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May 15, 2008

Comments

I know it sounds awfully naive (but I am an Obama supporter so I guess I am supposed to be naive) but could Edwards get a Cabinet spot, you know, because he is talented and does bring a lot to the table and Obama likes him and wants his skills around ? Just a thought.

I totally don't buy the last minute thing either although you are right that the way it telescoped the NARAL endorsement feel like a lost opportunity.

I think Edwards' endorsement today had more impact than one he might have given earlier. If he spoke out prior to North Carolina, it would have been washed out with Obama's already-expected big win.

Also, if enough people in the press say that Obama has, by connection with Edwards, "the interests of the little person", it may actually change voters' minds. Don't forget how repitition got much of the country to believe Saddam was behind 9/11, etc.

Edwards is not super-duper, but he's is just what Obama needed at the moment. Oh, and I agree that the Obama campaign probably had this ready to deploy for some time, as you suggested.

I almost agree with you about everything, but I disagree about Michigan going to McCain. The only thing in McCain's favor in Michigan right now is the fact that the Democratic party there is a disaster. Gov. Granholm is a disaster. Mayor Kilpatrick is a disgrace. And there could very well be a backlash against the incumbent Democratic party there for their negligence and mismanagement.

But McCain was a disaster campaigning there. His message during the primary was 100% negative. He told the people of Michigan that their economy sucked and there was nothing that could be done about it. His economic message during the primary was 100% fatalistic.

McCain certainly can turn it around and he seems to be pivoting heavily on the pander express with now claiming to be for withdrawal from Iraq and now also an environmentalist (yeah right). If Obama can work the sportsmen organizations in the area and get the IL folks to influence the MI folks, I don't see how he could lose there with his positive message. I think the only thing stopping Michigan voting for Obama is guns and if they know he is pro-sportsman, it won't be an issue.

The whole working class thing is starting to make me queasy. The media loves stories like this way too much. Here we have this historic set of candidates, and it's all about courting the coy white guys.

Half a year ago, I couldn't open up WaPo or NYT without seeing a story about how Hillary was facing this impossible situation with working class white males because they irrationally hated her. Now they love her, and they irrationally hate Obama.

Maybe they're irrational because they don't have a white male to vote for, and it's got them all out of sorts. Maybe they're sulking. Maybe they're resentful that Dunkin' Donuts doesn't have arugula flavoring like they have at Starbucks, or that Obama doesn't have any John Denver on his ipod. Who knows. Each and every one of them is probably holding out for a cabinet position.

Whatever. Hopefully sweetie-gate will pick up steam and I won't have to hear about real Americans for a while.

This was probably the most meaningful moment for Edwards to endorse since Texas and Ohio, but I entirely agree that he frittered away the political capital he had at the moment he dropped out of the race. If he had endorsed back in February or March, he might really be holding some cards. Now he'll be lucky to get a Jet-Ski® out of it.

At this point, Edwards's endorsement is a nice way for Obama to win the newscycle and an effective--if, I imagine, short-lived--repost to the white, working-class meme. But it's not more more than this.

At this point, Edwards's endorsement is a nice way for Obama to win the newscycle and an effective--if, I imagine, short-lived--repost to the white, working-class meme. But it's not more more than this.

It might also provide a bit of cover for publicly uncommitted but Obama-leaning superdelegates to take the plunge. I think the party leadership would be smart to get enough of them pledged before Oregon so that Obama's margin there provides the clinching delegates and the Clinton dead-enders aren't able to make the charge that superdelegates undemocratically preempted the process and disenfranchised the voters of SD, Montana, and Puerto Rico (because you know at least some of them will try).

"Third, I think any talk of Edwards getting a VP or AG nod grossly underestimates the amount of leverage he has."

That should be 'overestimates', shouldn't it?

One potential explanation for these numbers is that Edwards — biography and poverty initiatives aside — is more of an “aspirational” politician than a bread-and-butter type. He sells self-actualization, which is more appealing to affluent voters and less appealing to those with more pressing economic concerns. (Someone else came up with this “aspirational” theory, but it escapes me. Was it David Brooks? Anyone?).

