On Internet Condolences: Republicans Drop the Ball on Va. Tech Shootings

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Apr 16, 2007 5:07 PM

Heart-ache?

To be clear, I'm not saying that Obama, Hillary, and Edwards care any more about the suffering on the ground in Blacksburg, Va. today than Mitt, McCain, and Rudy.

But to look at their websites, you wouldn't know a thing about what Mitt, McCain, and Rudy think about this national tragedy. It's doesn't mean they're terrible, selfish men, as I'm sure the Left will infer. On the contrary, I'm sure all of their thoughts and prayers are with the kids of Blacksburg, just as all of ours are. But the fact is that the Big Six in the presidential race are huge, public figures who are required, for better or worse, to have a public position on every issue, ever. Today is certainly no exception.

Political web operatives on the Left understand that websites move with the news, and are sometimes the fastest way to move those messages. Today, the Dem candidates' sites reflect that and the Republicans' do not. Here are the front pages of the three Dem front-runners' websites today:

Obama:

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Edwards:

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Hillary:

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Simple. It's what everyone is talking about today. It's both sensitive and sensible to recognize that. And, it's not exploitative unless you're attaching it to a fundraising letter about gun control or something, which they're not.

On the other hand, check out the Republican Big Three's sites today.

McCain: 

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Romney:

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Giuliani:

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(All screenshots are from around 4 p.m., which should have been plenty of time to get something updated on any modern website after the story broke.)

It's not a huge deal. I'm sure all three Republicans will release statements on the events of today, if they haven't already, but not recognizing a major national event on your website makes you look, at best, out of the loop, and at worst, insensitive. This is the worst shooting in American history, for goodness' sake.

Guys, just consider this some gentle advice for how to get better.

And, yes, I'm aware that I'm open to accusations of pettiness for blogging about this when there are, quite obviously, bigger matters at hand than the political implications of the web condolences offered by '08 candidates. But the fact is that these sites are reflections of the candidates they represent. I'm sure every one of these Republican candidates wishes the people of Va. Tech the best today, and wishes them to know it. Why not use their sites to get out the word?

Anyway, a little something I noticed, as I'm a web politics nerd at all times.

Needless to say, my prayers and thoughts are with all the people of Virginia Tech.

UPDATE:  Jonathan Martin at Politico has the Republicans' response.  Rudy has also added a statement to his website.

Update: That last update courtesy of Matt Lewis, not me, by the way. I was away from the computer, and Matt pinch-hit for me. Thanks, Matt!