exchange when the thing came out and we both agree that he handled it as best as he could. Obviously, he shouldn't have hired them in the first place and I'm glad they resigned on their own.

I guess it depends on what you react to -- I have a huge problem with Bill Donahue. Here you have someone who claims to be the head of "the largest civil rights organization in the United States" who is an anti-semite and a homophobe. His agenda is pure right-wing politics which he pretends is Catholic. He attacks anyone to the left of Jerry Falwell for the most minimum offense, and then associates with right-wing fundamentalists who consider his church the whore of Babylon. The media accepts him as a spokesman for all of us Catholics, even though his views are take into account neither the progressive nor the moderate segments of the church. When he opens his mouth, it's embarrassing, because in addition to everything else, man is he dumb.

How's that for a rant? Sorry, I'm not angry with any of my friends here on the comment page, but thinking about Donahue does get my blood heated.

I think Edwards did the right thing because for too long Democrats have allowed the right to define the discourse, and they often do it with smokescreens. Willie Horton, swiftboating -- you name it. I'm sorry that Edwards let himself get into this position, but it seems like a minor faux-pas more than anything else. Right now, while I'm waiting for Obama to prove he is more than hype (which I desperartely hope he is), Edwards is still my favorite candidate. I think the mistake of hiring a couple of adolescent-minded bloggers is nothing when you consider that he is the only candidate who mentions poverty, has a health care plan, and has the guts to say that he will raise taxes on the rich in order to pay for it. I have no idea if he is electable, but I still like him.

cowboyangel said...

What are your thoughts on how change *does* take place?

I don't think there's a single avenue to change. I think it takes place at the local political level many times. The state level to some degree. I think it takes place via all the great work by various community organizations trying to help people - who never receive the money or coverage they need and deserve. A group trying to help migrant farm workers, an environmental group, the local St. Vincent de Paul and similar organizations. Groups that try to change the system one law at a time, one town at a time. And, apart from the strictly political, it takes place in the classroom and in the family. Man, you get dumb kids whose parents don't love them and who don't give a damn about anything, and you're going to have a messed up society, no matter who's president. And, of course, it takes place in the individual. Am I going to bother shovelling the snow off my sidewalk so my elderly neighbor can get to the store? Or am I going to write on Jeff's blog about shovelling the snow? :-)

What are the conditions that facilitate conversion, change of heart?

Usually it's brokenness, no? I don't think people, or societies, for that matter, make serious changes until things really get bad. That's a generalization, though.

I suspect the final sentence is more lament than fact, so what does ward off hopelessness for you?

Fred Astaire. Lester Young. My wife. Some friends and family. Though I'm not sure the hopelessness really goes away. It has moments of lesser power.

My observation is that most people cohere pretty closely to a small number of approved worldviews and that dissent is tightly constrained.

Well, I agree with that. Group-think is very popular in all worldviews, even those who think they're more open to everything. Maybe especially those groups. Stalinism runs rampant where you sometimes least expect it.

I struggle greatly with alienation and feeling like a freak. That's one of the reasons I liked living in Spain, because I was a freak, a foreigner, and it was okay. There was freedom in that.

I've grown to distrust groups and organizations more and more as I get older, yet, at the same time, I also like people and want to belong to a community. The old Groucho Marx line: I would never want to join an organization that would have me as a member. I don't think I'm seeking the perfect group, which I have been guilty of, but I've just been burned too many times and felt too constricted by the groupthink. Basically, I ask too many questions and people get pissed off at me. I'm an editor - I'm good at finding flaws. Unfortunately, it's not always a constructive thing.

Anomie is the price paid for resisting the zeitgeist.

That sounds cool, but I don't know what anomie is, and I couldn't find it in the Oxford English Dictionary. Help!

I have no idea if he is electable

As opposed to the black guy and the woman, right?

I asked someone last night if America was ready for a black president. Friend's answer: "Most of America isn't ready for a black neighbor."

I hope that's wrong. But I have my doubts.

crystal said...

