Matt Lewis has a good post up at Townhall on the Soren Dayton flap. He takes McCain to task for his overreaction (which is fair). He also takes McCain to task for imposing limits on political combat.
Still, reprimanding him may cause future McCain operatives to think twice before doing their job. Is McCain recommending a sort of “limited war” in which the enemy can shoot at us, but we can’t shoot back?
Standing on principle is a good value, but so is supporting your subordinates and so is loyalty. It takes political courage to stand up for your team — even if it may cost you politically. Is McCain too concerned about wanting to come across as a nice guy?
The bigger point, and one I think that’s been lost in this, is that Soren was using his personal accounts in a personal communication. Unlike the Amanda Marcotte dust up, Soren was not hired as a spokesperson for the campaign and simultaneously promoting himself and his personal ideological agenda.
He didn’t use a campaign e-mail address to send the link to the video. He didn’t even use a McCain sponsored twitter account. He used his own personal accounts to share a thought with people he felt were friends about online politics – a field he happens to have both expertise in and familiarity with.
This was not like the Samantha Power incident where an adviser (albeit an unpaid one) was speaking with a reporter. This isn’t closer to the cases of Linda Olsen and Judy Rose who were fired for forwarding the “Obama is a Muslim” e-mail. While it was never clear to me whether the women in that case used official campaign addresses or their personal accounts, the material they sent was untrue and potentially slanderous.
Soren’s incident has none of that. The material in the video was predominantly Obama, his wife, and his pastor. Granted the video contains footage of Olympic athletes and Malcolm X that it should not have. The statements of Michelle Obama and Jeremiah Wright are more damaging without all that.
But again, Soren did not create the video. The message was not sent from the campaign systems. It was a personal note. He was not a spokesman, he was a private citizen working on a public campaign and using a personal address.
One thing about this incident sends a chill down my spine. Many people are afraid to run for public office because they fear the rectal probe that is our electoral process. They fear the media scrutiny and the potential that some past indiscretion – no matter how small – will make them a public spectacle.
Do political operatives now have to fear that their private communication will become tomorrow’s news story? Do the people that give selflessly in political campaigns have to dread every workday wondering if they will be the campaign’s latest black eye?
How many e-mails did you send today that, taken out of context and publicized on the news, could be an embarrassment to you or your employer? How many of your personal notes contain jokes about the office, your company’s competitors or some other matter best kept private?
If we have rewritten the political rules so every piece of personal communication sent by campaign staff is now fodder for political advantage, we will further degrade our political process.