When you are Bill Clinton and you decide to speak to a crowd of progressive bloggers, you should be prepared for some fireworks. And fireworks there were, when Clinton said gay blogger Lane Hudson would feel comfortable as a member of the mobs at the health care town meetings after Hudson interrupted Clinton with questions about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act.
At Huffington Post, Hudson reflected on why he decided to challenge Clinton
For a transcript of the exchange between Clinton and Hudson, check out Pam’s House Blend, where Pam Spaulding talks about the clubby nature of the progressive blog gathering. For more metablogging, checkout the take of Michelangelo Signorile, Think Progress, and Megan Carpentier.
Clinton’s reaction was classic Clinton, going on the defensive and blaming the media, but then launching into a stream-of-consciousness about his feelings regarding DADT and DOMA.
You couldn’t deliver me any support in the Congress and they voted by a veto-proof majority in both houses against my attempt to let gays serve in the military, and the media supported them. They raised all kinds of devilment. And all most of you did was to attack me instead of getting me some support in the Congress. Now that’s the truth.
And, you know, the thing that changed me forever on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was when I learned that 130 gay service people were allowed to serve and risk their lives in the first Gulf War, and all their commanders knew they were gay; they let them go out there and risk their lives because they needed them, and then as soon as the first Gulf War was over, they kicked them out. That’s all I needed to know, that’s all anybody needs to know, to know that this policy should be changed.
The incident underscores a tensions between the netroots and journalists. Hudson is a citizen journalist and opinion writer, but also an activist. It would be wrong for a journalist to interrupt someone’s speech to ask a question, even if it wasn’t meant to further an agenda. Opinion writers like Andrew Sullivan or Charles Krauthammer or Maureen Dowd are not going to interrupt a former president’s speech to ask an ideologically-driven question.
But is it wrong for an activist to interrupt Clinton? Probably not. Clinton shouldn’t expect to appear in front of activists and not take questions, even at the end. The netroots are activists with a very specific agenda. Lane is passionate about what he believes and, quite frankly, the netroots were being spun by Clinton.
But what happens when you are both a journalist and an activist? Whose ethical rules do you follow? I should confess that I know Lane and like him. I consider him to be part of the NLGJA umbrella of journalists, and he has attended and appeared at our conferences. But what happened at Netroot Nation does raise interesting ethical questions for us all.