Will,

He said he was personally offended, and though I don't know the man, I think he probably was offended. Why do you assume he wasn’t?

the reason I don't think he was offended ... those particular bloggers have had a history of anti-catholic remarks in their blogging before he hired them. Why did he hire those partuculr people? Is it not his responsibility to know who works for and represents him?

You don't think he was hurt and incredibly furious about all of this?

Nope - I don not buy that this remark harmed him in any significant way, and I'm sure he knows that. The religiious right would not have voted for him anyway. The religious left is practically non-existant and it will not hurt him much to lose them ... in fact he won't lose them, because they will vote for him rather than shoot themselves in the foot, no matter how offended they are. It strikes me (and I could be wrong) that he might have wished to distance himself from the religious right and didn't mind distancing himself from the religious left, but didn't want to take responsibility for doing the dirty work, so he let someone else do it for him.

About the Clintons ...

I don't have too many illusions about them, I think, but I believe that they both do have one thing in common ... they are sincere about democratic goals - helong the poor, equality, etc. Maybe I'm naive about them?

And Liam and William

Bill Donahue is a creepy idiot, but I agree with Jeff - this isn't about him, or even about the religious right ... it's about the religious, I think. Is it ok to insult a religious group as long as some of those that believe are conservative? Can we insult the conservative Jews, Muslims, Prots with impunity? My digust with conservatives is one thing, but not everyone who has religious beliefs and can be hurt about them is a disgusting conservative.

crystal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike McG... said...

Anomie, per American Heritage Dictionary:

Social instability caused by erosion of standards and values.
Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals.

Britannica.com:

Anomie: In societies or individuals, a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals.

The term was introduced by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his study of suicide. He believed that one type of suicide (anomic) resulted from the breakdown of the social standards necessary for regulating behaviour.

cowboyangel said...

Why did he hire those partuculr people? Is it not his responsibility to know who works for and represents him?

It is his responsibility and I've already said he lacked judgment in not checking them out more. But, again, I don't believe he hired them because they said bad things about Catholics. I think it was oversight, and an oversight that other candidates could have done and may still do themselves. I don't know what you've read about Edwards - it must not have been positive! - but he seems as real about his faith as any other politician. "The North Carolina Senator grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Robbins, North Carolina, but attended services irregularly as an adult. In 1996, his 16-year-old son Wade was killed in a car accident. Though he is reluctant to discuss it much, the tragic event led him to rethink his priorities. He joined Edenton Street Methodist, where Wade had been active. He became part of a men's Bible study group and served on the church's administrative board. In the Senate he has been co-chairman of its prayer breakfast. . . . Edwards speaks comfortably about his faith ("my Christianity informs everything I do," he told the Washington Post. . . . The Kerry campaign deploy[ed] Edwards in more culturally conservative parts of the country, places thick with regular churchgoers, both Protestant and Catholic."

Why would someone like that WANT to insult religious people?

You obviously don't like him, and that's cool. I have my own mixed feelings. You seem to feel about him the way I do about Hillary. There's very little at this point that Hillary Clinton could do to make me believe anything she says is genuine. I may vote for her if she's the candidate - and I may not. She's the only Democrat that would make me consider staying home on Election day or voting for a Republican. So we can agree to disagree.

Is it ok to insult a religious group as long as some of those that believe are conservative? Can we insult the conservative Jews, Muslims, Prots with impunity? My digust with conservatives is one thing, but not everyone who has religious beliefs and can be hurt about them is a disgusting conservative.

Okay, you seem to be reading something more personal into all of this than I do. Are you offended because as a religious liberal you feel left out by the Democrats? Because I haven't said anything at all about it being okay to insult a religious group. Edwards didn't say it was okay insult a religious group. So why are feeling like people are ganging up on you? A lot of Catholics weren't even offended by the incident. What is it that you find so insulting in all of this? Why do you care what other people think about your beliefs to begin with? Screw Marcotte. What is she to you? She's just one more human being with one more opinion about the world. Dust in the wind. Just like the rest of us. Don't let it get to you so much. It's not worth it.

maybe I'm off base with this comparison, but if a conservative white republican candidate, who knew blacks were unlikely to vote for him, hired two bloogers who had a history in their blogs of racist remarks, would it be ok for him to say that he forgave them, that he was offended himself?

