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Edwards Decision To Keep Bloggers May Risk Catholic Vote

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WASHINGTON - Inside the Edwards campaign, there was what politicians
like to refer to as a healthy debate over whether or not to fire two
bloggers who had written about Catholics in ways that the candidate said
"personally offended me."

One of the bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, wrote on the blog Pandagon on Dec.
26, "The Catholic Church is not about to let something like compassion
for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force
women to bear more tithing Catholics."

In the end, Edwards decided to keep Marcotte and Melissa McKwen on
staff. But "it was a tough decision," a campaign adviser said in an
interview today, "and there was a lot of back and forth. It was
certainly tough balancing what they've said in their private lives with
how we want the campaign to be represented."

It wasn't that it was so hard standing up to the demands for their
firing from Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious
and Civil Rights, whose main constituency seems to be TV bookers.

But there was a balancing act the Edwards aide did not want to discuss --
the choice between the passionate primary-season kingmakers in the
blogosphere and the moderate religious voters any Democratic nominee
will need to win a general election -- and the campaign chose the former.

So, there will be other purity tests for the candidate to fail in the
blogosphere. But did Edwards just lose the Catholic vote? The aide
sighed. "I think people will see the statements and know where John is
coming from; people know those aren't John's views."

Comments in the blogosphere today overwhelmingly cast the issue as a
no-brainer: Are you with us or against us? For many, it was a simple
matter of whether Edwards would stand up -- for progressives, under
pressure, and to the opposition.

Yet as the blogosphere gains clout, it will increasingly be held to the
same standard as other political players, whose impolitic comments
generally do result in termination.

And even among Catholic liberals, Marcotte's comments were widely seen
as hurtful.

At Commonwealmagazine.org, the online version of the liberal opinion
magazine, Eduardo Penalver posted a piece that calls Donohue "an
embarrassment who obviously doesn't hold himself to the same standards
he holds for others."

Yet he goes on to say that, "As much as it pains me to say it, I think
Donohue may have a point in this case...Marcotte's post goes beyond simply
criticizing the Church's positions on contraception, etc. on the merits,
and attacks the institution as a whole in ways that resonate with
traditionally anti-Catholic rhetoric from the bad old days."

Edwards issued a statement today saying: "I've talked to Amanda and
Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to
malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word.''

After reading that, Penalver added to his piece: "The comments on
Marcotte's blog were clearly intended to offend...I think the vast
majority of Catholic voters see that."

"For Edwards to take these two women at their words -- that they did not
intend to offend -- is pretty much to tell those who are offended that
there is something wrong with them."

Those who wrote in to comment overwhelmingly agreed. As one of them put
it, "I have no time for Donohue...But, I have to say, Marcotte's comments
were viciously anti-Catholic. The fact that many on the left failed to
realize that explains very clearly why the GOP (a party that violates
Catholic social theory over 90 percent of the time) seems to attract
legions of Catholics."

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