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December 18, 2007

Comments

Yeah, I predicted loudly that Kerry was gonna open a can of whoop-ass any minute now (no way is he going to let this smearing slide - he's just getting his ducks in row, a nice, long, straight row, or maybe a neat long, *authoritative* row, er, well, you just wait...). I mean, whom among us does not like a can of goode old whoop-ass now and then?

I am convinced that Obama has timed his peak like a master, too.

I have a feeling that an Edwards win wouldn't do much more than tilt things in Hillary's favor by diluting Obama's momentum. Edwards is a nonfactor in New Hampshire, and winning South Carolina didn't help him capture the nomination in '04. As for afterward, well, I think he's a bit too regional, too stridently populist on economic issues, and too lightweight on foreign policy to muster much support from the people who will be up for grabs once the field is winnowed down. I don't see your typical Joe Biden or Bill Richardson supporter choosing Edwards over Hillary.

I resolved some time ago to try not to take sides in "which candidate" discussions.

But of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, not one of them was willing to put the need to stop the Bush administration giving telecoms retroactive immunity for illegally spying on US citizens, above their own Presidential campaigns.

Chris Dodd was willing to do so. And succeeded. Clinton and Obama and Edwards may all have thought there was no point even trying, or they'd be able to do more if they only got in, never mind how Bush is desperately trying to protect himself against future investigations and prosecution right now. Maybe Chris Dodd can't win: but he's the first candidate I've seen since Kerry who I really, actively, positively wanted to win, and for the same reason: not because of what he was saying on the campaign trail, but because of what he'd done.

I resolved some time ago to try not to take sides in "which candidate" discussions.

But of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, not one of them was willing to put the need to stop the Bush administration giving telecoms retroactive immunity for illegally spying on US citizens, above their own Presidential campaigns.

Chris Dodd was willing to do so. And succeeded. Clinton and Obama and Edwards may all have thought there was no point even trying, or they'd be able to do more if they only got in, never mind how Bush is desperately trying to protect himself against future investigations and prosecution right now. Maybe Chris Dodd can't win: but he's the first candidate I've seen since Kerry who I really, actively, positively wanted to win, and for the same reason: not because of what he was saying on the campaign trail, but because of what he'd done.

Publius: On an aside, I think I might abandon law and become a political futures day trader instead.

That’s so 90’s dude. It’s all in real-estate today. Tell you what… Just because I like you, I’ll let you in on a hot tip: Lunar holdings baby. I’ll even sell you a few thousand acres of my lunar property at a great price just so you get in on the bottom floor.

As for afterward, well, I think he's a bit too regional, too stridently populist on economic issues, and too lightweight on foreign policy

This is why he would win, Southerners being what they are.

And which contender has foreign policy experience?

I am left cold by Edwards. I like his biography, and I should like his post '04 rhetoric ... but I just don't believe it. He was a fairly conservative nonentity in the Senate, and I don't know why his recent progressive claims (including faux-populist nonsense like his grandstanding on health care for Congress) should be taken any more seriously than Mitt Romney's conservatism. The two strike me as being very similar, the sort of candidate you'd make in a factory, from the primary-ready positions (with no evidence from their prior records) to their conventionally handsome appearance.

the sort of candidate you'd make in a factory, from the primary-ready positions (with no evidence from their prior records) to their conventionally handsome appearance.

You have a point, but Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who has a snowball's chance in hell of winning who identifies corporate privilege as a significant problem.

That makes me give him, at a minimum, a second look. I'm a little suprised at my own reaction, because I've never been an Edwards fan at all.

I'd like to hear him discuss how he plans to extract corporate influence from government and elsewhere in more specific terms than "we're going to have to fight like hell". I look forward to hearing more of what he has to say.

Thanks -

Edwards is a nonfactor in New Hampshire, and winning South Carolina didn't help him capture the nomination in '04.

