What about the religious left?

edwards 2008Yesterday I noted media coverage of the anti-religious rhetoric of two bloggers hired by John Edwards for his presidential campaign. The extreme anti-religious rhetoric was highlighted by political conservatives who are Christian.

Because of the political dimensions of the story, the coverage has seemed a bit tired to me. Both the Associated Press and The New York Times, for instance, centered the story on politics — not religion — and tried to claim that the comments of various conservatives were equivalent to those of the bloggers in question.

That’s fine, but also a bit boring and predictable.

But if you want an interesting take on the story — and one that moves the story forward — you could do no better than to read The Politico‘s Ben Smith. He spoke with liberals who are religious and got a fresh and illuminating angle:

As the flap over alleged anti-Catholic writings by two John Edwards campaign bloggers devolves into a shouting match between conservative religious voices and liberal bloggers, some members of the “religious left” say they feel — again — shoved to the margins of the Democratic Party.

“We’re completely invisible to this debate,” said Eduardo Penalver, a Cornell University law professor who writes for the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal. He said he was dissatisfied with the Edwards campaign’s response. “As a constituency, the Christian left isn’t taken all that seriously,” Penalver said.

Democrats — and Edwards in particular — have embraced the language of faith and the imperative of competing with Republicans for the support of religious voters. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, even sits on the board of the leading organization of the religious left, Call to Renewal. But in private conversations and careful public statements today, religious Democrats said they felt sidelined by Edwards’ decision to stand by his aides.

“We have gone so far to rebuild that coalition [between Democrats and religious Christians] and something like this sets it back,” said Brian O’Dwyer, a New York lawyer and Irish-American leader who chairs the National Democratic Ethnic Leadership Council, a Democratic Party group. O’Dwyer said Edwards should have fired the bloggers. “It’s not only wrong morally — it’s stupid politically.”

Many politically liberal and religious GetReligion readers wrote similar comments in our previous thread, so I’m glad to see that their views are being noticed by someone in the media. The Politico, by the way, is a brand new publication and website that covers politics from all angles. It has hired some pretty heavy-hitting reporters — including some friends and former colleagues of mine.

Smith’s article is conversational and engaging and even includes some of the specific comments that Catholics have found offensive. He mentions Edwards’ statement that the bloggers assured him “it was never their intention to malign anyone’s faith,” and he describes the bloggers’ statements as semi-apologetic. Here’s how he sums up the situation for politically liberal Christians:

And so religious liberals find themselves in a quandary. They have no interest in associating with the likes of William Donohue, the Catholic League president who is closely aligned with the GOP and led the charge against Edwards’ aides. Donohue said Thursday he would take out newspaper advertisements attacking Edwards as anti-Catholic. But religious liberals also think Edwards’ aides merit more than a slap on the wrist.

“I thought his explanation was not satisfying,” said Cornell’s Penalver. “It’s obvious that they did mean to give offense.”

The reason why this story is infinitely more interesting than the tired stuff from other outlets is because the previous stories are focused on a conservative-liberal political divide. But Edwards was never going to get the votes of William Donohue or some of the other conservatives who raised the issue.

Isn’t it much more interesting to contemplate how Edwards’ hiring and support of these bloggers might affect his standing among religious liberals?

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  • Harris

    Isn’t it much more interesting to contemplate how Edwards’ hiring and support of these bloggers might affect his standing among religious liberals?

    Actually, I would think the healthcare proposal is far more significant for us. As far as what “religious liberals” think, you may want to check in with self-described Anglo-Catholic Ed Kilgore at New Donkey., who brings in a pretty sound piece of theology of the Incarnation. (and what does that term mean btw, theologically liberal?

    For the politically engaged Donohue is the more odious of the players. Instead of bringing some sort of cautionary note to the table, the vitriol of his attack may only serve to embolden the militant (secular) progressive wing. Call it the lesson of the Swift Boats: the failure of the Democratic Party candidates was in not fighting back, not having a spine. In this narrative then, attack must understandably be met with attack. (I think this conviction was behind the hiring of the bloggers). Of course, in this scorched earth sort of partisan warfare, there will likely be offended bystanders — and it is not clear that this type of political warfare is what the public really wants to hear. From either party.

    By the way, what is it with this “religious liberals”? Are we to be characterized as theologically liberal (see Kilgore, above for the answer for that) Do you mean politically liberal? Whta about us centrist Dems? Include us, as well? This is just sloppy, sloppy wording.

  • evagrius

    The comments on Politico couldn’t state the response better.
    Catholics who feel offended should think again. The statements made were no worse and no better than statements made by right-wing “pundits” and bloggers regarding people of other faiths.
    The basic problem is what one poster pointed out- that the media has been very tolerant in reporting or rather, publishing, slanders and innuendoes against many people, both right and left, without any refutation, admonitions or judgement.
    Poltical discourse in the U.S. has deteriorated to a very low level, approaching that of the 1820′s. The media’s responsibility for this situation is quite clear.

