Thursday, February 08, 2007

Edwards' defensive charade: Stern Dad scolds naughty bloggers and they promise to be good

OK, after a scolding from Dad -- "It's not how I talk to people" -- the penitent kids were allowed to stay on after apologizing. MyDD has the statements of all the parties involved.

Most of the commenters there and at other progressive sites seem to think Edwards did the right thing. I disagree, though firing them would have been worse. I think the idea that this ends the matter is wishful thinking. For me, Edwards' none-too-timely, tepid and defensive response leaves a bad taste, raises questions about Edwards' judgement and probably won’t work. It will just embolden his rightwing critics, who will just keep feeding the mainstream media, which have already demonstrated they're not going to frame this in ways that favor Edwards unless he pushes back.

Instead of pushing back, Edwards' statement neither answers his critics nor refutes them. Most people think bosses who publicly chastise their employees suck. It's ugly. And it just opens up new questions, potentially keeping the controversy alive: How did he vet the bloggers? What did he actually know about their writing? What, exactly, does he disagree with? What does this say about his hiring practices? Does "apologizing" make being anti-Catholic OK? Etc., etc. The net result is that people all over the country who never heard of Amanda Marcotte or Melissa McEwen are reading headlines saying things like "Edwards' workers scolded for blogs." Scolded, but not fired. Airing dirty laundry in public. What's that all about? This is how character gets defined in the media.

Edwards and many of his supporters are missing the point. The whole stern boss, penitent employees being given a second chance as long as they stay on their best behavior thing is dumb. This was a political attack on his staff as a way of getting at him, and required a strong response. He comes off as a weak and indecisive compromiser. All in all, a lawyerly response worthy of a trial lawyer. This doesn't help him.

Again, when you're attacked by partisan distortions aimed at influencing media coverage -- whether by swiftboaters or swiftbloggers -- you need to do the right thing. Fast. And you need to know what it is. Kerry didn't. Not sure Edwards does, either.

No comments: