We all know the scene from the end of Reservoir Dogs. The main chararcters are holed up in a dingy warehouse, half-dead with guns pointed at each other. Each man is set to do fatal violence to the other and as the scene develops you know that it's likely that none of the three will get out alive.
Yesterday we awoke to find ourselves in the midst of a three-way standoff between the netroots, the Edwards campaign, and rightwing partisans. In our standoff, each partisan had a metaphorical gun pointed at each of the other parties. The rightwing, led by Bill Donohue and Michelle Malkin, demanded that Edwards fire bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan because of posts they'd authored before joining the campaign. Their push was intended to sever the relationship between the liberal netroots and Democrats in electoral politics - to neuter the netroots from having influence on the policies and messages held by Democratic contenders for president, not to mention all lower offices. Victory for them would in many respects mean not just the termination of Marcotte and McEwan's jobs, but the relationship between bloggers and the Democratic Party.
The Edwards campaign raised their gun to the netroots by admitting that they were considering appeasing the Right, as published in a New York Times article.
The netroots responded resolutely by taking up arms against the rightwing partisans who were leading the attack on the Edwards campaign and letting Edwards know that a misstep here could fatally damage his relationship with the liberal blogosphere.
And so the vicious standoff was set, carrying into the night. Then Edwards lowered his gun, previously pointed at the netroots via Marcotte and McEwan, and has stood by his bloggers. Now the tables have turned.
The netroots must continue to push back on the rightwing partisans who launched this attack on the netroots and the Edwards campaign. We must continue to point out that top staffers at the top levels of Republican presidential campaigns have ties to ongoing criminal investigations and past criminal malfeasance. We have to make sure the world knows about the ethical hardships some Republican presidential blog staffers have gone through in the past. We have to remind the media that they were played by Donohue, a hate-monger with no credibility to speak of (and potential lawbreaker himself).
But it isn't just the netroots in this fight anymore. John Edwards and all other presidential candidates must take up arms and push hard against the dirty tactics of the Right and the partisan hacks who perpetrate them.
Edwards needs to get on TV and decry those who made his staff decisions an issue. He needs to stand by Marcotte, McEwan and the netroots in a visible way. He needs to demand answers from the journalists who ran unconfirmed and unsourced stories that gave steam to this disastrous standoff. Most importantly, Edwards needs to make clear that he stands with the netroots and with his campaign staff 100% - a fact that will not change, as much as the Right wants it to.
Edwards has the opportunity to use his bully pulpit to wage real warfare against the type of smear attack perpetrated over the last few days. If he does so, he will succeed at confirming every objection liberal bloggers have raised against shoddy media coverage and inaccurate reporting about blogs. He will give the netroots cover to push even harder against rightwing blogs and the Republican staffers with truly ignominious ties. He will create an atmosphere that makes it likely that a rightwing attack like this on the liberal blogosphere and on Democratic presidential campaigns can never succeed.
The three-way standoff has been broken. The netroots have won. It's time for the blogs and Edwards to converge on the Right and put their attacks to rest for good.
Follow Matt Browner Hamlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mattkbh