I don't think you're off base at all. It's a good question. But, again, I don't think Edwards set out to offend religious people or knew everything Marcotte was writing on her blog. (Why do you, by the way? What are your sources for that?) Let's say the Republican was Chuck Hagel. I would believe him, because I respect him, and he doesn't strike me as someone who would do that on purpose. I could see him hiring someone - like McCain or Edwards did - who wrote terrible things, but I would give him the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake. Let's say it was Rudy Giuliani. I probably wouldn't, because I don't respect the man very much, and because I've listened to New York Italians talk about blacks. They're the most racist people I've personally encountered in my life. So it depends on the person and the situation. Tancredo is an open racist, so no, I wouldn't believe him. But then again, he wouldn't bother apologizing for it. Romney, I don't know about enough. Brownback I doubt I would trust because he's Opus Dei and they're the evil fascist spawn of Satan. Huckabee I would have doubts about but I don't know a lot about him. Pataki I would believe, though I don't particularly like the man. He doesn't stirke me as being a racist. I can't think of who else is running.

ANOMIE! Okay, I get it. Yeah, lack of purpose and ideals. I had them, I lost them, what can I say? I'm going through what used to be called an existential crisis. Or some kind of Buddhist thing. I'm not sure which.

Jeff said...

William (and all)

Normally I don’t like the practice of fisking, unless it’s over humor. I’m only doing it below because the posts have been lengthy, not to riposte people word for word.

But he (Edwards) goes through it all (like the others) because he has this burning ambition. Then, with one stupid remark, Amanda Marcotte may have wrecked his life's dream?

It’s clear that a great deal of uncommon ambition and hubris are required to run for the presidency, but John and Elizabeth Edwards lost their 16-year-old son in a tragic car accident. I don’t think anything could ever make up for that. Elizabeth Edwards has also battled breast cancer. He’s coming from a different place. I don’t think this incident is going to ruin his life or ruin his dreams, despite what the Bill O’Reillys and Michelle Malkins of the world may say to the contrary. I don’t think it’s the Nixonian or Clintonian kind of ambition that drives this guy.

Most people can identify with some kind of camp or another.

Yeah, right. Come on, that’s the great thing about the internet, Jeff – now we know there are other people just as screwy as we are! Hey, cool, I’m not the only mass of unresolved contradictions, inexplicable loves and slightly off-kilter beliefs.


I should be more careful about feeling sorry for my self on my own blog over a sense of isolation. I know what you mean, but I’m really not talking about the way I love both Jimi Hendrix and going to Benediction on Friday nights during Lent.

Maybe Mike and I could do a better job of making ourselves clearer on this. In addition to being rare among blogging Catholics who still respect the pronouncements coming out of the magisterium, but don’t consider the Second Vatican Council a catastrophe, Mike Mcg and I are both the last of a vanishing breed - Pro-Life (or anti-abortion if some pefer) Democrats. There used to be a lot of us, including the likes of Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson at one time. JFK, RFK, and MLK all would have most certainly have been (whether or not they would have stayed that way, we will never know). The most ardent of Pro-choice activists in the party would rather see us have our eyes taken out than to let us have a place at the table. On top of that now, is the gay marriage issue. This is something that was hardly on anyone’s radar screen just 25 years ago, but now there are some who would tag you as the Taliban for having reservations about it today. Not feeling comfortable with Republican positions, we really are people without a home.

I think what Mike is saying has validity. My concern, as I’ve listed on my public profile, is polarization, which I see increasing in both the religious and political realms. The web isn’t necessarily bringing people together, it is enabling them to find smaller and smaller identity niches in which to gather. Heterodoxy is less and less tolerated within the peer group, no matter what the tribe is.