Amazing how you guys manufacture these 'arguments'. I'm tired of refuting them, and I won't bore people here with that. So many liberals/progressives evaluate Democrat pres candidates by reflexively/unconciously comparing them to Reagan. Bad habit. Politically ignorant (or willfully ignorant) arguments like the one I quoted, and Warren Terra's comment basically equating Edwards with Romney, are all about, not character or personality, but political celebrity. It would be better to just say 'I don't like that Edwards guy' and better still to examine why that might be, than to spin ridiculous rationalizations.

I think Edwards is the most progressive of the big three and would do the best - get the biggest mandate -in the General. What else do you want? That's what i care about. I'm not nearly as concerned about what Maureen Dowd et. al. think of him as a celebrity. He is a long shot, but not as long as some people assume. Publius is quite right here.

Johnnybutter, I thought I was trying to examine "why I don't like that Edwards guy" all that much by saying that I'm not sure I believe in the new Edwards. You "think Edwards is the most progressive of the big three" and so you have an excellent reason to support him. I see a candidate who, during his only time in public office, accomplished little and was more conservative than progressive. His newfound progressive positions are great, but they're also awfully convenient, and I'm not sure they're sincere. Some of his positions, like his Congressional health care grandstanding, are just nonsense.

The other frontrunners don't have to convince us of the sincerity of any sudden transformations. Obama was fighting for real policy progress in the community and in the legislature when Edwards was, at best, working in private practice on behalf of individual victims and enriching himself in the process, and Obama was still achieving results when Edwards was a DLC senator accomplishing little. Clinton (if you believe she's interchangeable with Bill, which is problematic) has been pushing a centrist sensible-liberal agenda for fifteen years; it's not to my taste, and I'll wager it's not to yours, but it is fairly consistent. Clinton even refuses to apologize for her Iraq war vote. She was wrong, but at least she's no hypocrite; can Edwards convincingly say as much?

Your other point, that Edwards fares the best against the R's in head-to-head polls is true, although the difference is not great. Still, the general election is a long way from now, Edwards has taken fewer shots than either Obama or Clinton in the national media, and Edwards was a lousy campaigner (and a somnolescent debater) in the '04 campaign.

Johnnybutter, I thought I was trying to examine "why I don't like that Edwards guy" all that much by saying that I'm not sure I believe in the new Edwards. You "think Edwards is the most progressive of the big three" and so you have an excellent reason to support him. I see a candidate who, during his only time in public office, accomplished little and was more conservative than progressive. His newfound progressive positions are great, but they're also awfully convenient, and I'm not sure they're sincere. Some of his positions, like his Congressional health care grandstanding, are just nonsense.

The other frontrunners don't have to convince us of the sincerity of any sudden transformations. Obama was fighting for real policy progress in the community and in the legislature when Edwards was, at best, working in private practice on behalf of individual victims and enriching himself in the process, and Obama was still achieving results when Edwards was a DLC senator accomplishing little. Clinton (if you believe she's interchangeable with Bill, which is problematic) has been pushing a centrist sensible-liberal agenda for fifteen years; it's not to my taste, and I'll wager it's not to yours, but it is fairly consistent. Clinton even refuses to apologize for her Iraq war vote. She was wrong, but at least she's no hypocrite; can Edwards convincingly say as much?

Your other point, that Edwards fares the best against the R's in head-to-head polls is true, although the difference is not great. Still, the general election is a long way from now, Edwards has taken fewer shots than either Obama or Clinton in the national media, and Edwards was a lousy campaigner (and a somnolescent debater) in the '04 campaign.

jonnybutter,

I think Warren Terra's point is that the Edwards of 2007 is completely different from the Edwards of 2004 and the Edwards who was a senator from North Carolina. Just like Romney was a rather liberal republican who morphed into a right-wing nut job, Edwards was a rather conservative democrat who morphed into some sort of ultra-left populist superhero. These assertions are not about political celebrity, but are directly reflected in the candidates' platforms.

