The whole Edwards blogger controversy has a history.
UPDATE: A note from the campaign now says that, for now, he’s not knuckling-under.
First, let’s set the wayback to 2000, actually late 1999. Bill Bradley was the insurgent Democrat against Vice President Al Gore. A scruffy group of Bradley fans, people with Web sites, created a Bradley WebRing (remember webrings) to support him. They all wrote nice things and the Bradley campaign wanted to connect with them, coordinate with them.
Then Ben Ginsburg, a lawyer for the rival George W. Bush campaign, wrote a letter to the FEC. He made the utterly bogus argument that, if Bradley communicated with the ring, the ring’s efforts should be considered an in-kind contribution to the Bradley campaign. Uncertain of the law and fearful of letting someone else control their "spending," Bradley’s campaign cut off contact. And Bush got the candidate he wanted to run against.
Flash forward about four years. Now it’s 2003. Two unknown bloggers named Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong are signed to the campaign of Howard Dean. Their title is Internet consultant, and again a stink is raised. The charge is made that Markos, known as Kos, and Armstrong are going to twist the coverage of their blogs to favor Dean. In fact, they cut off coverage of Dean and lay before campaign manager Joe Trippi a bold plan to upgrade the Dean Web site’s software and build it into a Community Network Service, one that could scale the intimacy early visitors to the Dean blog felt. Trippi, fearful he’ll lose control of the campaign’s messaging, turns them away. And Bush gets Kerry to run against.
So we’re back to 2007. Two popular bloggers, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare’s Sister, both Netroots veterans, are hired by the Edwards campaign to work on its blog and coordinate with the blogosphere. Again the right raises a stink, pulling some quotes from the womens’ blogs up to the light, extrapolating from that to finding bigotry in their heart, extrapolating from that to finding bigotry in Edwards’. Never mind that these very same people do the very same thing routinely. Hypocrisy and shame don’t mean the same thing in politics as they do in real life — they mean what you can make them mean.
So Edwards backs down. He fires the two bloggers, upsets the very arm of the Democratic Party he was aiming to win over, and cuts the Netroots off from two-way communication with the candidate.
The lesson is that if people get away with something they will do it
again and again and again, until they cease to get away with it. There
is a long-running "battered wife" syndrome in our politics, based on
the fact that the Nixon Thesis remains dominant, and the Clinton
Breaking the pattern can change the game. Edwards needs to do more
than hire these two back. He needs to hit these critics hard, by name.
He needs to call them out, by name. He needs to tell the American
people that the right wing will have no veto over his campaign, that
he’s in charge of its message, and that if the people he hires have
written things others don’t like under their own names in the past,
well, that is their right.
The first Democratic campaign to do something like this, by the way, will be headed by the next Democratic President of the United States.