Edwards' flaw is that he talks down to working class voters by adopting a persona of someone whom he is not. His "Two Americas" speech is a good example of that. Edwards talks about the America of the rich and the America of the poor as though he was part of the latter, when he is in fact extremely wealthy. Working class voters can see through that.

That's one reason why Edwards seems to draw more support from middle and upper income folks who sympathize with the working class and poor.

Hillary, who is what she is and makes no apologies for it, is more genuine than Edwards on this matter. For this reason (among others), if the D-party wants to reah out to working class voters, an Obama-Clinton ticket makes more sense than an Obama-Edwards ticket -- a fact that Edwards more prominent supporters in the blogosphere are likely to miss.

Hillary, who is what she is and makes no apologies for it, is more genuine than Edwards on this matter.

Since when is Hillary a real down home working class gun totin', Bible readin', Real Crown shootin', economist distrustin' country girl?

Edwards really is the son of a mill worker and really did have a working class background, even if he's rich now.

On the topic of the Edwards endorsement, I would highly recommend this thoughtful post by Ezra Klein.

Re your "aspirational" question --
I don't know who applied it to politics, but it appears to be a straightforward recasting of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Edwards for AG strikes me as seriously loopy. AG is mostly an administrative and management position, though you must have a solid grounding in the law, and Edwards was never a criminal lawyer. Janet Reno was perfect as AG because she had both -- talk about being able to stand the heat. It's too bad that health problems and personal image limited her career in public service.

I agree with the rest of publius's analysis. In the end, though, I think that Edwards just lacked passion for the job. Plus, his wife's health had to be a concern for him.

C'mon folks. The endorsement is important because of the pledged delegates Edwards has.

Assuming they largely break for Obama (which seems likely), he's in a much stronger position to reconcile MI and FL. He might even be able to seat them all if he gets the uncommitteds from MI and Edwards from FL. Under that situation I think Hillary only nets something like 33 delegates. Game over.

Edwards may get something like Labor Secretary. Think he will get SOMETHING for his endorsement, but I agree with publius-he won't be getting much. He should have endorsed sooner.

Publius, I hope you do post on Appalachia later.I doubt that Edward's endorsement is going to fix Obama's white working class vote problem. Its a problem that has to be solved.

[Edwards] frittered away the political capital he had at the moment he dropped out of the race.

Political capital is worth only so much as the possesser of it cares about it. It's about as obvious as can be that Edwards knew full well what his endorsement-impact would be at various times in the primary: if commenters on blogs can figure it out, I think it's safe to assume he himself can, too!

I have to laugh sometimes at the tendency of younger analysts who think that everything is ultimately explained by game theory, 'realist' power-metrics. While they certainly matter, reducing everything this way is not actually a realistic analysis at all. I think Edwards really did have policy/political problems with Obama, particularly vis a vis healthcare (notice that in his speech he specified '*universal* healthcare for every man woman and child in this country'), and that had a lot to do with his not endorsing earlier.

Cynicism is just another form of idealism. Real realism recognizes that such decisions are generally made for some combination of power reasons and more material ones. Having lived in the Age of Gingrich and Bush, it's easy to forget about this - easy for both analysts *and* voters - but the studied amorality of the recent GOP is more aberration than norm. Both Edwards and Obama have carried/carry the burden of melting this ice, and it's not going to be easy.

Since when is Hillary a real down home working class gun totin', Bible readin', Real Crown shootin', economist distrustin' country girl?

since mid April, 2008.

Ditto to everyone who said: please do post on Appalachia. ;)

And ditto as well to the doubts about Edwards' actual working class appeal. It's not as though most political reporters actually encounter many such people on a day to day basis. I assume some must come from the working class, although differences in the education available to kids from different classes is probably making this number smaller every year. (And for some of them, their working class roots are now far in the past.) I also assume that some of them do some actual reporting on the working class, but given how little digging of this sort political reporters do generally -- given that they often cannot manage the much easier task of mastering candidates' positions, which are helpfully written down -- that's probably not so many either, especially among the more prestigious reporters.

For the rest, I think "the working class vote", in their writing, is probably entirely mythical, made up of whatever they imagine working class people might be thinking. Edwards is plainly concerned about the working class; if they were in the working class, they'd like him; what more needs be said?

