Breaking news

I’m long past the point where I vote for politicians on the basis of their “character,” because I know that we don’t actually know anything about their characters. All we see is a carefully-designed presentation, and if you think you really know any of them (or their wives), you’re deluded. You’re projecting, and they’d like to keep it that way.

How you can tell something about a politician is where he places his focus. And John Edwards was the only person in the 2007 primary campaign who was talking about the poor. That’s why I supported him.

I always thought the case against Edwards was not only weak, but heavily politicized. (Notice that no one indicted John Ensign. He got his wealthy parents to pay off his mistress and her husband, and the payments were structured to avoid public disclosure. See “IOIYAR”.)

Instead, we had an ambitious Republican prosecutor, a holdover from the Bush administration, who made unprecedented charges against Edwards and pretty much destroyed him. That prosecutor resigned to run for Congress. That heavily-publicized gossip spectacle just ended in Edwards being found innocent on one count, and a mistrial on the rest of the charges.

I still like John Edwards. I don’t especially care that he had an affair (as Amanda notes in this article, you’d empty out every cocktail party in D.C. if you started indicting people for that), because people make mistakes. And I don’t care that he had a couple of $400 haircuts, either. What happened between him and his wife was their business, not mine. But the inspiring words he spoke about lifting up the poorest, about the two Americas? That was our business, and we’re worse off for the silencing of his voice.

It’s become customary in politically obsessed circles for observers to preen about how they knew that Edwards was bad news all along. His lawyerly ways! His sentimental stories about growing up working class! His hair! How could his silly supporters not see him for the philandering phony he so clearly was?

Of course, a quick perusal of the John Edwards of 2007 demonstrates that this sort of hindsight owes more to revisionist wishful thinking than a correct assessment of the evidence at the time. Back then, the other potential Democratic nominees, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were widely and correctly perceived as timid centrists who had a knee-jerk tendency to run from conflict the second conservatives ruffled their feathers. Edwards, on the other hand, spoke convincingly of how change couldn’t come from “negotiation and compromise,” arguing that the idea that corporate interests would voluntarily give away their power is “a fantasy.” Long before the economic crash and Occupy Wall Street forced major Democratic politicians to address the question of growing inequality, Edwards’s famous “two Americas” rhetoric helped force the issue onto the table. Occupy boiled it down to the 1 Percent vs. the 99 Percent, but back in 2007, Edwards was taking cracks at “the very rich vs. everyone else.”

In the rush of headlines about Edwards’s despicable sexual behavior, what’s forgotten is how much his campaign haunted the primary contest between Clinton and Obama long after he dropped out. An early push in the campaign season from Edwards on healthcare reform set the tone for the rest of the election season on this issue. Edwards put out a plan for healthcare reform before the other candidates, forcing the other candidates to release competing plans that were likelier farther to the left than they were comfortable promising. It’s arguable that without the primary season pressure from the Edwards campaign, the initial gambit of the Democrats in the healthcare reform battle — one that included a public option — wouldn’t have been as strong, which would have meant an even weaker bill than the one that eventually was pushed past conservative Democratic opposition.

11 thoughts on “Breaking news

  1. Thanks for this. I get really tired of how people think they ‘know’ a politician. They only ‘know’ the persona that people in public life develop. It’s all emotion and tribalism. As for John Edwards, I always thought the prosecution was over-the-top.

  2. This will not be knowable until someone makes revelations about private WH discussions –or someone leaks memorandums, altho’ I can’t imagine anything was put on paper; but I don’t think this case would have gone forward without the backing of Holder at the very least and most likely of the WH and Obama.

    This was not the work of just an overzealous Republican leftover*. I think it was a warning to any Dem who wants to talk like a Democrat of yesteryear. Those principles of the Democratic Party are being assiduously ignored and slowly being wiped out.

    We do not have the same party that brought us FDR and LBJ. At best we have Republican Lite — and more likely we have something just as far right at the Repulicans with a veneer of social liberalism. Either way, you get economic policies which will gut the middle class and grind the poor into greater poverty.

    And, again, what the hell was Obama thinking by leaving so many Bush/Cheney appointments in jobs usually and customarily filled by the incoming president? Looks like a plan to me….

  3. John Edwards is a load of crap. This case was a load of crap. And anyone who supported Edwards should go have their head examined. Including Ms. Mellon if she’s still alive. Now let’s talk about something that matters.

  4. Yes, why would we want to talk about someone who actually talked about poor people? Since they don’t matter, and all.

  5. Thanks, Susie. I left a lengthy tale of my involvement in both Edwards campaigns over at who also posted on this.

    I supported him for the message despite his bad hair cut. Actually, the haircut he got from the LA guy was the best one he ever had and didn’t look like a helmet. I was disappointed that he didn’t defend the stylist who deserved to make as much money as some hedge fund creep. Yes, he sometimes disappointed me. But nobody spoke lately in politics more eloquently about poverty than he did. Never understood how anyone thought Obama had any eloquence at all. And his infernal use of “folks” drove my crazy. Edwards didn’t use “folks”. With Obama you got a shiny brochure. With Edwards you got the repair manual.

    Everybody I met on the campaign were actually really nice including the late Fred Baron who treated me as nicely as he did the rich contributors when we were all in Des Moines.

  6. Obama talks about poor people all the time. Name for us one president who hasn’t talked about poor people? Evangelical Christians and religious folks of all stripes talk about the poor constantly. Everybody talks about the poor. So what? Edwards wasn’t so concerned about the poor that he gave his fortune away to feed and house them. Nope, he gave them lip service so that he could work his political con on those with minimal critical thinking skills.

  7. It seemed to me that the Obama admin deliberately focused on Edwards; not for his family transgressions, but for the best sideof him: Despising The Willful Impoverishment of Masses of Harmless Citizens.

    So happy that it looks like the Net Scum, at the end of the day, …is dripping off of the WallStreetDOJ/ObamaAdmin’s Faces, …where it will, historically (if we don’t all die soon as a result of the stunning, US AIDED, nuclear disaster in Japan (let alone, Drones, et al, …WAY OUT OF CONTROL) remain.

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