There are days when folks on the left-wing political blogs really distinguish themselves with their analysis and willingness to dig into a story. Then there are days like today...
Today, John Edwards was quoted as saying this, in answer to a question about Hillary Clinton's teary reaction to a question earlier in the day:
“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.”
Rivals Reacts to Teary Clinton
So, my first question is, what question was he actually answering when he said that? You won't find it in that article. You'll find the reporters' opinion that he wasn't sympathetic. Did they ask him something like "Are Presidential campaigns too tough?", or "should you guys be taking it easy on Senator Clinton, because she's clearly upset?". Asked either question, I'd have responded exactly as Edwards did. That's because I know she's tough enough to be in this campaign. If I know that, so does Edwards.
There's no audio or video record, of course, so we don't even know for sure he was quoted accurately. Late note: There may be a video. It was ABC, after all. I'm trying to track that down. Later note: No luck so far. I'm sure if there is one someone will provide a link.
And yet, there are no lack of people willing to go off the deep end, without giving any thought to these questions. Here's one:
John Edwards is acting like a prick.
Clinton's Sincerity Moment
Edwards showed no class at all. Trippi is starting to rub off on him.
Clinton & Matthews Meet in New Hampshire
And, my personal favorite, at least so far:
There is no hope for John Edwards, of course. His cruel, stony reaction to the news that Senator Clinton got a little emotional during a New Hampshire diner visit was a window on the man's soul, a window into an empty room.
The Sexist Media Lynching of Hillary Clinton
Not one of these articles offered any corroboration. Watson writes like he was there, instead of reading about it second-hand. Here, let me give that a try:
Watson wrote furiously as the anger and hatred he felt towards Edwards reached a boiling point.
OK, a little overwrought, but you get the idea. There are no end of people who are willing to assume they know exactly what's going on in someone's mind because they just have such good skills at reading people. I try very hard not to be one of them. Maybe that makes me a little too skeptical at times, but I prefer it that way. For instance, I don't know if this quote from later in that ABC article was what Edwards really felt or not, but he was quoted as saying this, also:
Later, at another campaign stop, Edwards appeared to adopt his wife's more sympathetic tone.
"These campaigns are very grueling," he said, "they're tough and difficult affairs, running for president is a tough process."
Rivals Reacts to Teary Clinton
No doubt, as I'm sure that someone will be explaining to me soon, this was only after Elizabeth explained (stonily) to John that there'd be no joy in Edwardsville tonight if this rampant sexism went uncorrected. I will also be told that I should, of course, realize this is the case because Edwards is always such a prick when he's around Joe Trippi.
Todd Gitlin, who all these people quoted, was the only one in this article chain that has written anything reasonable about it:
Whereupon, if an ABC blog is to be believed, John Edwards shot himself in a nether region this way:
The emphasis is mine, of course. Oh yeah, Gitlin admits, we really only have an ABC reporter's word for it.
I'm reacting strongly to this because, first of all, the people who wrote these articles are all smart enough to know better. Second, it was only yesterday that I attended a caucus preparation meeting for Edwards. During that session, someone asked if it would be alright to point out some of one of the other candidates' foibles (I won't mention which ones for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's just irrelevant). The session leader's response was that they had strict instructions from the campaign to not be negative while representing the campaign. Of course, I offer no proof of this, either, but since the word of one person seems to count for so much here, I'll just counter it with my own. Clearly, actual proof isn't required.
Finally, I'm reacting to it because for so much of this campaign, it's been pretty obvious that the press isn't going to cover Edwards talking about anything serious. It's about haircuts, how gay he looks, and what he said to a question we never even heard. Then people who ought to know better write bullshit articles like this, or about Edwards' "subtle racism". As if you couldn't paint just about anyone as being a "subtle" racist. After all, if it wasn't subtle, we'd all be able to see it right? But since it's cleverly hidden, only the truly wise can see through the facade. Now, you can see it, can't you?
It's a wonderful excuse for character assassination. It's a lousy excuse for journalism, citizen or otherwise.
For me, that was one of those Michael Garabaldi moments, where I tell you "Ask me why there's no god".
Edwards has certainly made mistakes. As Taylor Marsh alleges, Joe Trippi may be one of them. I think Mudcat Saunders is another one. He came to his epiphany on Iraq at least three months too late. But this isn't one of them, as far as I can see. Until someone offers something besides their own prejudices as proof, I'm not going to, either.
Oh, by the way, it's OK by me if Hillary Clinton gets a little teary-eyed once in a while. She'll be picking herself up again in no time. She probably has already. She's tough enough to win this thing, and anyone who doesn't think so is more of a moron than these people seem to think John Edwards is.
UPDATE: Jane Hamsher takes a swipe as well, with no more proof or insight offered.
UPDATE 2 (Jan. 8): While I made this request in an offhanded way in the text of the article, I'll do it explicitly here: If you have a link to a video of this interview, please pass it on. You can do that either in the comments or via e-mail.
UPDATE 3 (Jan. 9): Apparently sinister forces are at work trying to suppress my message. ;-) The original picture disappeared, so I replaced it. I like this one better. It really captures the lameness of this episode, I think.
I also slightly altered a sentence in the paragraph that begins "I'm reacting strongly to this because" to clarify who I meant by "these people". It now says "the people who wrote these articles".
I'll also mention that I've e-mailed Firedoglake and Taylor Marsh for a response, and have received none. I gave up trying to find Watson and Stoller's e-mail addresses. In any case, there's been no meaningful response, other than Taylor Marsh claiming to have received some e-mails that she can't talk about. So that appears to be it - shoot blindly, then move on. Eventually, most folks will forget about it.
I've lost a lot of respect for these people, and will be more skeptical of any claims they make in the future. This is the way the right wing does character assassination. I don't trust whisper nets, whether they travel via e-mail or other media, because no one who's skeptical can review the information. They won't be in the net to begin with. I'm seldom on whisper nets for long, because my response is usually along the lines of "Where did you hear this shit?" or "This is nonsense, because ...". I'm no fun, apparently. Anyone who starts trusting them is, in my opinion, in need of some fresh air.
UPDATE 4: I forgot to mention that Amanda Marcotte, who worked briefly for the Edwards campaign, has also joined the hit parade. She, also, offered no explanation beyond the ABC article.