This dairy is far from a callout of Richard Cranium, who has presented a strong piece in support of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan entitled We are all Melissa and Amanda. I don't believe in beating a dead horse, and have considered and rejected the idea of posting a diary on this subject a couple times since the story broke. But I've got PLENTY to say, almost none of it in agreement with Cranium's assessment... So please watch your step as you cross the fold...
First of all, when you've been blogging, you've got a record, visible to anyone who cares to look, sitting right out there on the internet; if you're going to take on a paid gig for a high-profile candidate, you better be prepared to stand strongly behind everything you've written, or you better be prepared to issue strong, unequivocal apologies for stuff that you wrote on a day when you weren't at your best. If you apologize, you put your campaign job in the hands of your candidate... if he/she ask you to step down, you do so without question; if they ask you to stay, you thank them for their support, you dig your heels in, you brace yourself for a bumpy ride, and you tough it out.
Okay, so let's say it's me... let's say that Bill Richardson hires me on to work on his campaign. Then, just days after I'm hired, some limelight-seeking character assassin scours my comments and comes up with this comment I made shortly after joining, where I applied a sexist label to a Republican Congresswoman:
The only person with a shorter career? (10+ / 0-)
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who I saw sworn into the House today on CSPAN... she started gushing about how she was so anxious to get to know people, get down to work, get a lot accomplished... so I was thinking, "this can't possibly be the same b*tch that lost Delay's old seat, can it?" One and the same. To hear her talk you'd think she'd won a lifetime appointment instead of 2 weeks in the lame duck session of the worst congress ever and a one way ticket back to Texas...
by skymutt on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 02:58:46 AM EDT
Suddenly this comment is all over the press and my candidate must address the issue. I have a choice: stand by the sexist comment, or apologize. I choose to apologize:
I wish to sincerely apologize to Mrs. Sekula-Gibbs and her family for my use of an ugly and sexist slur that doesn't reflect me at my best. I do not know Mrs. Sekula-Gibbs personally and I hold no ill will towards her. I hope she will accept my apology for any unwanted publicity she has received as a result of my thoughtless comment.
In addition, I wish to apologize to everyone else who has been offended by my sexist remark. I have not used this slur since and it is does not reflect me or my normal vocabulary.
I have already apologized to Governor Richardson for my unprofessional past comment. He has accepted my apology and refused my offer to resign, for which I am grateful. I intend to continue to offer Governor Richardson my best efforts in his campaign for the presidency.
Notice that my apology is unequivocal-- no half apology, no dig at the the character assassin, no mention of the character assassin at all. No forward-looking or confident statement at the end. This is strictly an apology-- nothing more, nothing less.
Of course, this is not the end of the matter, far from it! The right wing character assassination machine is smelling blood-- apologies mean nothing to them. Worse, the really nutty (perhaps dangerous) fringe right wing wackos are in a frenzy. I'm getting hate mail, hateful phone calls, people are picketing the office where I work... a real mess. Do I quit?
NO. I owe it to my candidate to work through the situation to the best of my ability. My candidate has shown a great deal of support for me by accepting my apology. Whatever hit he's going to take for keeping me on staff, he's already accepted by not immediately firing me. I therefore have to trust his judgment in the matter and try to make things right by showing my character in a tough moment.
The phone calls don't stop. I get a death threat. Do I quit?
NO. What I am going to do is to call the police and let them handle it. Hopefully, they can track the idiots down and I would be more than willing to press charges; maybe a little prison time will give them a chance to think things over. Death threats are serious stuff, and I'd probably be extremely upset, and more than a little scared. But I need to do what I can to make sure that those cowards who are issuing death threats don't win-- and if I quit, they win. They'll be right there to issue death threats to the next person.
Remember, we are talking about electing a President here... could the stakes be much higher? We have a war going on, and a whole host of other critical issues facing us. Your candidate is going to be putting out all kinds of fires for two years-- if your candidate can't handle a controversy like this, maybe he/she is not the right person for the job. Stuff like this represent OPPORTUNITIES for the candidate to DEFINE THEIR CHARACTER UNDER FIRE. A particularly strong defense of a staffer who has delivered an unequivocal apology may earn your candidate votes, not lose them. By resigning after he/she has already accepted your apology, you may just as well be depriving your candidate of an opportunity. At any rate, it's their campaign, LET THEM DECIDE.
How do you beat a bully? You stand up to the bully. But you stand up to the bully on your grounds-- not by standing by an indefensible statement, not by returning fire by engaging the character assassin in public mud-flinging, but by standing strong in your position. You will have plenty of surrogates (in places like DailyKos, for instance!) who will be more than willing to point out what hypocrites the character assassins are.
So let me review where Melissa and/or Amanda went wrong:
- The unnecessary name-calling in their posting was a mistake to begin with. I did believe that they merited apology, rather than explanation. I think that the use of terms like Christofascist by McEwan was a particular mistake. By using this type of name-calling and labeling, you end up offending a larger group than the intended target. Let the right wing use "clever" labels like Islamofascist. These are nothing but the freshly minted slurs of a bigot. There are plenty of ways of pointing out the hypocrisy of people or groups without offending anyone but the intended target. Be smart and targeted when on the attack.
- I agreed with Edwards' decision that the blog posts merited apologies but not firing. But the apologies were not strong apologies. For instance, Amanda's "I'm sorry if anyone was personally offended" was the classic half-apology. Either apologize, or stand behind what you wrote. A half-apology neither defends your statements, nor does it diffuse the attack of your opponents. A strong apology puts the ball back into your opponent's court. It's tough for your opponents to look fair if they continue to pile on after you've issued a strong apology. Usually in the case of a relatively minor offense like these bloggers committed, the issue will turn to the record of the attacker after a period of time, and that doesn't serve the purposes of the limelight-seeking character assassins.
- As I have already said, if the candidate stands behind you, you owe it to them to tough it out. You are doing them no service by resigning AFTER they have already taken the responsibility for your statements by keeping you on. (I take both of the bloggers at their word that they were not pushed out by Edwards.)
One more note to you, my fellow bloggers: WE can be friends, WE can support each other by reading each others' work and commenting, WE can be a community that supports many common causes and candidates; but as far as I'm concerned, there is no "WE" in terms of me having to back you up on the particular things you write, and that goes double if you take a paying job for a campaign. The only statements I will promise to stand behind are mine. So if, for example, you choose to use terms like Christofascist to describe the religious right, that's on you.