I could very easily have started another of the thousands of clones of The Cafeteria is Closed type of Catholic blogs, but it wasn’t what I was interested in doing. It wasn’t easy for me to find people like Crystal and Liam who would continue to interact with me even if we disagreed on some emotional hot-button issues. It took some searching around. On the other hand, there will be traditionalists who I have known who will shun me for associating with progressives and the “enemies” in the Democratic Party. I’m suspect for reading historical-critical research and John Dom Crossan instead of Thomas Aquinas. I admit that I am a relative dilettante at this, but someone like Mike might be able to explain this better. He has had to deal with it through various phases of his life and of his work. One thing, btw, the web has taught me, is humilty. I’ve written hundreds of pages here and elsewhere, and I don’t think I’ve ever changed anyone’s mind about anything.

William Donohue has nothing to do with this as far as I’m concerned.

Well, don’t tell him that. He’s pretty damn sure it’s all about him.

And actually, why aren’t we talking about Donohoe? I mean, how is it possible for such an insufferable, self-righteous, incredibly mean-spirited, and MAJOR bigot able to attack someone else for being a bigot? Explain that to me. It’s okay because he’s Catholic? But somehow all the focus is on Edwards because he didn’t fire someone. And you tell me this isn’t about politics?!?! Yeah, right. If people really gave a damn about bigotry, Bill Donohoe wouldn’t have a job or get covered in the press.


I’m not interested in talking about William Donohue in this context, because that would be a matter of projecting guilt. Right is right and wrong is wrong. What Amanda Marcotte wrote was wrong. If Donohue didn’t bring it up, someone else would have. The Donohue thing is just a smokescreen. Who even knows who William Donohue is anyway, besides people who watch EWTN?

Now, as to the matter of his bigotry, sure, that is an issue too. I’m surprised that you are throwing this up at me, because concern over Catholic bigotry is one of the reasons why I do this thing. You should all know better. I’ve posted on it at length before. I’ve taken issue with the extreme Catholic right …

Here:

http://estamos-vivo.blogspot.com/2006/06/appreciating-vatican-ii-nostra-aetate.html

and here...

http://estamos-vivo.blogspot.com/2006/07/in-vino-veritas.html

and here...

http://estamos-vivo.blogspot.com/2006/04/why-senator-rick-santorum-had-it-wrong.html

and here...

http://estamos-vivo.blogspot.com/2006/10/whats-in-name-benedict-peacemaker.html

This particular post was about someone else’s bigotry. Hey, we have to blog about something don’t we?

This week the Catholics are offended by one of them. Last week it was the Blacks. .. Next week, it will be women. (Which old white guy Republican will say the first stupid thing about a woman running for president?) Then the gays. Then the NASCAR fans. Then the hunters. Then the Latinos. Then the gay Latino Catholics, etc. ad infinitum. And each candidate will have their dirty tricks people digging all the garbage they can possibly find on their opponents.

Sure, and each of them will get skewered or taken to task more gently than that by a blogger or too. Someone like (http://www.pamshouseblend.com/frontPage.do) Pam’s House Blend will take each of them apart in turn. Therefore, I am not going to give Amanda Marcotte a pass on this, even though we might actually agree on a lot of issues, even though she’s well-informed and has great potential as a talented rhetoritician, and even though she sounds like she might be a lot of fun on a date (at least if you’re not a Republican).

If I’m critical of anyone here, I’m going to spread it around. For example, if I’m critical of Catholic Fundamentalism or Protestant Fundamentalism, I’m not going to shy away from criticizing Islamic Fundamentalism just because there is an ill-conceived war going on.

As for Edwards, no, I don’t think he’s consciously anti-Catholic, but I don’t think he really thought the matter through either. I do think, because of the origins and history of this country, that Catholicism is in fact treated somewhat differently. A certain degree of anti-Catholicism is as American as violence and cherry pie. As Arthur Schlesinger pointed out, it is the “Anti-Semitism of intellectuals.” Ask yourself this question… If Marcotte’s remarks had been made with the same tenor and tone about blacks or gays, would he have given her a “fair shake”? Would she even have been hired to begin with?

crystal said...

