June 27th, 2007

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Elizabeth Edwards v. Ann Coulter

Given John Edward's supposed status as an "also ran" candidate, it is amazing how much vituperation he has attracted from conservative sound machine. Unsurprising, given he consistently ranks as the Democrate most likely to beat any specific Republican candidate in a national election (so far, we do have a leck of a way to go).

Which brings us to this latest round between Ann Coulter (the conservative pundit "shock jock") and Elizabeth Edwards. It's a fairly typical go round on these sorts of things.

Certainly Coulter is right that, in recent weeks, Edwards has sought to raise money by drawing attention to how much the right-wing pundits hate him. But Elizabeth Edwards makes an equally valid point that while the Constitution protects the right to mock candidates and their families by taunting them about the death of their children, it's still not a very nice thing to do and has real consequences for how we conduct our political debates.

It's not a new problem, for all that folks believe it is. Thomas Jefferson pioneered both the smeer campaign and plausible deniability when he used his publisher friends to write scurrilous atatcks on John Adams. When one of these friends felt himself not sufficiently rewarded, Jefferson found himself on the defensive against accusations that he had fathered several children with a black slave. Jefferson chose not to engage. Others who have made similar decisions have proven less fortunate.