Johnnybutter, I thought I was trying to examine "why I don't like that Edwards guy" all that much by saying that I'm not sure I believe in the new Edwards. You "think Edwards is the most progressive of the big three" and so you have an excellent reason to support him. I see a candidate who, during his only time in public office, accomplished little and was more conservative than progressive. His newfound progressive positions are great, but they're also awfully convenient, and I'm not sure they're sincere.

The other frontrunners don't have to convince us of the sincerity of any sudden transformations. Obama was working for real policy progress in the community and in the legislature when Edwards was, at best, working in private practice on behalf of individual victims and enriching himself in the process, and Obama was still achieving results when Edwards was a DLC senator accomplishing little. Clinton (if you believe she's interchangeable with Bill, which is problematic) has been pushing a centrist sensible-liberal agenda for fifteen years; it's not to my taste, and I'll wager it's not to yours, but it is fairly consistent. Clinton even refuses to apologize for her Iraq war vote. She was wrong, but at least she's no hypocrite; can Edwards convincingly say as much?

Your other point, that Edwards fares the best in November in head-to-head polls is true, although the difference isn't large. I'd point out that the general election is eleven months away, Edwards has taken fewer shots than either Obama or Clinton in the national media, and Edwards was a poor campaigner (and a somnolescent debater) in the '04 campaign.

Johnnybutter, I thought I was trying to examine "why I don't like that Edwards guy" all that much by saying that I'm not sure I believe in the new Edwards. You "think Edwards is the most progressive of the big three" and so you have an excellent reason to support him. I see a candidate who, during his only time in public office, accomplished little and was more conservative than progressive. His newfound progressive positions are great, but they're also awfully convenient, and I'm not sure they're sincere.

The other frontrunners don't have to convince us of the sincerity of any sudden transformations. Obama was working for real policy progress in the community and in the legislature when Edwards was, at best, working in private practice on behalf of individual victims and enriching himself in the process, and Obama was still achieving results when Edwards was a DLC senator accomplishing little. Clinton (if you believe she's interchangeable with Bill, which is problematic) has been pushing a centrist sensible-liberal agenda for fifteen years; it's not to my taste, and I'll wager it's not to yours, but it is fairly consistent. Clinton even refuses to apologize for her Iraq war vote. She was wrong, but at least she's no hypocrite; can Edwards convincingly say as much?

Your other point, that Edwards fares the best in November in head-to-head polls is true, although the difference isn't large. I'd point out that the general election is eleven months away, Edwards has taken fewer shots than either Obama or Clinton in the national media, and Edwards was a poor campaigner (and a somnolescent debater) in the '04 campaign.

I had an actual response, but I can't readily convince Typepad it's not spam (everyone's a critic!). So I'll just say that I think br reads my point more accurately than johnnybutter, and that anyone who, like johnnybutter, is convinced by Edwards's transformation should absolutely vote their convictions.

The only thing I hear Edwards saying that can be construed as "ultra liberal" is his emphasis on reigning in corporate influence in government. That position seems pretty much consistent with, and an extension of, his "two Americas" pitch in '04.

Warren or br, can you point me to positions he's taken as a Senator that are inconsistent with his campaign platform?

Thanks -

Russell, one example is the 2001 bankruptcy bill. Edwards also has some history of anti-union positions. And then of course there's the war. I'm hoping that a combination of no longer being a North Carolina senator and actually changing his mind on some issues explains the differences between the old Edwards and the new Edwards, but one reason I've put Obama ahead of Edwards in my preferences is that I'm not sure how to feel about his makeover.