Will,

maybe we see things differently (yikes! it's the Roashomon effect :-) because you already knew Edwards and liked him, so you trust your initial opinion and are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But this is the first time I've really apid attention to him, so it's a bad first impression. I know I could be wrong about him and I'll try to keep an open mind.

Why do I care what others think of catholicism/

well, I don't like to be diliked, I guess. Also, I'm defensive because I'm a little ... er ... ashamed of being religious, I think. I'm an educated liberal from the west coast - I could more reasonably be a zen buddhist than someone who uses the word "jesus" instead of "Christ".

Still, even given that, I don't want a president who is ok with publically insulting a certain religion (I know, this is up for quesstion) - you siad yourself how much damage a president can do.

I don't have sources to prove he knew about the bloggers before he hired them. But he should have. Could it have been a mistake? Yes, but the way to put the mistake right would have been to fire them - that's a pink slip, not a firing squad :-)

The fact that he forgave them makes my skin crawl. A Baptist forgave an atheist for using hateful language about catholics. He may have forgiven them for embarrassing him, but he can't forgive them for the insulting others.

And I guess that is the root of the problem for me ... it is about hate.

cowboyangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cowboyangel said...

I've had too much time on my hands today and not enough sleep. I apologize for going on so long in my statements. But I've enjoyed the discussion.

I'm sorry, I don't know what "fisking" means. I can add that to my vocabulary list for the day, along with "anomie."

Perhaps my examples of being in one camp or another were too offhand and silly, but I do think I know what you mean. For me, politically and spiritually, I literally do not have a home: I am an Independent politically and no longer a practicing Catholic (or a rarely practiciing Catholic). I respect you and Mike McG and Crystal and Liam for participating in the Church, despite being at odds at times with other Catholics. I share many of your religious/theological concerns, though - and struggle at times to reconcile those concerns with political concerns. I try to take a wholistic view, believing that everything in life is interrelated. Taking care of the environment is as much a spiritual issue for as it is a political one. I am against abortion and have always felt like it was related to my concern about the environment or for the poor or being opposed to insane wars. Over time, it's true that I have come to believe that the right for women to have control over their bodies is also important in a way that I don't entirely understand or feel comfortable with. Also, I quickly grew tired of the hateful dualistic wars between the "two sides," and have tried to find the areas in which there can be agreement or shared concerens among various points of view. This does not sit well with either "side," however, either spiritually among religious people or politically among liberal friends. Where do I belong? I don't know. Part of me questions the fierceness of humans to identify with their camps. Everybody wants to be on the winning team. Everybody wants to be "right" about some big question that they think everyone should think is all-important. I'm much more more curious about life and human beings and G-d's creation, so I hate to limit myself from what IS because I have to follow other people's pre-conceived notions about how I should behave. I try, in my deeply flawed way, to love the ALL. That's much more important in the end than waving a flag or chanting "we're number one!"

It really would be interesting to see how RFK and MLK might deal with the issues we're faced with now. I fear it would be like all those 60s rockers using electronic drums in the 1980s, though.

My apologies - I wasn't trying to throw Donohoe up at you at all. I was talking about the general coverage of what's happened. You and Crystal don't think he's the point, and that's fine. But bigotry is bigotry, as you both have said. If you read AP and other news sources, he's just identified as the head of the Catholic League. That's it. It's only in the liberal blogs that you're given any history of his own outrageous statements. So if we're going to excoriate Marcotte for her statements - and rightfully so - why aren't we questioning his, instead of treating him like the respected head of some Catholic group? Especially since he's the one bringing all of this up? (So conveniently.) I wasn't referring to your own work - sorry for any misunderstanding.