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  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “…might affect his standing among religious liberals?”

    I think you mean “Christian” liberals. The term “religious liberal” is so broad as to be almost meaningless. Many would claim that I’m a “religious liberal” but I doubt anyone is concerned about my opinions of Edwards or his pet bloggers.

    The reason any of this “matters” is because this particular foul-mouthed blogger dissed Roman Catholics. Since Roman Catholics are a big chunk of the religious “swing” vote, people are worried over how these comments will affect those voters. If she had written some foul-mouthed posts concerning Buddhists or Quakers there would be no controversy. Edwards would, at most, send someone to the respective communities to apologize (maybe). You might get a couple column inches on the topic and it would blow away.

    It should be interesting to see if any conservative bloggers are hired by Republican candidates, and if these prospective candidates are now nervously checking their archives concerning comments on Muslims, Jim Wallis, and “religious liberals”.

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  • Martha

    It’s a good point that this shouldn’t be confined to (or defined as) “conservatives vs. liberals”. The remarks were not just offensive to Catholics but to all Christians.

    Let’s bite the bullet here: the Democrats are engaging in a strategy of reaching out to religious voters (and let’s not say ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ in this context). Fine, they’re entitled to look for the ‘Christian vote’ just as much as the ‘black vote’, ‘women’s vote’, ‘working-class vote’ and so on.

    Edwards’ campaign team hired bloggers to take advantage of the new technology. Again, fine. (I’m saying the team in general because one thing I haven’t seen covered is who exactly asked Amanda to come on board: was it John Edwards himself in person, or, as I find more likely, Assistant to Some Bloke in Charge of Media?)

    Amanda has robust views on religious belief and how it affects one’s personal life. Fine again, she’s entitled to express her views, offensive as they may be (and offensive as she intends them to be.) However, expressing those views on a private blog and running the campaign for a candidate for public office have to be separate.

    BUT – and it’s a big but, gentlemen, ladies and others – Objective A (getting the religious vote) is in conflict with Objective B (standing foursquare behind somone on your staff expressing views contemptuous of the beliefs of those voters). And, as Mr. O’Dwyer has pointed out, it’s politically stupid to think you can simultaneously slap someone in the face and ask them to loan you a hundred dollars.

    Never mind the non-apology: ‘we’re sorry you felt insulted’. “They did not intend to be offensive.” For someone who didn’t intend it, Amanda made a damn good job of it.

  • http://stevegriffin.no-ip.info Opie

    I’ve never been able to sort out how the “conservative” and “liberal” labels from politics can even apply to Christian theology. It’s almost like assigning genders to inanimate objects… it just doesn’t work in any reliable way.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Martha hits the nail on the head, as usual.

    By treading carefully in their statements about Edwards, (politically) liberal Christian groups are trying to protect someone who simply isn’t terribly bright or savvy. I’m not sure why. Surely, the Democratic Party can do better than Edwards.

    Politics is about power. Period. The press loves to report on political matters because:
    * Doing so enables the press to hobnob with people of power, which is exciting
    * The press recognizes that how it reports can influence the balance of power, which gives the press power

    While creating and maintaining a hyper-political environment is all very interesting to most folks in the press, especially those inside the Beltway and in NYC, it has become tiresome for many of us in Flyover Country. Frankly, we view most politicians on both sides of the aisle as idiots. The more that the MSM focuses on politics, the more that we’ll tune out.

  • evagrius

    So will Flyover Country pay attention to Edwards’
    health care proposal which does affect their lives directly but has probably been ignored by the MSM since it has to do with real problems and not what it has decided to define as “politics”?

  • Maureen

    What if this was not Edwards, but simply a corporation?

    Would your corporation’s PR department want to hire and retain somebody whose hobby was saying nasty things about religious people, or indeed about any particular group? Wouldn’t you say to yourself, “If I can hire a nice person who’s also a famous blogger, or a nasty person ditto, I’d be better off hiring the sweet-tempered one who won’t start fights or scandals in or out of the company”?

  • Eric

    I think the official statements of Edwards and the two bloggers ring hollow, and I say that as someone who a week ago would have gladly voted for Edwards. I just can’t imagine that if the equivalent had been written about Jews, or gays, or blacks, or union members, or [name your constituency] that they would still be part of the campaign. What these bloggers wrote (or at least one of them whose blog I did look up) was downright offensive to both Catholics and other Christians.