Well, on his issues page Edwards gives pride of place to universal health care, on which he did nothing as a Senator, and which was not in his 2004 platform. On the page he next proposes to 'eliminate poverty' but as a Senator he backed bankruptcy bills opposed by Senators Dodd and Wellstone, and even supported a bill vetoed by Bill Clinton (!). Today, Edwards promises to "reverse Bush's tax policies and trade policies" (in fairness, Edwards, like all but a handful of Dems, voted against the Bush tax plans); in office he voted the DLC line (fast-track authority, normalization with China, etcetera). And of course there's Iraq.

I suspect that if I were better informed I could go on (the above paragraph is essentially based on some Googling), but I invite you research the question. The point isn't Edwards' record, about which there is little controversy - his DLC credentials were considered a selling point in 2003-4. The point is whether you find his conversion convincing.

On his issues page Edwards gives pride of place to universal health care. He didn't work for universal health care as a Senator or as a 2004 candidate. On the page he next proposes to 'eliminate poverty' but as a Senator he backed bankruptcy bills opposed by Senators Dodd and Wellstone, and even supported a bill vetoed by Bill Clinton (!). Today, Edwards promises to "reverse Bush's tax policies and trade policies" but in office he voted for fast-track authority, normalization with China, and the rest of the DLC line. And of course there's Iraq.

The above paragraph is based on some Googling, but I invite you research the question. The point isn't Edwards' record, about which there is little controversy - his DLC credentials were considered a selling point in 2003-4. The point is whether you find his conversion convincing.

Here's the record:

http://votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=21107

Obviously, we know he voted for the Iraq Military Force Authorization and the Patriot Act. But he also he voted for normalizing trade with China, and had a fairly mixed view towards free trade and "fast track" policies while in the Senate (see, for example:

http://www.issues2000.org/2004/John_Edwards_Free_Trade.htm

)

Edwards now says he regrets all of these votes. This is the sort of position morphing I'm talking about. Also, what KCinDC said.

KC, Warren, and br, thanks, that's the kind of information I'm looking for.

I appreciate the replies.

You know, it's interesting when you "have concerns" on Edwards about his votes in the Senate and then question whether his rhetoric today matches. I can only speak for myself, but back in 2001 and 2002 I also held many positions that I am totally against now. At the time we were all pretty scared, and I even relucantly assumed Iraq might be necessary, especially after Frontline's expose of Saddam. Now I realize I was totally wrong. Can't Edwards do the same? Can't people change their views when circumstances change? It depresses me to see Democrats playing the "flip-flop" game with one of their own.

I do remember Edwards was in the lead on trying the pass the Patients Bill of Rights and Campaign Finance reform. He was a first time Junior Senator and had hardly any clout, so I actually think he's pretty consistent. When you look at his whole career he has always championed the little guy. He made his money sticking up for the little guy against Corporate America and was VERY successful fighting them--exactly what I think we need.

Now fast forward to today where we all know what 7 years of Bushco and friends have done and all of our eyes have been opened to whats been going on. We have two candidates, Clinton and Obama, currently in the Senate who can and should lead on issues that matter to progressives. The Kyl-Lieberman amendment Clinton actually voted for and Obama conveniently missed because he was campaigning. Yesterday Dodd stood up in Congress and stopped the FISA ramrod that Ried was forcing down our throats. Clinton and Obama said they'd support him, but only from a distance. They should have taken a day out of campaigning like Dodd did and stood with him on the floor of the Senate. That's what a real progressive leader would do.

I don't have to go back and wonder if Edwards positions today are real or not. I look at his history and see his positions are consistent.

I can look at the present and see that Clinton and Obama provide charming, red meat filled rhetoric and commitment to "working for change" and "hope", but when presented with a chance to show real change, hope and leadership from the Senate, they are absent. Empty suits both of them

I don't really care anymore that I'd rather have a beer with Obama than Edwards. In fact, this time around I don't have to like the President. I just have to have faith that they can handle the job. I'd rather have Edwards defending me in court, and I'd rather him defending me against the Corporate culture.

But my real hero is Dodd who showed true leadership yesterday. I only hope he is still in the California primary when I get a chance to vote. If not, Edwards gets my vote.

