On Edwina Rogers, the new Republican head of Secular Coalition for America

So you may have heard the Secular Coalition for America’s new executive director Edwina Rogers. I initially wasn’t sure I was going to blog about this, because the interview she gave with Greta Christina (transcript here) was so incoherent that I wasn’t sure what to say about it, except what I said in a tweet a couple days ago, that you need to be able to express yourself clearer than that to be qualified to head the SCA.

Then I saw Greta’s other interview, with Roy Speckhardt (transcript), one of the SCA board members who made the decision to hire Rogers. For background: Rogers has repeatedly claimed that the Republican Party as a whole isn’t anti-secular, anti-gay, anti-abortion. Here explanation of how she can possibly say this is what I found incoherent. Now here’s Speckhardt:

I don’t mean to be – I don’t mean to be in your face about that, but I could say that, that you’re unaware that there are Republicans out there who take a different view than the monolithic one.

Nope, sorry, you fail. Greta was very clear that she’s talking about the overall position of the GOP, not that there are no Republicans who break with their party on those issues. Then Rogers says:

Again, unfortunately, I don’t take your characterization as accurate that she was being evasive. I listened to her interview, and actually, the first thing I thought of was, “Gosh, you know, I’ve done a lot of media interviews, and if you do media interviews, you learn how to get your talking points across and not worry, necessarily, all the time about the questions being asked. If you want to get your own message across, this is a technique that you’ve got to learn, to get out there and put across your viewpoint. And I felt like she was being very careful and even reiterating over and over and over again, if necessary, to address the questions that you kept asking and re-asking her. And, so I don’t, I don’t think she was being evasive at all, In fact, I think, in some ways, she could have gone on to more talking points, not sticking to the questions that were being asked as much.

Greta immediately points out the contradiction here. I’d ad that the “stay on message” approach makes sense if your goal in the interview is actually to deliver a message. It isn’t defensible when the point of the interview is to reassure the people you’re supposed to be serving about specific doubts they have. In the second case, you actually have to address those doubts.

There’s something else that needs to be said here. A lot of the bad shit the government does right now is, distressingly, a matter of bipartisan consensus. But there’s a whole cluster of issues where it’s clear that the Republican party has made itself beholden to the bigots and crazies, and the Democrats haven’t. And these are not abstract matters of disagreement. When the Republicans make homophobia central to their political strategy, there are actual people who get hurt by that, and supporting an organization that does that isn’t something we can let slide.

Greta has a very good round up of other reactions to Rogers.

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    I was not nearly as down on the Speckhardt interview as others have been. Although the first quote from him that you have here is a pretty egregious strawman, I thought for the most part he did okay with the mess he had to work with. As far as the second quote, I don’t think Speckhardt contradicted himself, I think he just stumbled over some words and it didn’t come across clearly (though I seem to be virtually alone in this opinion…)

    Still, the Rogers interview was a complete disaster. If you’ll allow a teensy bit of blog-pimping, I composed a little allegory about it this morning. At this point, I’m not sure it even really matters if Rogers is qualified, if she brings good opportunities to the table, etc. She and the SCA were facing an uphill battle to begin with, and she completely blew it by doing the one thing that pisses off skeptics more than anything else.

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  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

    I’d add that the “stay on message” approach makes sense if your goal in the interview is actually to deliver a message. It isn’t defensible when the point of the interview is to reassure the people you’re supposed to be serving about specific doubts they have.

    Especially when the people in question place a high value on attention to dissenting opinions, and thus tend to think “staying on message” is a good deal too close to being dogmatic.

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