A look at John McCain's blogger-consultant



Glenn Greenwald
February 8, 2007 1:05AM (UTC)

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. That is the premise of these two articles -- one from The New York Times and another from the Associated Press' Nedra Pickler -- which picks up the latest idiocy from the right-wing blogosphere by claiming (in the case of the Times):

Two bloggers hired by John Edwards to reach out to liberals in the online world have landed his presidential campaign in hot water for doing what bloggers do — expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language.

But when the Times claims that the Edwards campaign is "in hot water," what they mean is that there are complaints from right-wing bloggers and people like the right-wing Catholic League's Bill Donohue, who is an excellent arbiter of bigotry and impropriety as the author of such enlightened views as: "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it."

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So Donohue and people like Michelle Malkin have dug through the archives of the two Edwards bloggers -- Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan -- and found bad words and posts that they claim are offensive. I do not know of many bloggers, or citizens generally, who do not have some views that would be offensive to large groups of people and who periodically express those views in less than demure ways, but if that is going to be the standard, we ought to apply it universally to all bloggers who are affiliated with political campaigns.

Let's begin with Patrick Hynes, the paid consultant for John McCain's presidential campaign. Hynes continuously blogged about political matters, including ones involving McCain and the GOP field, while concealing that he was on McCain's paid staff. That was not the first time Hynes has been caught using deceitful tricks to manipulate the blogosphere into writing content on behalf of his undisclosed clients.

Immediately after the 2006 midterm elections, Hynes posted a photograph of Henry Waxman and said: "But a dude with a mug like this guy has really needs a nickname. Something that'll stick. Nothing too clever comes to mind right away. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the 'Comments' thread."

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Hynes entered his own Waxman contest by adding an "update" to his post -- a You Tube clip from Seinfeld in which the word "Pig Man" is mentioned five times in roughly 10 seconds. Most of the other entries for Waxman's nickname on Hynes' blog centered around what Hynes' readers apparently think is Waxman's big nose, though some were just more commonplace profanity. Here were the first four entries: "Nosferatu!" "NOSEGAY." "The Nose Knows." "Henry b

After the first set of vulgar and insulting comments, a commenter objected that Hynes' behavior was "juvenile" and, in response, Hynes egged on his readers more: "C'mon. You guys have given us six years of “smirking chimp.' Let us have a little fun." That's a great contest McCain's consultant is running. Does McCain countenance his consultant's calling Henry Waxman "pig man" and encouraging his readers to mock the size of Waxman's big nose (a standard, highly offensive stereotype) and to spray vulgarities at Waxman?

Hynes' public writing is devoted to pure religious divisiveness -- he focuses almost exclusively on the claim that Christianity is superior and that those who attend church live better lives, and specifically to the belief that the Republican Party is the true party of those who believe in God and that Democrats are "anti-Christian." He wrote a book entitled In Defense of the Religious Right, and in an interview about that book in July, 2006, this is what he said:

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Miner: Is it fair to call America a “Christian nation”?

Hynes: Yes. America is a Christian nation. As I write in my book, “Is America a Christian nation? Of course it is. Don't be ridiculous. What a stupid question.

Does McCain agree with that view, or think it is acceptable to label as "stupid" objections to the notion that "America is a Christian nation." Is that not as divisive and offensive, at least, as anything Marcotte wrote?

And then there is the controversy which Hynes tried to create several months ago by continuously disseminating anti-Mormon stories in order to damage Mitt Romney's standing among evangelical Christians, with claims like this:

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But many evangelical Christians are not. There is growing concern among high-level evangelical leaders that the Romney campaign may have duped them after it was revealed by the Globe that Romney's team has constructed a Mormon political machine in secret after repeatedly stating in private to them that Romney would not run with the Mormon Church's backing.

The controversy over the Romney camp's use of church resources to support his political ambitions has the potential to widen the rift between Romney and the important evangelical bloc of votes he says he is pursuing.

Dr. James Dobson, one of the most recognizable faces on the evangelical scene has stated earlier in the month, “I don't believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess.

And two weeks ago Ted Haggard, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals called Romney's religion a cult.

“We evangelicals view Mormons as a Christian cult group. A cult group is a group that claims exclusive revelation. And typically, it's hard to get out of these cult groups. And so Mormonism qualifies as that, Haggard told the LA Times.