Crystal, I understand about feeling awkward at times about your spiritual quest amidst certain people. But don't be ashamed. I think in time, you'll find a beautiful way to relate to some of these people. You've already made a great start. You're a much more loving convert than I was, believe me. I was awful.

Jeff said...

That was a great post William. For your sake, my friend, I will try to keep an open mind. Crys, Liam, Mike, thanks for your fine posts as well.

Well... For any hobo out there who feels like they ain't got no home, I hope that you can still feel at home here as long as I'm still hosting this thing. We can all be "homeless" together.

William, btw...

Yeah, well, Tim's got enough trouble of his own right now. Talk about getting shredded - his reputation after the Libby trial will never be the same.

Really? Do you think Russert was lying? I was more inclined to think that Libby was throwing him under the bus out of spite.

cowboyangel said...

Did Russert tell Libby about Plame? No, I don't think so. I've always believed the Plame leak came straight from Cheney or Rove. But when the press aide for Dick Cheney tells the world that the administration goes to Russert because it's their "best format," a place where they can "control the message," I think it leaves a lot of people - like me - wondering about his journalistic integrity. And I say this as someone who had no feelings about Russert one way or the other. I never watch Meet the Press (or any of those shows) and simply knew Russert by reputation as one of the beeter ones at his job. But glancing at some articles in Lexis-Nexis, I notice several newspapers talking about the issue - which is not good for Tim. Even the L.A. Times, a conservative paper, had a pretty strong piece on it which was picked up by other papers around the country, including the Houston Chronicle, where the headline ran: "Is man who wrote `Big Russ and Me' just a big softie?; Tim Russert's reputation as journalist is being scrutinized."

Add to this the fact that Russert got NBC to try and squash the subpoena for him to testify, only for it to be revealed that he had already blabbed everything to an FBI agent anyway. And, from what I understand, he "forgot" to mention that fact to NBC. He's the News Chief for the Washington Bureau of the network and he doesn't mention to them that he had already talked to an agent when he goes to them for help? I imagine there are some execs at NBC who are fuming right now, wondering why they pay the guy over $5 million a year and went to bat for him when he witheld that information.

And I'm not even talking about the kind of coverage he's gotten in liberal quarters. The few things I read on Huffington Post were not, shall we say, positive. Can you say "Judy Miller"? What's her reputation like now? Not any better, certainly, after her performance at the trial.

And actually, it wasn't just Tim who's being "scrutinized," but I think he's going to suffer the worst. I think the Libby trial will probably be remembered more for cracking the window a bit on the cozy relationship between top journalists and people in power than it will for the Plame leak. A Newark Star-Ledger article was entitled: "Journalism is also on in D.C.," and there are several articles along those lines. Another shining moment for American journalism.

cowboyangel said...

Sorry, the Newark Star Ledger article was called: "Journalism is also on TRIAL in D.C."

Jeff said...

Interesting. I hadn't studied that particular aspect of the story very closely. I think that controlled leaks coming out of the Whitehouse have been a problem for a long time, going back over several administrations now.

Generally speaking, I think that Tim Russert does a pretty good job. He was shovelling Tony Snow around pretty good this morning over the Iranian, armor-piercing, shaped-charge EFP devices. I heard about that story at least two years ago, and the administration is deciding to make a big deal out of it now.. surprise, surprise... Russert pointed out that the vast, vast majority of attacks on coalition forces are coming from Sunni insurgents, who hate the Iranians even more than they hate us. Apart from the uprisings in 2004 when we shut Sadr's paper down and issued a warrant for his arrest, the Mahdi Army has had orders to avoid confrontations with US troops as much as possible. They've been laying low during the surge. They're just waiting for us to leave.... Good interview with Richard Engle too. He's a sharp kid who came out of nowhere to become one of the most impressive war correspondents out there. He takes too many chances, I hope he doesn't get himself killed.

As for Cheney thinking he could make hay on Meet the Press, his rosy predictions about being greeted with garlands of flowers aren't looking too good for him right now.

