p1010147.jpgMudcat Saunders got the attention he wanted courtesy of Time Magazine and some blogger-baiting rhetoric. Unfortunately, he got it on John Edwards’ back, and it’s left for the Edwards campaign to clean up the mess.

It’s bad enough that Mudcat used his blogging forray to trash liberal bloggers, but doubly so because he did it in defense of Joe Klein’s elitist screed about Scooter Libby, which is impossible to read as anything other than “things like this shouldn’t happen to People Like Us.”

Does John Edwards really believe this?

His “perjury”–not telling the truth about which reporters he talked to–would never be considered significant enough to reach trial, much less sentencing, much less time in stir if he weren’t Dick Cheney’s hatchet man… But jail time? Do we really want to spend our tax dollars keeping Scooter Libby behind bars? I don’t think so. This “perjury” case only exists because of his celebrity…

I don’t believe that Edwards does. But his paid political strategist seems to, and Mudcat’s half-hearted apology for telling liberal bloggers to “go to hell” did not appear quite so deeply held as his interest in perpetuating the kind of class warfare that has been a hallmark of Republican talking points for decades, one that Edwards himself has suffered from mightily. Leave aside for the moment the absurd notion that bloggers are opera lovers while Joe Klein is what, a man of the people? Saunders’ rhetoric is utterly divisive and lays the groundwork for an elite punditocracy to endlessly drub Edwards for his $400 haircut. We know that’s just prattle from people who have no problem forking over $400 for a haircut themselves but hate Edwards for being a class traitor, and Mudcat’s senseless stereotyping plays right into their hands.

But the problem with Mudcat Saunders working on the Edwards campaign goes further than just optics, and has to do with the substance of his campaign strategy. While working as a consultant Eric Ferguson in Virginia’s 9th district, Saunders coached Ferguson to criticize his opponent (longtime incumbent Del. Allen Dudley) for renting to undocumented immigrants. Considering the impressive commitment that both John and Elizabeth Edwards have to ending poverty, I think it’s important at this time that they stand up and distance themselves from Saunders, his rhetoric and these kinds of policies. While immigration reform is no doubt an important topic, I can’t believe that they feel that making the lives of undocumented immigrants even more harsh and miserable is something that either of them find acceptable, or a pillar of their plan to end poverty in this country.

Saying that “Mudcat will be Mudcat” is not enough. I invite Senator Edwards to appear on a Blue America session with Howie Klein to distance himself from Saunders’ comments and give his liberal supporters the reassurance they deserve that these attitudes will not be reflected in his Presidential campaign as it goes forward.

(photo of Joe Klein at the New York City Ballet courtesy David Patrick Columbia’s New York Social Diary)