Since when is Hillary a real down home working class gun totin', Bible readin', Real Crown shootin', economist distrustin' country girl?

Hillary hasn't made a career out of being those things.

John Edwards, however, has made a career out of his "son of a millworker," two Americas story, even though he is a living rebuttal to it.

I'm not saying that there's no truth in Edwards' position that there are two Americas, one rich and one poor. (Although I don't think that it's entirely true -- or, more importantly, the most important truth.) But, c'mon: Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, also had a relatively modest start as the son of a librarian. Do we give him the same special dispensation to talk about "two Americas" (or library science, for that matter)?

To paraphrase Fugazi: You can't be what you were.

To paraphrase Fugazi: there lays no reward when you judge a man by external appearances.

I also assume that some of them do some actual reporting on the working class, but given how little digging of this sort political reporters do generally --

This observation brings to mind the story of how Jayson Blair got caught on his fabrications - describing the verdant tobacco fields of Jessica Lynch's working class West Virginia hometown, a place that, in fact, has no tobacco fields.

I'm not saying that there's no truth in Edwards' position that there are two Americas, one rich and one poor. (Although I don't think that it's entirely true -- or, more importantly, the most important truth.)

I'm no great fan of Edwards, von, and I do think his schtick is a bit overblown and heavy on the unjustifiable outrage. I'm perfectly willing to take your point that his political persona is a bit disingenuous given his personal story. My point was that at least it's consistently disingenuous. Hillary finds a new "voice" for every primary, depending on what voting bloc she has to pander to this week.

Again for the Appalachian post. I moved here from TX 15 years ago and I *still* don't understand this place. I thought I was getting a handle on it, but when I came into work this morning, people were *incensed* that Obama stole the thunder from Hilary and they turned on Edwards like hyenas going after one of their own. It was pretty scary. They weren't this angry when they figured out there was no way Hilary could win.

Hard to argue with Ben Alpers (5:26 am) that Edwards "frittered away the political capital he had the moment he dropped out of the race."

But Edwards is still one of the leading voices in the Democratic Party -- hence, all of the coverage of Wednesday's love-in.

As Benjamin (2:30 am) wonders: "Could Edwards get a Cabinet spot, you know, because he is talented and does bring a lot to the table and Obama likes him and wants his skills around?"

Edwards would make an excellent an choice as either Secretary of Labor or Attorney General.

He had his shot as VP, however.

One side note: I was busy all day yesterday with my son and didn't see much of the endorsement event. Did anyone see Elizabeth Edwards there? From the little I saw, I did not. She isn't a huge Obama fan; Newsweek reported that she found him to be "arrogant" during a I-want-your-endorsement meeting Obama had with the pair shortly after Senator Edwards dropped out of the race. And I know Elizabeth prefers Hillary's health care plan -- Elizabeth's big, big issue -- over Obama's, something she openly said during numerous interviews on CNN and MSNBC, and the morning news shows. Well, we know who John endorsed. But Elizabeth? Just wondering.

"Edwards' flaw is that he talks down to working class voters by adopting a persona of someone whom he is not. His "Two Americas" speech is a good example of that."

In American politics, the only voice that poor people have is rich people. There are no poor candidates. Maybe they're simply happy that someone is voicing their concerns.

"I'm not saying that there's no truth in Edwards' position that there are two Americas, one rich and one poor. (Although I don't think that it's entirely true -- or, more importantly, the most important truth.)"

Your qualified agreement comes from a particular perspective. Ask a poor person if they think it's the most important truth. Their answer might be different from yours.

Do we give [Paul Allen] the same special dispensation to talk about "two Americas" (or library science, for that matter)?

Has he tried?

Von:
You can't be what you were.

Of course you are what you were, and the way you were raised (as opposed to the way your grand or great grand parents were) is very much what remains, unless you're ashamed of how you were raised and want to forget about it, I guess. Or you're bored with it. We have such neurosis about class in the US. The idea that you become a completely different person if you have money is, in fact, a very working class fantasy. Lotto. Of course things change if you have money, but you don't really become someone else.

