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The Problem With Harnessing The Blogs

(AP)
The Catholic League is demanding that John Edwards fire a pair of liberal bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, who recently signed up with the Edwards campaign.

The bloggers' crime? They're "anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots," according to Catholic League President Bill Donohue. ABC's Terry Moran has a roundup of some of the pair's comments, which they made before they joined Edwards. Among them was this, from Marcotte, on the Catholic Church's position on birth control:

Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit? A: You'd have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.
Media Matters notes that Donahue has his own history of incendiary speech, including this: "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions."

Great stuff on both sides, really.

The Edwards campaign is now "weighing the fate" of the bloggers, according to the Times. The story has kicked up a firestorm in the blogosphere: "Apparently, there is a new standard that any blogger who has made controversial or profane remarks in the past is unsuitable to work for a political campaign," writes Glenn Greenwald. On the other side of the political spectrum is Dean Barnett, who writes: "I can't believe that Marcotte had become so comfortable in the left wing echo chamber that she actually believed her past didn't preclude her from publicly entering a mainstream presidential campaign…[and] I really can't believe that the Edwards campaign apparently didn't vet a high profile hire." Memeorandum has more.

I think we're going to see more and more stories like this as the campaign continues. Candidates who saw Howard Dean harness the power of the Internet in 2004 know they need to reach out to the blogosphere. But the bloggers who get the most attention are often the most incendiary and partisan. If a campaign wants someone who is truly plugged in, it risks seeing that blogger's past words used against the candidate.

The campaigns should know all this by now, of course. As the Times dryly points out, the bloggers have stirred up trouble by "doing what bloggers do — expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language." And this type of conundrum predates blogs – campaigns have long had to decide to what degree they want to embrace those more controversial figures in their base. The Internet hasn't made their balancing act any easier.

UPDATE, 9:30 AM: According to Salon.com, Marcotte and McEwan have been fired.

UPDATE, 2:00 PM: But according to the AP, they haven't!