Actions speak louder than words.

I understood warren terra's comment, but his/her point is so facile and obvious that I think there's less to it than meets the eye. I think the comparison between Edwards changes of heart - esp. factoring in his not being a Senator from NC anymore - and Romney's complete plasticity and shamelessness is not fair. And the idea that politicans shouldn't change their minds or even adjust to present realities is just silly. I think it's also worth noting that Edwards is not even quite being really opportunistic in his change of heart/mind - he is the one pushing the other two to be more aggressive, not the other way around. (And, boy, American and World poverty - what a hotbutton pander that is!). I do think he is actually catching the mood of voters, but I don't see why that's necessarily bad. People feel like the 'system' is fixed and they're pissed off about it. And they happen to be right.

I know why some people don't like Edwards. They're afraid he's demogoge, and that a left demogoge is really scary, while right demogoges, like Bush and most national Republicans have been for the last decade+, is somehow less threatening. That's one reason, anyway. In these blog discussions, it seems to be more about a concern for 'consistency', which the commenter defines partially, and which is, after all, sometimes the hobgoblin of little minds, even in politics. Edwards has changed his mind and MO to some extent. He's changed it in the right direction, AFAIC, and not in a patently opportunistic way (as has Romney). I'd call it 'leadership', actually. I don't think Edwards is a demogogue; I would say that he is what an effective and competent politician looks like. Again, I fail to see what's wrong with that.

I gather that some critiques on the left are that he is running left now and will 'move toward the middle' in the General. He probably will do that in some respects, but a more accurate description would be redefining what's liberal and what's conservative, which is something which needs doing right about now. Most Americans are liberal about some things and conservative about others. But I don't think he'll waver about some big priorities: healthcare; Iraq; tax code; campaign finance. He has a great chance - with his aggressiveness and rhetoric - to actually move those issues. That's what matters, in the end.

I don't mean to be nasty to anyone. I just think people need to examine why they are so uneasy at the prospect of Edwards. If you honestly examine and are still uneasy, fine. But give me a real argument, please.

(long response was not accepted - here's the short version)

Comparison of Romney and Edwards grossly unfair, to the extent of being pointless. People on the right (or 'center-right') worry that Edwards is a demogogue. I would argue that tapping into (strongly warranted) national discontent is not necessarily demogogery. People on the left think that JE might be running left for the primaries and will 'move toward the middle' in the general. That may happen in some repects, but I would say that basic planks he is running on will still be there after election, and they are what matter: healthcare; IIraq; tax code' campaign finance.

Also, consistency is often the hobgobblin of little minds, even in politics. I'm glad Edwards changed his mind and MO to some extent and see no rational reason why he would be fake about it. He is leading the other candidates, not following.

John Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who was reared in the South. (Another candidate spent some of her adult life in Arkansas, but grew up in a suburb of Chicago.) Politicians, including liberals, who grow up Southern are steeped in a culture that respects religious faith and military service.

Having absorbed this culture by osmosis while growing up serves a candidate well, not only in the South, but in non-urban areas of the reset of the country. Every Southern Democrat nominated for president since 1964 has led the popular vote, with the sole exception of 1980 (when Jimmy Carter could likely have won re-election if he had been willing to strike militarily against Iran, sacrificing the American hostages in the process).

Senator Edwards not only is the most electable Democrat at the top of the ticket, he is the candidate least likely to drag down Democrats in lower ballot positions. Since many of the state legislators elected in 2008 will participate in reapportionment follwing the 2010 census, that has longer term implications as well.

Jonny-

I think we just fundamentally disagree about Edwards, on both substance and viability. For the record, I'm antiwar and a centrist on domestic issues, so he's certainly not my guy, but I don't dislike him, and I'd prefer him to Hillary. I'm not trashing him. Objectively speaking, I just don't think he's a realistic threat to win the nomination, much less the general election.