I hate hate hate the literalism of this primary, and of our politics generally (She's genetically female! He's partially - and therefore totally - of African heritage! Technical Firsts!). It's so remedial, pathetic. But I will insist that pols who grow up poor or around poor sometimes actually care about poverty, eg LBJ and Edwards.

...Edwards' position that there are two Americas, one rich and one poor.[isn't] the most important truth.

Economic populism scares some people because it's a very potent tack right now. You can look at statistics in a myriad of ways, but working class people - which is just about everyone, BTW - are the ones whose asses are on the line, and I think they/we probably 'read the market' pretty soberly, from a diagnostic pov. It's a perception problem because it's a real problem. Yes, it's dualistic, but it's a political slogan designed to get the point across, not an essay. Edwards had his essays, too, and they were pretty good. Income inequality is a *symptom*, one among many. The idea of 'middle class' has been redefined more and more away from the actuality of median income (or vice versa).

Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, also had a relatively modest start as the son of a librarian. Do we give him the same special dispensation to talk about "two Americas" (or library science, for that matter)?

You need a special dispensation? Why?

What you and others have really said over and over is that getting rich disqualifies Edwards' talking about poverty. It's absurd, but it's the flip side of that working class fantasy: 'rubes' hate being rubes. Once you become rich, you belong to a special club. And you get a narrator, preferably English or Aussie.

Resentment, envy, revenge, greed - they keep the wheels of Commerce grinding away! God bless America! But they can work only so much of their 'magic' by themselves. The carrot/stick ratio is way out of wack in the US, and most people - working people - know it. If they were just peasants, it would be much easier to con them long-term, but the problem, from the W Bush school of economics POV, is that they have *expectations*. Too bad.

If only the people who are currently poor or lower middle class are allowed to advocte for that demographic, then they will always be screwed by the more affluent.

There is no hypocrisy in a rich person advocting for people who aren't rich. Neither is there an inevitable "talking down" facotr.

In fact those assumptions are very nice ones to promote is one wants to make sure that the poor stay poor and the rich get richer.

And as far as not being what you were--it sure beats pretending to be what you never were.

How come Republicans get to sell themselves as just plain folks when they either never were (Bush) or got over it a long time ago? (Reagan/McCAin)

jonnybutter/11:14 pm --

Well said.

Bravo jonnybutter.

jonnybutter: Nice post, but there's something worth clarifying.

What you and others have really said over and over is that getting rich disqualifies Edwards' talking about poverty. It's absurd...

What's truly absurd is that there's no blanket condemnation of the rich talking about poverty, it's that certain people -- by which one almost invariably means liberals or Democrats -- are disqualified from talking about poverty. To pick one blatant example, McCain, though likely a decamillionaire several times over, is perfectly allowed to talk about helping the poor because he (and other Republicans) carefully avoid the real questions of poverty in favor of Horatio Alger-like myths. It's only when you start pointing out that the playing field ain't exactly level -- and that certain interest groups are making damn sure it stays that way -- that the condemnation flies fast and furious.

And, yes, absurdly.

Speaking of absurdity, I owe Civilization 4 for the following quote, which summarizes in two sentences something I've been trying to articulate my whole life:

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist." - Helder Camara

Ain't that the truth.

Anarch --

Great quote!

P.S. Who is Helder Camara?

BTFB and FC: I'd love to thank you for your kind words, but the thing is...I came into a lot of money since I posted my comment, so I no longer care about any of it. Moved on. Ta.

I think Edwards would make a fine AG. He has the right instincts and as much experience as Bobby Kennedy did. I dont see Obama stiffing him with a low cabinet job to "punish" him for not endorsing sooner. Thats an Obama supporter-type attitude which I have heard a lot of lately: punish and stomp on them. Thankfully, Obama is way too smart and shrewd to fall for that stuff and he calls the shots. He knows he has to unify the party: its his first big obligation as candidate, and in that context to the chagrin of Obama people who want revenge and punishment, watch for Obama to be warm and gracious and embracing,yes, even of Hillary.

von: John Edwards, however, has made a career out of his "son of a millworker," two Americas story, even though he is a living rebuttal to it.

Just like Shaq is a "living rebuttal" to the idea that every kid won't be able to get into the NBA.

Anarch nails it.