Does McCain approve of his consultant's attempt to use Romney's Mormonism to scare off Christian evangelicals from supporting Romney and to promote bigoted anti-Mormon accusations that Mormonism is a "cult"? Why would John McCain want someone on his campaign staff who traffics in such ugly, divisive, sectarian-based rhetoric?

These are things that one finds within 60 minutes or so of searching Hynes' blog. The blog he previously maintained throughout the 2004 election, Crush Kerry, is no longer online. Its archives undoubtedly contain ample content which would generate many more questions for McCain. The ones here are a good start.

UPDATE: I want to add one point here specifically about the Marcotte/McEwan comments. Catholicism is a set of beliefs that finds expression in both religious practices and political disputes. Catholic doctrine and Catholic religious figures are not confined to the purely religious/private realm, but instead are frequently used by their proponents as the basis for all sorts of political claims, arguments, condemnations, etc. Some Catholics even urged Catholics in the 2004 election to vote against John Kerry on the ground that his views violated Catholic doctrine. It is some Catholics themselves -- like evangelical Christians and religious Jews and others -- who have transformed their set of religious beliefs into politcal beliefs, even political weapons.

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There is nothing per se wrong with doing that, but under those circumstances, there is also no justification for the notion that those beliefs should then be immune from the same type of criticisms, and even mockery, which is deemed acceptable when applied to any other set of political beliefs. I suppose that in an ideal world it would be nice if we all engaged in political discussions using only the most polite and respectful tone. But every set of political beliefs is subjected to the most intense insult and mockery, and those who insinuate their religious beliefs into the political arena have no right thereafter to demand that those beliefs be accorded some sort of special status.

UPDATE II: Barbara O'Brein asks:

It's clear that as soon as the Edwards campaign announced the hiring of Amanda and Melissa, elements of the Right began combing through their old posts for anything they could turn into a scandal. Nobody on the Left appears to have done the same to Hynes, [RNC blogger Patrick] Ruffini, or [RSCC Jon] Henke. Anyone who has been blogging very long at all is bound to have written a few things that come across badly or turned out to be wrong. Yet we don't bother to do to them what they do to us. Why is that?

Each of those bloggers, as well as any bloggers hired by campaigns in the future, should have (and I assume will have) their archives scoured to make certain that there are no controversial statements or positions.

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As James Joyner points out: "Bloggers have a 'paper' trail. The longer someone has been blogging, the more of their sometimes-developed thoughts are out there for public consumption. Not only have they likely written things uncomplimentary to their now-boss, but they have almost certainly written things that could embarrass him."

One does not need to agree with the Marcotte or McEwan's comments in order to realize the absurdity here, but if this is going to be the standard that is applied, I don't think there are many bloggers, if there are any, who will be able to be affiliated with political campaigns in the future. Whatever is the case, the standards should be applied equally, not driven by the hysterical lynch-mob behavior that is the fuel of the right-wing blogosphere.

UPDATE III: Terry Moran of ABC News predictably chimes in on this topic -- echoing the sentiments of his brother, right-wing blogger Rick Moran of "Right Wing NutHouse" ("My brother Terry (who has a new blog that you should bookmark immediately) gets it exactly right") and Michelle Malkin (amazing how often the Liberal MSM does that) -- with an article entitled Does John Edwards Condone Hate Speech? Moran bascially recites all of the lines coming from his brother and the other right-wing bloggers on this subject.

That's an excellent display of recitation skills, Terry. Why not engage in the actual function of a journalist -- research and investigation -- and find your own original material by looking at the writings of some other bloggers, such as Patrick Ruffini, Jon Henke, and Hynes? Moran asks: "If a Republican candidate teamed up with a right-wing blogger who spewed this kind of venom, how would people react?" That is a good question. Moran should go find out.

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UPDATE IV: Although there has been no official announcement yet from the Edwards campaign, Alex Koppelman and Rebecca Traister in the War Room at Salon (coincidentally enough) are reporting that the Edwards campaigned has fired Marcotte and McEwan. [This is a report which the Edwards campaign is, apparently, denying. They are claiming that they have made no decision yet].

UPDATE V: Media Matters documents some additional comments authored by Patrick Hynes which merit some questions to McCain from Terry Moran and Nedra Pickler and The New York Times and all of the other intrepid reporters covering this epic Amanda Marcotte/Melissa McEwan "scandal."


Glenn Greenwald

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