Firstly, there's the firebrand populist message. When was the last time a true populist candidate was elected? William Jennings Bryan? Oh, yeah, he didn't win. I think the "evil corporations are out to screw us!" rhetoric plays better with the MoveOn.org crowd and the rather left-of-center Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa than it will in later primary states, or in the general.

Secondly, there's the foreign policy issue. My own distrust of Edwards on this score is based more on my sense of his judgment and commitment (voting for the Iraq war when it was politically expedient and then flip-flopping on it later, though to his credit he has acknowledged his mistake and not repeated it with Kyl-Lieberman, unlike HRC). But even leaving that aside, I think he's politically quite vulnerable on this score, since neither the dovish (Obama, Paul) nor hawkish (Clinton, Giuliani, Romney, etc.) factions of the electorate will be entirely happy with him. Thirdly, there's his legislative record, which other posters have noted, doesn't live up to his friend-of-the-common-man campaigning. Then there's the trial lawyer background, which I think will hurt him in the general election. Lastly, he's accepted matching funds and faces financial limitations that his rivals don't. Put it all together, and I just don't see him as as viable as either Clinton or Obama. Even if he wins in the early states, I don't think he'll be able to cop the nomination, and if he does, I don't think he'll win in the general election, unless the GOP is dumb enough to nominate someone even more unelectable (i.e. Huckabee). Depending on who the GOP nominee is, I'd certainly consider voting for him, but in my opinion, I don't think he's a good bet for the Dems.

OMG, publius has been body-snatched by Asian spammers!!

Jonnybutter, I'm not playing a "flip-flop" game. I'm happy for politicians to change their views when they get new information. I'm just saying that I'm not sure what other than political calculations explains Edwards's conversion. He sounds good, but it's hard to know how genuine it is.

And I don't understand how you can dismiss everyone's criticisms as not real arguments. People have presented specific earlier positions -- positions having nothing to do with 9/11 and being scared -- and you haven't responded to that at all. If you want to convince people, you have to give us something other than your faith in Edwards. You have to explain what the basis for that faith is -- how you can be sure that he's no longer the same person he was a few years ago.

But aside from all that, I have trouble believing that an Edwards win in Iowa will somehow catapult him into the nomination. It seems to me that it would just help Clinton by hurting Obama, and I far prefer Obama to Clinton.

I just wanted to apologize for the stream of highly similar comments I have above, each of which was rejected by the Typepad spam filter - but apparently, and embarassingly, all were apparently later restored to the thread. Thus, an overeager spam filter actually caused me to spam the thread. Sorry.

To be fair, the Bankruptcy Code Amendment was very popular in the Senate, Perhaps there is an explanation I'm unaware of. I can imagine, for example, an argument that giving creditors more power would encourage legitimate lenders to take on riskier debt, which would decrease the dependency of the working poor on payday loan sharks.

Or maybe Edwards just thinks people should pay their debts. I dunno.

I wasn't trying to duck this discussion, I just thought that comments were going to be blocked, so I shied away!

Many of the same people who don't believe that Edwards' change of heart, such as it is, is genuine, also lionize Al Gore, who was also a fairly conservative Senator from the South, and for much longer than JE. Gore was also a core DLC guy. He had a change of heart too in recent years. Why would one believe his change is genuine but not JE's? I guess because Gore is not a very skilled politican and doesn't like the 'politics part' of it all - as he himself has said. I can't escape the conclusion that many Democrats are uneasy about skilled politicans. Sort of too bad, isn't it?

Jonnybutter, you'd be a lot more convincing if you avoided the baseless condemnations of your opponents, saying that we must not like skilled politicians, or we're afraid of left-wing demagogues, or whatever your imagination produces to explain why some people might not think Edwards is quite as inarguably nifty as you think he is. If Edwards is so much more skilled as a politician than his opponents, then he shouldn't have any problem getting the nomination.

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