    I also think that the mainstream media (oh, how I hate that term, maybe because I’m part of it) did a disservice by not printing/broadcasting some of the actual words used to show how offensive they were. It wasn’t a matter of merely disagreeing with the Catholic church (which even lot of faithful Catholics do), but of deliberately trying to be offensive toward its adherents.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    In actuality I don’t know how conservative Donohue really is. Yes, it always seems to be Liberals, Leftist, and Democrats he is attacking. Except for one thing–most of the really nasty bigoted stuff against Catholics I have seen in the mainstream media and normal political circles–as in the Edwards case and many others(forget the real kooks on either extreme)–comes from the middle-secular liberal Left–so if someone is an activist fighting bigotry directed toward Catholics –it is liberals and the Left he will most be going after. And then the media pigeonholes him as a conservative to gut his effectiveness.
    Everyone knows how much the bishops and the pope have been against the war in Iraq. Yet in reading periodicals in the library or comments on the internet, I have not run across the kind of wholesale mud-slinging, garbage-mouthing against Church leaders from those on the right who support the war as I see from the secular
    Left anytime Catholic leaders take moral stances opposite to theirs.
    And many Catholics are not wedded to left or right, Republican or Democrat, but lean in the direction that is the most hospitable in the sense of showing at least a modicum of respect. If Edwards is an example of a hospitable Democrat–who needs enemies??? And where do those of us who are pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-the witness of a radical leftist Catholic like Dorothy Day- to go. Republicans seem willing to tolerate quirky Catholics who aren’t total party hacks on issues whereas the liberal Democrats still seem to seethe with hate-filled rage against those not 100% pure in their obedience to liberal secularism–like the two hired by Edwards.

  • Dan

    The “religious left” has been living with people like Marcotte for quite a while now. If it hasn’t bothered them previously, I don’t see why it should now.

  • Martha

    Remember Jeff Gannon? Now, I’m not saying this is the equivalent, but come on: the basic bare bones lowest common denominator stuff you do when hiring someone on (especially when it’s working for someone in the public eye and more especially in the context of American politics which, I regret to say, appear to this foreigner at least to indulge in digging up as much dirt, muck and scandal as you can find on your opponent and flinging tarpits full of pitch in the hope some of it will stick) is check their background and qualifications.

    Did Joe Soap really get a first class honours degree in rocket science from M.I.T.? Did Sheila Citizen really work for five years as chief auditor for Megabucks Bank Inc.? Did John Smith really publish three books about tiddlywinks that have become the standard work on the subject?

    Is the bloke we’ve just given a White House press pass to really a reporter for a credible online website? Oops, no, it turns out he’s a rentboy with connections and the name he gave us isn’t even his real name. Egg on face time!

    Is the woman we’ve just put in charge of our online presence singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to outreach to the Christian undecided voters? Er…

  • evagrius

    “Everyone knows how much the bishops and the pope have been against the war in Iraq. Yet in reading periodicals in the library or comments on the internet, I have not run across the kind of wholesale mud-slinging, garbage-mouthing against Church leaders from those on the right who support the war as I see from the secular
    Left anytime Catholic leaders take moral stances opposite to theirs.”

    I think it’s because they simply pay no attention to the bishops or the Pope- Why should they?

    Their ignoring of the bishops and Pope shows just how little regard they have for the bishops and Pope. They use the bishops and Pope when they feel like it and ignore them otherwise. They have no more regard for the bishops and Pope than they do for the Good Book.

    The attacks on the bishops and Pope by what you call the secular Left may be precisely because they do take the bishops and Pope seriously.

    This may sound harsh but I do think that the ignoring of the bishops, Pope and other religious leaders of not just Christianity but other religious traditions by instigators and supporters of the war in Iraq is proof, very clear proof, that religion is all right when it approves something vaguely moral advancing their politics but really just an annoyance to be brushed aside when “realistic” actions must be taken and these actions are clearly immoral.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Yes, Erroneous, we country bumpkins here in Flyover Country do pay attention to real issues such as health care proposals. We typically wait until closer to an election than you smart folks in the Big City do, though. And yes, Erroneous, the MSM does report on proposals by various politicians because the proposals are made by POLITICIANS, and everything that politicians say is important. No one would be talking about anti-Christian blog posts if those posts hadn’t been authorized by someone running for President. But you knew that.

  • Glen

    The bloggers were wrong to be harsh but then again the Christian Right is equally as harsh in thier ostracism of people that do not bend to their will.

    Edwards did right. He understands that it is a two edged debate and not as one-sided as a couple of loudmouth bloggers. If you fail to allow comparison, and criticism as the Religious Right usually does, you end up with religious fanatics.

    Donahue is being a religious bigot, and is attempting to use reverse logic on Edwards. When you look at either man’s track record it is clear all Donahue is trying to do is stir up the Conservative Right for all the wrong reasons.

    A previous comment is so right. What about more importent things like HealthCare, the war in Iraq, and doing charitable service. I think these are words that Donahue doesn’t want anyone to hear.

  • zjemi

    Religious liberals. Religious left. Religious right. What, religious people won’t stand being criticized, have never used “naughty” words when criticizing others, don’t want views they disagree with (and why do religious liberals disagree with the bloggers views?) to be heard? Surely there are religious people somewhere who are better than that.
    I think Edwards did exactly the right thing. Firing workers for every criticism that comes in, deserved or not, is going to make candidates very lonely.

