While I have not yet selected a Presidential candidate to support in the 2008 Democratic primary, I have to say that I am pleased with John Edwards's recent leadership on the debate that was to be held here in Reno in August. Inexplicably, the Nevada Democratic Party leadership made a unilateral decision to allow Fox News Channel to televise the event -- meaning that after the candidates were done speaking, they would be summarily torn apart by conservative commentators Brit Hume, Mort Kondrake, Fred Barnes, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, and Neil Cavuto. And in the process, the Democratic Party would be lending credence to the false notion that Fox News is a legitimate news channel. It would have been a win for Fox and a crushing loss for Democrats, no matter how the candidates performed.
On Wednesday, Edwards became the first candidate to say he would boycott the debate. He explained that Fox News Channel is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party and therefore an inappropriate host for the event. Progressive activists, myself included, have been contacting the Nevada Democratic Party to complain for the past few weeks, and finally, as of this afternoon, the event has been canceled. After Edwards's announcement, Fox News chief Roger Ailes -- after making several really bad jokes about Bill Clinton's marital infidelity and Barack Obama's name -- threatened, "Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake." So, Mr. Ailes, does this mean that your network is going to smear and attack every single Democratic Presidential candidate? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Your network would have done that anyway, and is already doing it.
While it's a shame that the debate here in Reno had to be scrapped, I'm hopeful that other such events can be scheduled, and that the organizers will find a legitimate news outlet to host them. Thank you, John Edwards, for your leadership. And boo to Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM), the only other candidate to respond formally to the invitation, who had planned to attend and bailed out only after Edwards had taken a stand.