How many of the those propagating the Horatio Alger tale understand it, and its limitations, as well as Edwards?

It just amazes me to read the vitriol and sarcasm directed towards Edwards on this and other discussion groups. I was not looking forward to Edwards running this year, but after a couple of months I supported him be cause he was talking about things I really wanted to be emphasized.

I think he talks about poverty because he realizes how it weakens the country, and how solving that problem brings dignity to all of us. Finding a way to bring people out of a state of desparation is an important step to the long-term health of the country.

And he was poor as a child. He's rich now, but he wasn't then. If someone really poor ran for President, s/he'd be laughed at. FDR was very rich, but was one of the great advocates for the poor. I believe Kennedy was rich as well. And Edwards is ridiculed for his advocacy because he can't possibly be sincere.

During the heat of the primary, Gore and Edwards and several others stayed out of it. They knew the situation had to work itself out. I think he probably was closer to Clinton from a policy perspective, but realized Obama was going to have a better time implementing policy -- Edwards doesn't lose his ability to advocate for a Clinton-style health plan by endorsing Obama now.

The strategic value of pushing the WV primary off the radar is huge. Very smart on Obama's part, and I'm sure Edwards went along with Obama's timing. While Edwards would accept a cabinet post, I'm sure, I don't see that he's obviously "angling" in a purely cynical way.

Yes, he's a politician -- so is Obama -- they do look at the angles before moving. But that's a feature, not a bug. Means to an end.

Agree w/ Jammer 100 percent:

Edwards would make a terrific AG -- or Secretary of Labor.

Furthermore, I agree that it would be very foolish for Obama supporters to feel a need for their candidate to "punish" Edwards for not coming out with an endorsement sooner.

As it turned out, the timing of his endorsement -- deflecting the spotlight from Hillary's almost 3 to 1 victory in West Virginia -- served Obama well.

And Jammer: I agree with you that perhaps some of Obama's supporters may hold a grudge but the good Senator does not strike me as the type of person who does. That, after all, is part of his allure.

If someone really poor ran for President, s/he'd be laughed at.

With the possible exception of being fat, being poor is the ultimate shame nowadays. You have to hate somebody, and if it can't be blacks/whites/asians/women/men/gays/etc., it has to be a group we can all agree on. An American can go on Dr. Phil and confess to necrophillia with animals, but wouldn't dream of revealing their exact income. And the more tenuous your grip on affluence, or the illusion thereof, the more you despise poors. Edwards talked about poverty before middle class problems not because he is just so damned stout-hearted, but because he was getting at one of the country's key ethical and political problems: our social disintegration, our atomization. Obama is trying, in a more diffuse but more successful (for the primary) way to do the same thing.

Whoever is AG in the next term is going to have some serious work to do undoing the damage that has been wrought over the last eight years. Edwards, say what you will, is not an organizational detail man. There may have been times when that didn't matter, as with RFK perhaps, but this isn't likely to be one of them. In fact, I bet Clinton would make a better AG. She certainly has more of an enforcer instinct. The main reason Edwards or Clinton would not do it is because it would require them to kow tow too much to Obama.

Exactly, Butter.

John Edwards' message was sound, worthy and very democratic -- and Democratic. For whatever reason, the voters didn't like the messenger. (It was probably his $400 haircut that the media -- especially youtube -- had a field day with:)

And as you say: "Obama is trying, in a more diffuse but more successful (for the primary) way to do the same thing."

All the more reason I can see Edwards serving as Obama's Attorney General or Secretary of Labor.

Barbara --

While Edwards obviously has an ego -- all of these politicians do -- I don't think it is as big as Clinton's. And methinks he would accept the AG post -- and do a good job.

interestingly, Edwards got one electoral vote for President in 2004; probably accidentally, but still...

What you and others have really said over and over is that getting rich disqualifies Edwards' talking about poverty. It's absurd, but it's the flip side of that working class fantasy: 'rubes' hate being rubes. Once you become rich, you belong to a special club. And you get a narrator, preferably English or Aussie.