  • dpt

    “I thought his explanation was not satisfying,” said Cornell’s Penalver. “It’s obvious that they did mean to give offense.”

    Professor Penalver is correct, so it is hard to understand why the Edward’s communications seem to miss the boat here.

    ” I’ve never been able to sort out how the “conservative” and “liberal” labels from politics can even apply to Christian theology.”

    I agree…this “conservative vs. liberal”/”Republican vs. Democrat” argument plays out in our diocese newspaper each election cycle too.

  • MinorRipper

    Edwards is shedding the softie,breck girl image though…here’s video proof:

  • Martha

    Glen, I couldn’t trust Edwards on important issues like health care, charitable service, and the war in Iraq – not when he’s shown himself to be talking out of both sides of his mouth like this.

    On the one hand, he’s playing up his ‘son of a Southern Baptist deacon grew up reading the Bible at dad’s knee’ personal history in a calculated attempt to woo undecided voters of religious affiliation. Well, fair enough; every politician does that. If it suddenly came out in a poll that there’s a vast untapped constituency of tree-toad breeders with enough votes to be significant, every dang one of them – regardless of party – would be all over the tv/radio/newspapers regaling reporters with how, when they were a boy/girl and their parents asked them what pet they would like, they chose a tree-toad and they still fondly remember their beloved tree toad named Harold.

    On the other hand, his staff (and that’s what these ladies are) have expressed in vehement fashion their detestation of any troglodyte who harks back to when dear old dad/granny/Rev. Jones/Fr. O’Malley read the Bible to them, much less anyone who continues to read the Bible as an adult. And Mr. Edwards is sticking by them, and we must conclude that it’s as much a political calculation as a question of loyalty; that is, he and his team have weighed up the question of whether they would gain more support on side X or lose more support on side Y by canning these trollops’ asses, and they’ve obviously decided to go with side Y.

    So we’ve got your average everyday politician who will tell you the moon is made of green cheese if that will convince you to vote for him. Why on earth should I, you or anyone else believe any other of his campaign promises? “Vote for me and I’ll make the health service equitable!”

    Yeah, right, John.

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com Nancy Reyes

    I have only read a few of these blogger’s comments, and suspect that “liberal” Catholics won’t be upset about the abortion and anti church stuff.

    But when they insulted Mary, they hit a nerve. Mary is our “warm fuzzy”, the reminder of God’s mercy. She is on our side. Indeed, the reason so many catholics like me dislike “Fundamentalists” is that they traditionally insult Mary and Catholic’s love of Mary (naming it “idolatry”, insulting her virginity, ignoring her presence at the cross).

    You don’t insult the Mama, especially to ethnic Catholics.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Evagrius–Rather an odd defense of obvious haters: that profane, insulting, foul-mouthed, derogatory, vicious insults such as Edwards’ two hires are noted for is really a mark of respect.
    George Orwell phone home.

  • Dale

    the Christian Right is equally as harsh in thier ostracism of people that do not bend to their will.

    What “Christian Right”? Most conservative Evangelical voters don’t like Jerry Falwell (a poll showed that John Paul II was more popular among Evangelicals), Pat Robertson, et al., and probably don’t have much use for Bill Donahue, either. Yet you, and much of the MSM, insist on talking about conservative Evangelicals and traditionalist Catholics as if they’re a monolithic group, and the statements of one person or organiztion can be attributed to the whole group, especially if it’s convenient to excuse the bigotry of your political favorites.

    If Bill Donahue’s a bigot, his words speak for themselves. Your “heroine” is clearly a bigot, and has a seriously bad case at that. The fact that you try to justify her nasty, bigotted, hateful, contemptuous, obscene and vulgar Anti-Catholic and Anti-Christian statements shows just acceptable that kind of bigotry has become in the Democratic Party.

  • jim

    This is almost funny. You folks believe the POPE is infallible, same with the IMAM’s, right? Does it matter the Bishops have allowed immoral exploitation of young boys for hundreds if not thousands of years!!! Or the IMAMS who put people to death for morality crimes and sentence young girls to be raped by men from another village to amend a brothers indescretion!!! Yet you expect people to respect the Pope, Bishops, and IMAM’s of the world or you for that matter. You have a lot of balls to even use the word “moral or immoral” your continued support of a omnipotent being who oversees your daily actions is laughable. Try dealing with real world problems using real world experience and logic before you roll out the religous claptrap your spouting now. More people die in the name of GOD than in all the wars of mankind combined. THAT IS IMMORAL.
    The religous LEFT and RIGHT makes laugh.

  • Hans


    Actually, more people were killed in the name of no god (called communism) in a single generation than all of the world’s religous wars combined.

  • http://wondersforoyarsa.blogspot.com Wonders for Oyarsa

    Has everyone seen Joe Carter’s brilliant parody of this news story?

