Roughly a year ago at this time, I wrote the following:
My first reaction to the news that Gary Hart has a blog was "Wow! It's so cool that a possible Presidential candidate can reach voters this way!"
My second reaction was that my first reaction was at least slightly nuts. For all of the boosting that folks like Jeralyn Merritt have given to a Hart 2004 candidacy, I think the fact that he's started blogging is a sure sign he won't run.
Why do I think this? Simple. It's not just that every word that he and his staffers write will be scrutinized by opponents for gotcha material, it's that everything he links to will also be tied to him. I guarantee that at some point someone will read a juicy quote from Hesiod or Atrios or someone like that to Candidate Hart and then ask him in a stern and moralistic tone if he "supports" such a thing, since after all his very own web page links to it. Heck, it wouldn't surprise me if they follow a link from one of those pages and try to tie that to Hart. There are enough dumbass blog-ignorant reporters, anchorpeople, and telepundits out there who wouldn't know or care enough to make any distinctions about that. You can't control anything that goes on outside your own blog's borders, and I think that's too big a liability for a serious candidate for national office. The potential for distraction and Wurlitzer-made scandal is too great. And, not to put too fine a point on it, Gary Hart will have enough of this sort of problem if he runs. He doesn't need to add to it.
On another level, sadly, this was dead on. We all know by now about what Kos said, and we all saw the feeding frenzy that followed. John Kerry's blog delinked Kos, several candidates who had BlogAds on his site pulled out, and there was even more bloviation than usual from such pristine guardians of the public morals as Charles Johnson and James Taranto. It would all be funny if it weren't so dreadfully tedious.
I'm not here to defend what Kos said. He's a big boy, and he can take care of himself. I've read his followup, and I accept his explanation. You are free to not accept it, or to think what you will of me for taking his explanation and moving on to other things. This is far from the first time that all of political blogging has gotten caught up in the game of Repudiate This, where one is deemed a prime example of moral rot if one does not condemn/delink/spit on/whatever a fellow partisan who's said or done something wrong. I've engaged in this pointless sport too many times already, and I refuse to do it any more. Every damn day more people than you and I can keep track of say things that are ugly, offensive, indefensible, racist, ignorant, genocidal, or worse - including, I might note, some people who do that sort of thing for a living. We can play this game all day every day, or we can accept the fact that some people really are ugly, offensive, ignorant racists, and some others, like Kos, are good people who've done a stupid thing. I trust that you are as capable as I of making these distinctions as needed for yourselves.
Matt Stoller's writeup on the incident is well worth reading, and it's spawned a tangential thought that I'll address in a subsequent post. I'm sorry to see (though obviously I totally understand) that Atrios feels the need to remove some of his fundraising links and to ask the Kerry campaign to delink him - Digby sums that up pretty well. I do think that by the next Presidential election, the mainstream will have moved to a place where people understand that linking to something is not the same as endorsing all or even most of it, since otherwise we could all accuse each other of being communists. For now, though, we're stuck with what we've got.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 05, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack