Monday, February 12

Pickling A Candidate: John Edwards

When John Edwards hired bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, his plan seemed simple enough. Pick two bloggers with an existing audience and have them make a grand slam on the Internet, Babe Ruth style. Unfortunately, he didn't hire two babes.

So far, the Marcotte and McEwan blog batting average is the worst in the league, giving the campaign a black eye and placing Edwards in a bit of a pickle, somewhere between first and second base. It's not a good place to be when you're trailing in third place, according to the latest Fox poll.

As a quick recap, visit YouTube for the CNN scandle coverage or read my earlier Being Semi-Public post. Keep in mind, both CNN and I passed on referencing the more hateful posts penned by Marcotte and McEwan.

What interested me the most, from a communication standpoint, is what would Edwards do facing a no-win communication situation (as I alluded to last week: if he fires the bloggers, he looks like he's pandering to the right; if he keeps the bloggers, he looks like he's turning his back on those offended). Edwards, forgetting that standing between first and second base is hardly safe, tried to play both ends toward the middle.

"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," his statement read, just before standing firm against the right, saying he intended to keep them.

Huh? I guess he wasn't that offended.

"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," he said.

And therein lies the pickle. No one is happy with his decision, probably not even Marcotte and McEwan, who also participated in Team Edwards' first example of "discipline, focus, and courage."

"My writings on my personal blog, Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics." — Amanda Marcotte

In other words: I did not have the discipline and focus to write satire that can be distinguished from hate speech, nor do I have the courage to stand behind those words today. Please, please, please, let me keep my job.

"Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way." — Melissa McEwen

In other words: I am not really apologizing for what I wrote, but I will apologize for those who took it the wrong way, er, exactly the way I meant it. I don't believe in everything Edwards stands for, but a paycheck is a pretty powerful convincer.

As I wrote last week, there was only one clear solution to solve this mini crisis communication problem: Marcotte and McEwen could have resigned. Then, Edwards could have been offended, but not fired them. Marcotte and McEwen could have stood by their ill-advised opinions, ensuring their rhetoric readers didn't see them as sellouts.

Instead, Edwards sent out one of the worst statements ever released in a bid for President of the United States. And, if Edwards' attempt to play the middle and his staff's attempt to offer faux apologies is any indication of how he will run his upcoming campaign, then I just don't see how he can get to home plate.

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3 comments:

Rich on 2/13/07, 7:19 AM said...

Famous Last Words:

The criticism "was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign." — Amanda Marcotte posting her resignation on her personal blog, Pandagon, several days too late.

Rich on 2/14/07, 10:27 AM said...

More Famous Last Words:

"There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation." — Melissa McEwan, failing to see any comparison between what she writes and those wrote about her.

Rich on 2/14/07, 10:49 AM said...

Final Assessment:

Their late resignations, spaced days apart, only fueled more criticism of the John Edwards campaign. Their continued rants on the subject will continue to hinder any hope that Edwards will survive what could have been a hiccup.

As a point of clarity, our call that they should have resigned had nothing to do with their views and everything thing to do with campaign damage. Frankly, they were well within their rights to write anything they wanted on their blogs. My main contention was that they were naive to think it wouldn't matter one day and their short-lived reversal statements were disingenuous at best.

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