  • evagrius

    Gee, Mr. Bollinger and Deacon John-

    Amazing that you guys would get more upset about two rather ignorant bloggers mouthing off their ignorance rather than look at what a supposedly “pious” President, ( Jesus is my favorite philosopher), has done- initiated an unprovoked, immoral, ( by just war standards- standards in place since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1632 or so and established long before that based on Biblical principles and human reason) war, destroying a country, beginning the destruction of Constitutional government and so on.
    Amazing that you would be so bothered by mere words but completely insouciant about actions, real actions that have killed, tortured, imprisoned and persecuted real persons who, as Christian theological tradition states, are the image of God.
    Are you that divorced from reality that you worry about the mote in someone else’s eye and not see the beam in your own?

  • Jeff Speed

    We are talking about bloggers here, people who editorialize opinions with no restraints (or almost no standard) of editorial review. Why can not these people have jobs in campaigns? Why do their opinions, no matter how reviled those opinions are, affect a politician’s decision making? How has Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Ralph Reed influenced the Bush administration for that matter?

    By trying to dictate political policy –and now trying to meddle in a candidate’s choices for employing campaign aides– religious politicos look like bullies. Let people have their own opinions… Jesus did.

  • evagrius

    Shouldn’t this cause more outcry than some blogger’s idiotic remarks?

    Sorry to be such a pest- but I really don’t think that the bloggers are that obscene compared to the following- just trying to put a little “meat” on what I was arguing ( credit to Imitatio Christi );

    From the WaPo:

    The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

    Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

    American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.

  • Paul Barnes

    Ok…why are people throwing red herrings here about other people? It seems that there is a legitimate story about these two women, so why do conservative pundits need to be brought out? Do we have to contrast and compare, line by line, who is more vile?

    It’s a fallacy, pure and simple. These particular comments by these particular women are offensive, and the John Edwards campaign is really dropping the ball here.

    We are not talking about President Bush, nor his policies. So why are people bringing him up? I just do not understand why some people cannot recognize the intrisic nastiness of this particular issue without having to resort to childish “Your side does the same thing” rhetoric.

  • frank burns

    So a couple of bloggers think that religion is based on false beliefs and that relgion is an industry that preys on people’s sense of guilt, offering them unverifiable promises in the afterlife for cash today. So what? They are absolutely right.

  • evagrius

    Paul Barnes ;

    Your point would make sense if this incident was an isolated incident.

    But it arose from the complaints of certain people who have a history of being rather abusive and contemptible themselves. These individuals have attacked others they do not like or agree with with language that is just as contemptible and offensive as the language they charge the two posters with.
    These individuals also support a war that is far more obcsene and contemptible in fact that any blogger’s comments could ever be.

  • Dale

    But it arose from the complaints of certain people who have a history of being rather abusive and contemptible themselves.

    If it was about Donahue or some other particular person, your heroines should have directed their bile at them specifically. Instead, they chose to verbally abuse millions of people. They did it because they thought it was “funny”. They did it because they hate. And they have encouraged thousands of other people to hate, including, apparently, you.

    These individuals also support a war that is far more obcsene and contemptible in fact that any blogger’s comments could ever be.

    There are legitimate ways to criticize the Iraq war. The fact that Edwards hired two bigots, who have a history of promoting Anti-Christian hate on the internet, is another issue. The fact that you continue to try to obfuscate by talking about the war is a reflection of your dishonesty. It’s like a Nixon apologist defending the Watergate scandal because he did great things for our China policy.

    Hiring people who have a history of religious bigotry will not end the Iraq War. Neither will electing John Edwards. What the hiring of Marcotte shows is that Edwards is quite willing to overlook obvious bigotry, as long as the targets are people that are politically useful scapegoats.

  • Martha

    Evagrius, Frank and others: so what’s your beef about Donaghue et al? If it’s perfectly okay for someone to express their opinion no matter how offensive the terms, what’s the problem?

    I do think the Iraq War is wrong, but we weren’t discussing that. We were discussing a man who intends to run for President of the United States of America, who would be – if he won – representing all the people of the nation and in charge of their governance, standing by members of staff who have made insulting and denigrating statements about a pretty large chunk of the populace.

    I want to keep hammering on the point that this is not just about Roman Catholics but Christians. Amanda has certainly shot her mouth off about Catholics, but referring to the doctrine of the Incarnation as an ancient mythology used to justify misogyny is insulting to all Christians (you know, those people who follow Christ who is the Incarnation?).

    Suppose someone of the Republican candidates – and since I don’t have a dog in this fight, I can’t name one off the top of my head – hired on a blogger to run the online campaign and it turned out that s/he had made some piquant remarks on a private blog about castrating gay men to prevent paedophilia or introducing mandatory sterilisation (a la the Chinese one child policy) for black women after their first child to reduce the number of ‘welfare queens’ or had posted something insulting about Martin Luther King’s conception – and their employer stood by them, kept them on, and said “S/he assured me s/he never meant to offend anyone” – would you think that’s okay?