The thing about Russert, and this has become true of a lot of journalists who go on the Imus show, is that they are getting big heads and starting to believe that they are celebrities in their own right. Perhaps that leads to the kind of missteps you describe.

In Fiasco, author Tom Ricks really goes to town on Judy Miller and The New York Times about all the mis-reporting on WMD.

cowboyangel said...

I think the celebrity-journalist thing may even be worse for journalism and our political process than bloggers getting paid to work for candidates. There's always been a back and forth between politics and the press. Bill Moyers working for JFK and LBJ. Pierre Salinger. And didn't I even read that Russert had worked for Moynihan or Roytan? But becoming a celebrity for a journalist - that doesn't sit right with me. How can you maintain any intergirty when you're a part of the hype process yourself? But then, my ideas of how journalists behave goes back to some sort of 1930s nostalgia that doesn't exist anymore. I think journalists should be low-paid, wear rumpled suits, sleep in bare hotel rooms and exist in black and white. And, of course, have incredibly witty repartee like Cary Grant and Roslaind Russell in His Girl Friday.

Oh, hey, you never explained "fisking" to me.

Jeff said...

Fisking... Ha, don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds... Speaking of journalists, it's named after the British journalist Robert Fisk.

Never mind the Wikipedia definition. Joe Cecil states it well here in the ground rules for his blog.

I am not particularly fond of the cyber-practice known as "fisking" (line-by-line analysis of a comment in quote and response format). I'll tolerate it usually without saying anything, but be aware it may set me on edge, or encourage me to do the same, even though nobody talks that way in real life. Use it judicially.

cowboyangel said...

That's fisking? Oh, I do that all the time. Why would this be a bad thing? One of the problems I have with blogs is that people DON'T actually respond to what others say. You're trying to have a dialog, but everyone keeps going off on the things THEY want to talk about, ignoring the other person. I find that incredibly rude. If I ask you a question, it's because I genuinely want to know your opinion. I "fisk" to be polite, and because I think it's actually a more mature and fair way to discuss something.

People don't talk that way? Well, I disagree with that in some ways, but it is hard to always remember what somneone said. But WE'RE NOT "TALKING" on a blog, we're writing - it's a completely different form of communication. The whole point of writing is that you can take the time to read what someone says and formulate a considered response.

Blogging too often leads to hasty, immature response done in the heat of the moment.

I won't do it, if that's what you want, but I have to say I find it very odd that people don't want others to actually respond to what you have to say.

cowboyangel said...

Oh, btw, I had an idea this morning. I decided to send a letter to the John Edwards campaign, suggesting that they hire a Catholic blogger. This, I thought, might heal some of the wounds of the Marcotte thing, made sense given Edwards' background, and seemed like a good way to get that point of view involved in a presidential campaign. Why should someone like Bill donohoe get all the media attention? why shouldn't a reasonable, intelligent and caring Catholic be represented. This, of course, goes against your whole point that bloggers should not work for someone's campaign - a point, I remind you, to which I completely agreed. So, yes, I've flip-flopped. I don't like the idea in theory, but in practice, I think it would be refreshing to see someone with spiritual values blogging in the campaign limelight.

If, by some miracle, the Edwards people actually respond to me, may I give them your name? If you're not interested in doing it - or able - perhaps you could at least point them in the right direction.

Jeff said...

Hi William,

Regarding the fisking... On Saturday, I wanted to make sure that you weren't going to be offended by some of the fisking I was about to do. When posts get as long as some of the ones on this thread were getting, it makes it almost impossible not to, because without it, it becomes difficult for people to follow the train of thought or the thread of argument that is being responded to.

I don't especially care for it myself, unless I'm joking around with someone and swapping punchlines back and forth. Some people see it as confrontational and interrogatory. I agree with a lot of the points you make about it, but I've seen in my experience that it can get on people's nerves. For example, sometimes people will take a snippet of a sentence, or they'll take a sentence that was not the salient point of a paragaraph, and set up a straw man that they can knock down with a pithy rejoinder. They'll line up someone for a kill-shot with lawyerly precision, looking for the slightest misstep.

