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I'm a fellow Kossack and I've had the odd experience of having my first non-comedy pundit piece on The Huffington Post - Say It Ain't So, John: Why Progrsssives Need To Get In Front Of The john Edwards Affair Rumors - become the most popular blog post on HuffPo in the last couple of days while simultaneously become vilified harshly (and sometimes violently) among the people here.

So, a few quick notes for the Kos community to consider...but if you want to get up to speed on the all accusations and see the supporting materials, the best place I've seen everything laid out so far is on the gossipy blog Deceiver. I wish it were Talking Points Memo or Raw Story but nope; Deceiver is all over it. The writing is snarky but the links and information are all there so when you're done here, go click and read. There's also a good summary by the editor of Wonkette published today.

Now a few random notes...

This Scandal Shows No Sign of Going Away, People Are Interested And Edwards Isn't Doing Anything To Shut It Down
Over 150,000 views of my piece on Huffington Post and right now close to 800 comments. The comments are HuffPo were certainly a lot more civil than the comments here, too. That doesn't mean they agreed; just nobody accusing me of posing as a fake liberal or suggesting that I should die.

I brought this story up because I want it go away. Here's my nightmare scenario -- a long, drawn out scandal that runs from now until right around election day that creates a diversion from a discussion of important issues and slowly siphons off independent or uncommitted voters who become disgusted with the whole process.

Democrats in denial are making it come true. Of course, they accuse me of making it come true by talking about it. I wish it were that simple and I wish my fellow liberals who attacked me realize they are playing in the stereotype of a closed minded, naive yet vicious ideologues that conservatives have had since that scruffy guy in the Meat Is Murder shirt yelled at the them for a half hour at a college party years ago.

The National Enquirer and Fox News Can't Be Dismissed Out Of Hand
The Enquirer and Fox aren't my idea of great sources. That doesn't mean that anything they say can be dismissed just because they said it. Any claims they make need to be examined on a case by case basis.

The latest Enquirer piece is not reporting rumors or things that someone else said. It's not hearsay. It's not hiding behind a source. It's reporters saying that they saw John Edwards with their own eyes in the hotel.

The Fox News story confirming this seems like solid reporting to me.  It states facts and names names. Not all the information in the article supports the case that Edwards was there. Nothing denies it, however.

Yes, the guard is anonymous, most likely because times are tough and they don't want to lose their crappy job as a hotel security guard. Anonymous sources are used and accepted in journalism My friend Cliff Schecter reported John McCain calling his wife the c-word, based on three anonymous sources in his book The Real McCain.

I've seen people make statements like "I don't believe Edwards was there because the security guard had to be shown a picture!" and then say "I don't believe anything Fox says!" without realizing the contradiction. You can't have it both ways. That information about the security guard came from Fox News. If Fox isn't a source you can trust at all, then you can't just trust the parts that bolster your case.

As Clinton / Lewinsky Showed, Denials May Be Lies And Can Last A Long Time
I've seen a number of people say "Both Edwards and Hunter denied the affair" as though that ends the debate.

For about six months, both Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky denied that they had any kind of sexual relationship. If it hadn't been for the blue dress, Bill Clinton would still be denying it. In most cases like this, the denials usually last right up until the last second. The worst possible outcome in the Edwards case because the last second coming on November 5th.

The Fuzzy Nature Of The Story Doesn't Make It Any Better For Edwards
In fact, I'd argue that the shady nature of the charges and the proof makes the story more compelling and interesting at this point. John Edward's behavior contributes to this. In the absence of hard information, it's human nature to make stuff up to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. In the 1300 or so comments I've read about my original piece I've heard a lot of theories on every aspect of this story, from the idea the Elizabeth Edwards possibly approved an affair to the notion that Karl Rove planted a John Edwards lookalike. Forget whether the theories are right or wrong. They are interesting and fun to discuss and people will keep batting them around until a clear narrative emerges from the current fog.

The best discussion I've heard about the Edwards affair is from the Slate Gabfest and the standout concept from the discussion is the idea of 'alchemy'. What makes a news story compelling? Why does one murder case remain anonymous and another turn into a media event that lasts for months? There's no one answer but we've all seen stories that grab the press and don't let go. My broad thesis is that it's roughly equivalent to what makes compelling fiction -- some combination of mystery, sex or violence, interesting characters, archetypes, implied moral lessons and a familiarity to the view. That list isn't a recipe, though. There is no recipe because there's that ineffable thing that makes it alchemy and not chemistry.

The quickest way to wreck the alchemy is to get as many facts out in the open as quickly possible. As soon as the mysteries are solved, the theories begin to vanish and we're left with the mundane. This is what I meant by get in front of the story - if you're a Democrat, you should want this story cleared up as soon as possible and the responsibility for that lies with John Edwards.

It's Not 'Just Sex" - It's The Cover-up
In the end, this isn't about judging John Edward's kink or playing holier than thou. It's about the increasingly realistic possibility that John Edwards pursued a reckless course of action while seeking the Democratic nomination for the nation's highest office. If so, that's a serious betrayal of the voters who supported Edwards or considered voting for him and frankly of the entire Democratic Party.

Originally posted to Stranahan on Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 11:12 PM PDT.

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