    Would you think that candidate would be a good choice for President? Would you think that candidate could honestly claim to fairly and impartially govern all the people, regardless of their race, religion, gender, or social class? Would you say “But he has such great policies for defence/commerce/the environment”?

  • evagrius

    My response to Marth and Dale is- read this column from Media Matters and then come back and respond- but don’t respond if you haven’t read the entire column;


  • Dale

    don’t respond if you haven’t read the entire column;

    How arrogant.

  • Dale


    Since we’re handing out reading assignments, I’ve got one for you.

    Assigned Reading

    Don’t respond until you’ve read the whole thing.

  • Dale
  • evagrius


    Did you read the whole thing?

    Obviously not.

    It’s you that’s arrogant.

    But I’m stopping here since it’s useless to argue with someone who can’t or won’t ….well, I’ll stop there.

  • Dale

    It’s you that’s arrogant.

    No. I’m not the one who started addressing you as if you were a schoolchild.

    And you’re stopping because you were bringing up the same arguments–that Marcotte’s bigotry is somehow justified by things that Limbaugh, Malkin, et al. have said.

    Have any of those people been hired by a presidential campaign to run a public relations position?


  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    According to many liberals and Democrats it is OK for Edwards to hire blatant anti-Catholic bigots as long as they don’t do their swill on his payroll. I wonder if they would argue the same if a conservative Republican hired David Duke.

  • Martha

    Evagrius: and were any of the people mentioned in this column hired on to the campaign staff of a Presidential candidate? Were any of these people backed by a Republican official saying “I spoke to X; s/he assured me s/he meant no offense; I believe him/her”?

    I’m blue in the face saying this: I hold no brief for the Republicans. I’d *love* to see a credible Democrat contender out there. Unfortunately, John Kerry wasn’t it last time round, and it sure as hell seems like John Edwards isn’t it this time round. Which leaves us with Hillary and Barack Obama (personally, I’d love to see Obama being sworn in as the President but it depends what his politics really are and what he’d really do if he got there. I would also have loved to see Cardinal Arinze being elected Pope, but there you go.)

    My point is this: (1) these statements should not simply be brushed off as ‘over-sensitive Roman Catholics getting their knickers in a twist’ – these were offensive to all Christians, and I don’t care if you’re going to parse it into religious right versus religious left – denigrating the Incarnation is an insult to Christians of whatever stripe. (2) Keeping these lassies on means Mr. Edwards has shown his true colours, namely, if he gets into power, forget about all the lovely promises he made re: Iraq, the environment, poverty, health care – those were just campaign promises, silly! you didn’t seriously think he meant them? in the same way that the lovely outreach to Christians was only a campaign strategy and, when push comes to shove, we see his real evaluation of where the power lies. (3) Defence along the lines of ‘oh, come on; how was he supposed to know they’d said this stuff? anyways, it was all said in private and besides, the nasty people on the right said nasty things also!’ Well, he (or whomever is in charge of hiring his staff) is supposed to check out the backgrounds of those hired on; yes, free speech and freedom of expression, but a dividing line between the utterance of private opinion and public work for an elected official who is hoping to get into office and exercise real power over real people; two wrongs don’t make a right. This is a political question as much as anything else: how can voters trust Edwards on anything he says from now on?

    Suppose Giuliani or McCain or whomever hired on someone on staff who had made the following comment on a private blog:

    (OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER I do not intend to be offensive to Martin Luther King, his family, or his memory. I believe he did great things for America and it’s largely thanks to him that your Civil Rights movement did not degenerate into the kind of violence we here in Ireland saw in the North. If you want to pull this for gratutious offensiveness, I’ll completely understand. These are not my opinions; I’m only channelling the spirit in which Amanda Marcotte wrote her little billet doux.)

    “What did Martin Luther King’s mother say when his father filled her with his hot, white, sticky spirit?”
    “I hope my husband never finds out about this!”

    Now, if McCain or Bush or whomever stuck by that staff member, supported them, didn’t fire them, and said “They told me they didn’t mean to be offensive and I believe them”, would you defend them by saying “Oh, it’s only over-sensitive black people over-reacting to this; it’s less important than the war, health care, reproductive rights; anyway, look at the great policy he says he’s going to implement when he is elected – isn’t that more important than what some minor staff member said on a private blog?”

  • evagrius

    Well, George Bush and Dick Cheney appeared on the Rush Limbaugh show. A big seal of approval if there ever was one.

    These people are already hired by the Republican party- unofficially, of course but you can’t really listen to them without hearing them as Republican echo machines. They state and repeat each other ad infinitum.

    I don’t know why you people can’t see that.Do you people really, really think that these so-called “conservatives” are really independent commentators and pundits?
    You’re the ones that are arrogant, and not only that, incredibly blind and naive.

    You can’t see propaganda when it smacks you upside the head.