I'm not saying that you are anyone else here has done anything like that, I'm just interested in keeping things conversational in tone if I can. I used to do a lot of debate on the web, it involved a lot of fisking, and I'm not interested as much in that sort of thing anymore. I'd rather like to think that I'm having a discussion among friends. :-) I think that we are capable of putting paragraphs together so that we respond to all of the points being made without parsing all of the sentences apart.

But sure, on some of the longer threads, some of it may be needed for the sake of better clarity and context.

Regarding the idea of a Catholic campaign blogger, I do admire the way that you put your money and effort where your mouth is. I do have to admit that Anne would like to see me pull in some extra pocket change by blogging. I still don't think it's a good idea for your average everyday blogger to work for a political campaign, but I can give you an idea of the type of thing I'd be likely to say if someone from the Edwards campaign contacted me about it...

Thank you very much for taking interest in my writing and for considering me for a position with you campaign. I am very honored.

For the purposes of full disclosure, however, there is something that I feel is incumbent upon me to make you aware of if you don't know about it already...

In August 0f 2007, on a post entitled 'The Book Meme', I wrote the following opinion under the category 'Books that you wish had never been written':

"Calvin’s Institutes, although I’m not looking for trouble with anyone. I’m not a big fan of Augustine to begin with, and it seems to me that Calvinism is like Augustinianism on steroids."

It has occurred to me that this statement may cause offense to Reformed Protestants, and most probably to the candidate himself. While being flattered and honored that your campaign would consider me for this position, I don't wish to be the cause of any controversy that would cause embarrassment or political damage for Mr. Edwards and for his campaign.


Now, I don't know if Amanda Marcotte took the same kinds of steps before she accepted the position, but it seems to me that if she did, a lot of this trouble may have been avoided.

See, my hands aren't squeaky clean either. Like Ms. Marcotte, I didn't set out to write a politically correct blog, so I think it would be a mistake both for me and for a candiate for this blog to be co-opted for a political campaign. I'd rather be my own man and write what I like, thanks. :-)

As for recommendations, you might want to look at Joe Cecil's blog that I referenced above. Come to think of it, Liam could do a fine job too. Heck, William, why not you? You scored as a Divine Office Catholic. :-)

cowboyangel said...

Wow, so Calvin is like Augsutine on steroids. You'd probably offend Edwards, the Calvinists and a vast number of professional athletes with that kind of attitude.

Thanks for the Joe Cecil rec. I'll check him out myself.

I'm afraid that I may be a Divine Office Catholic, but some political operative would also dig up the fact that Roman Catholicism was 6th on my list of Theological Worldviewm below Neo-Orthodox. come to think of it, maybe I should seek out the Neo-Orthodox candidate.

Good points on fisking. I'll try to keep it conversational. Hope I haven't been too pugnacdious recnetly. I've actually enjoyed and benefitted from the discussions very much. It was the conversation here that inspired me to write the Edwards people. I thought they should know how his actions affected people.

Jeff said...

Hope I haven't been too pugnacious recnetly. I've actually enjoyed and benefitted from the discussions very much.

Not at all, don't worry about it. Luckily I had the chance to get used to your feistiness over football and not religion & politics. :-)

Jeff said...

By the way, did you all see what happened to Romney?

cowboyangel said...

I had read about the Romney episode but hadn't seen the video. Thanks.

Isn't interesting how important YouTube has become in politics? I think it's wonderful to actually SEE what some of these politicians say and do instead of just being told about it through the filter of a potentitally biased news agency.

As someone who wanted to be a journalist at one time, I find the interent revolution pretty cool, I have to say. I can read a newspaper from Pakistan. I can listen to a live radio broadcast during a protest in Oaxaca. I can watch videos of what politicians actually say. I can communicate with kindred spirits from around the world. Sooner or later, the powerful will find a way to control all of this, but for a little while at least, it's a step in the right direction.

Democracy. Transparency. Information. Participation.