    If this is offensive to you, think about it. Have you ever questioned any of their points? Probably not.

    Meanwhile, the immoral war goes on and on and all you care about is some infantile remarks.

  • Dale

    Well, George Bush and Dick Cheney appeared on the Rush Limbaugh show. A big seal of approval if there ever was one.

    Uh, no. Granting an interview to a radio show does not endorse all the positions taken by the host of the show. If any Republican candidate tried to hire Limbaugh, there would be an uproar, and rightly so. He’s a jerk, and most of what he says serves no purpose but offending people.

    These people are already hired by the Republican party- unofficially, of course

    That’s completely paranoid. By that reasoning, Larry Flynt is employed by the Democratic Party and Hustler magazine is an “undercover” Democrat publication.

    I don’t know why you people can’t see that.

    Because I don’t habitually read right or left wing blogs written by hate-filled hacks?

    You’re the ones that are arrogant, and not only that, incredibly blind and naive.

    I am truly shamed by this demonstration of humility. How could I have been so mistaken?

    You can’t see propaganda when it smacks you upside the head.

    Quite the contrary. I’m looking at it.

    If this is offensive to you, think about it. Have you ever questioned any of their points? Probably not.

    I voted for John Kerry. I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or Michelle Malkin. I laugh every time I hear Fox News say “Fair and Balanced”. I went to law school with Ann Coulter, thought she was an obnoxious jerk then and still do. By the way, Ann showed no interest in Christianity then, so I am extremely suspicious of her motives when she cozies up to religious conservatives.

    Do you have any other of your oh-so-trenchant insights into my obviously defective mind?

    Meanwhile, the immoral war goes on and on and all you care about is some infantile remarks.

    Those “infantile remarks” tell me about the character of the people that John Edwards would include in his administration. As I live in a self-proclaimed “progressive” town, I am exposed to arrogant, bigoted people like Marcotte on a regular basis, and have no desire whatsoever to be governed by them. I am highly skeptical that Edwards will be able to carry through on the promises that he’s making now to withdraw troops, and even if he does, I think the following bloodbath will make the last 4 years seem like a picnic. I have yet to hear any American politician say something honest or realistic about Iraq, and probably won’t until after the next election.

    So lay off the self-righteous schtick.

  • evagrius

    Lay off your own self-righteous schtik and just let the whole thing go.

    Given the politics in the U.S. Edwards has no more chance of getting elected than you do.

    In fact, none of the front-runners will be in a position to get elected. Guaranteed.

    You underestimate what’s going on. This episode is merely a prelude to things that will be far worse.

    I have yet to see the Republicans distance themselves from their more rabid supporters.
    I don’t think they can.

    Of course, I’m waiting with bated breath for their front runners.

    And I’m waiting for a critical press to examine their positions with the same intensity they have for the Democratic ones.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    All future comments that are about politics instead of the limited scope of this blog — mainstream media coverage of religious topics will be deleted.

    I can’t express how disappointed I am in Evagrius and some other folks for using this forum to advance their political agenda.

    This is GetReligion.

    If you want to discuss how awesome these bloggers are, go over to DailyKos or wherever it is that such things are discussed.

    Evagrius — If you hijack a thread again to talk about politics instead of mainstream media coverage of religion, I will delete all future comments.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Argh, Evagrius. I didn’t mean to delete your subsequent comment but I don’t know how to get it back.

    I’m sorry.

    You said you were confused by my comment.

    Taking you at your word, I’ll explain that we have a very limited scope here at GetReligion. We discuss how the mainstream media treats religious issues.

    We do not discuss the religious issues themselves.

    We do not discuss politics.

    We discuss how mainstream media treats religious issues.

    Our comments policy requires you to engage the contents of the post.

    From here on out, please follow our policy.

    We don’t discuss politics — however interested in politics you may be.

    We don’t discuss religion — however interested in religion you may be.

    We only discuss how the mainstream media handle religious issues.

    This story is obviously political — but there are other forums to advocate for your cause.


    Our focus is limited — we only discuss how the media handle religious angles of stories.

    So from here on out, I will be enforcing that policy. I would have done so earlier but I was away from the computer for a few days.


  • evagrius

    But I wish you’d updated the story.

    If your focus is on how media treats religion, then this story should have had that focus but, from what I read, I deduced that the focus was more on how Edwards has somehow offended religious people, ( which is not at all clear), rather than how some religious people are using the controversy to advance their political views.

  • Martha

    Okay, Evagrius, I’ll put it in simple terms one more time.

    I am not an American.

    I have no votes in any American elections.

    I don’t like President Bush, his cronies, his policies, what he’s done to the world we all have to live in.

    I would like to see a realistic Democratic party contender coming from somewhere to oppose the Republican party.

    I have never heard or read any of these Donoghue, Limbaugh, Malkin people that you instance.

    I am a believing Roman Catholic, though a bad one.

    I am a Christian.

    Believe it or not, intentionally offensive remarks about the central doctrines and holy persons of a faith tend to offend believers.

    Compounding the offense by saying one did not intend to be offensive and one cannot understand why offense was taken means one is continuing to exhibit the contempt for believers one has already shown – they’re too stupid to realise they’re being fooled again.

    Simultaneously requesting the votes of those believers and demonstrating that the offensive attitudes towards those believers does not offend one proves that one is just another political hack.

    Why then should *any* of one’s promises re: the environment, the war, health care, gay rights, reproductive rights, etc. etc. be believed? One has already shown graphically that one does not have any principles outside saying whatever it takes to get into power, and once there, anything that might prove inconvenient to retaining that power will be jettisoned.

    Get my point?

    I think this horse has been flogged long enough.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Mollie, thank you for stepping in as quickly as you could and for being gracious when I had lost the patience to be.

  • Stephen A.

    I wonder why zealously anti-religious liberals get away with non-apology apologies (essentially, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended”) while anyone who says something offensive on the Right about ANY group is slammed with shouted, hateful abuse for weeks on end, even if they do relent and apologize (usually followed by ‘rehab’ these days.)
    This invariably includes calls for an end to the career of the unfortunate rightwinger, especially if offense was taken by a minority. Remember the poor old white guy who used the old-fashionedy word “niggling” – in context, even? Dead career.

    Why should these snarky, hateful, bigoted liberal gals get more of a “pass” than that guy did? They actually MEANT to express hatred for others, after all.

  • Str1977

    I am amazed (though maybe I shouldn’t be) by some of the comemnts here:

    *People defending those blogger’s “first ammendment” right to speak their mind. No one challenged that. But when they speak their mind they must be the consequence of people (they clearly did intend to offend) not liking them.

    *People praising Edwards for sticking by his staff. No one has criticized him for this. He is criticized for sticking by these particular two, even though he wants us to believe that he doesn’t share or condone their outbursts. Well, by sticking by them, he does condone them.

    *People shouting that “the other side” does it as well. Well, who cares. Two wrongs don’t make it right. Of course, political opponents of Edwards now use this as a weapon. But they only use what’s there.

    *People bringing up “right wing hate mongers”. The question is however, which candidate did employ them? And how did the media react (supposing it happened)?

    *People talking about stuff they clearly have scant knowledge of. The Peace of Westphalia (in 1648 BTW), though often quoted, did not start a new system of international law but merely marked a large step in a development. It did not originate in any way the “just war theory” (which goes back to the Romans an people like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas). Also, there is nothing in the so-called system of Westphalia – the system in place until the United Nations – by which you could condemn the war against Iraq. A sovereign country declared war on another sovereign country. Nothing wrong about that … according to that system of international law.

  • evagrius

    I thought people weren’t supposed to talk about politics or the war on this blog.

  • lowly grunt

    Edwards has kept the two bloggers to placate the blogosphere.

    In a few weeks or months, they will quietly be dropped from his staff.

    Will you all notice?

  • Dale

    This made me snicker, especially after Edwards’ choice of employees:



    WASHINGTON — Republican Mitt Romney’s choice of a museum honoring auto pioneer Henry Ford as the site of his presidential announcement was strongly criticized today by Jewish Democrats, who noted Ford’s history of anti-Semitism.

    The former Massachusetts governor, who is scheduled to formally launch his presidential candidacy from The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn on Tuesday, was taken to task by The National Jewish Democratic Council.

    The council “is deeply troubled by Governor Romney’s choice of locations to announce his Presidential campaign,” executive director Ira Forman said in a statement.

    “Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life,” Forman said. “Yet he chooses to kick (off) his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe.”

    As if the Henry Ford is a mecca for Anti-Semites. I wonder if the NJDC object to the Jewish schoolchildren who visit the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village on a daily basis? Meanwhile, the NJDC remained silent about Marcotte’s egregious bigotry.

    Talk about swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat.

  • lowly grunt

    That was quicker than I thought….

    Crooks and Liars

  • Dale

    That was quicker than I thought. . ..

    And I noticed.

  • Str1977

    And in her “resignation speech”

    (http://www.thenewsblog.net/2007/02/resignation.html) she is keeping true to herself.

    However, I do not think this changes anything (just as a quite dropping of her wouldn’t have). It is Mr Edward’s implicit endorsement that mattered.


    you are spot on regarding Henry Ford, especially since that man is notable not only for his bigotry but also for something else. I still don’t like Mr Ford but one can understand why Mr Romney went there. But what else was Ms Marcotte known for than for her bigotry?


    I am sorry but I had overread the relevant post. In any case, I was only trying to right some wrongs.

  • Str1977

    Have I said “I do not think this changes anything …”?

    I think I am wrong if it is true what “The Raving Atheist” writes, that the Edwards Campaign faked the Ms Marcotte’s pseudo-apology ()

    But maybe that’s just a bit of raving.