That's not at all what I "really said." My view is that Edwards is judged less authentic than others because of whom he purports to be. To respond to Cleek, Edwards is being judged by "external appearances" -- as we all are. Edwards' problem is that his external appearances do not match up with who is is today. My reference to Paul Allen is simply that having been poor once does not make you poor today, or grant you special dispensation to speak as one of "teh poor" when you are clearly not poor. Intentional or not, Edwards talks down to voters.

The question I read posed by Publius is whether John Edwards will be much of a help in reaching out to poor white voters. He woud undoubtably be some help. But I just don't see him being as effective on this front as someone like Hillary (or Webb, for that matter), whose reputation does not depend on being authentic -- a standard neither Hillary nor Edwards can meet -- but rather on being effective.

Intentional or not, Edwards talks down to voters.

No offense, von, but you're not exactly poor yourself. What gives you the authority to say this?

And he was poor as a child. He's rich now, but he wasn't then. If someone really poor ran for President, s/he'd be laughed at. FDR was very rich, but was one of the great advocates for the poor. I believe Kennedy was rich as well. And Edwards is ridiculed for his advocacy because he can't possibly be sincere.

Edwards is not being ridiculed for his advocacy. To the extent that his is being ridiculed, it is a result of how he has chosen to present himself and his advocacy. Indeed, the basis for such ridicule is in your very post. You write "[Edwards] was poor as a child. He's rich now, but he wasn't then." That is a pretty basic part of his stump speech: Edwards' knows about two Americas because of his working class origins; his policies are right because of who he is.

Compare that to Obama, a politician whom I find far more appealing (even though I disagree with chunks of his politics). Was Obama particularly well-off as a child? Well, no. In fact, he may have had a tougher time of it than Edwards at some stages. But you do not hear Obama arguing nearly as much that his policies are correct because he is an honorary member of teh poor America.

Edwards is not being ridiculed for his advocacy. To the extent that his is being ridiculed, it is a result of how he has chosen to present himself and his advocacy. Indeed, the basis for such ridicule is in your very post. You write "[Edwards] was poor as a child. He's rich now, but he wasn't then." That is a pretty basic part of his stump speech: Edwards' knows about two Americas because of his working class origins; his policies are right because of who he is.

And that's a reason for ridicule?

Pardon me, I'm not getting it. That seems to me a good reason NOT to ridicule him, but to respect him.

If you want to say he talks down to the poor by using the language of the rich, I understand. But the argument you're presenting makes absolutely no sense.

P.S. Who is Helder Camara?

A Brazilian bishop. Randy Paul would know more.

No offense, von, but you're not exactly poor yourself. What gives you the authority to say this?

No one gives me the "authority" to say anything. I do think that Edwards talks down to me, but some others doubtlessly disagree. Maybe some of those others -- maybe a whole lot of them -- are poorer than me. But my sense of the polls is that Edwards doesn't do nearly as well among his supposedly core constituency as he should. Hillary does better.

"If Edwards wanted a meaningful position, the time to endorse was months ago when the nomination was up for grabs."

This reminds me of something from Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest". Early in the book Halberstam describes the selection process Kennedy went through to pick his cabinet. Someone (Stevenson?) was held at arm's length and not offered a cabinet position because that politician didn't stump for Kennedy during an important primary.

I'm with gwangung, von, I can't make any sense of your argument. Mind amplifying?

Edwards seemed damned if he does, etc.

Having been poor, and worked to get rich, he can't talk about poverty because of the way he "presents" himself.

But if he were to give away all his money, or live in a small 2-bedroom bungalow when he can clearly afford much more, he'd be the object of scorn and ridicule ("Hah, what an unserious moron...")

I'm not sure what he'd have to do to "appear" serious and truly concerned about this problem.

(Maybe if he retraced RFK's poverty tour he could get some attention. Or...wait...no...he did that and the media pretty much ignored him.)

(Good thing RFK was so poor, otherwise nobody would have believed a word he said....)

Sorry for the snark. But I bought Edwards because he was talking about it and nobody else was -- it wasn't a very popular or pleasant subject. I believed he believed -- and believes -- what he is saying. And there doesn't seem to be a single circumstance or "way of presenting himself" that would convince anyone.

Gwangung, if you accept that Edwards' argument is "his policies are right because of who[m] he is," then Edwards' appeal depend in part on him being who he claims to be. Edwards presents himself for ridicule when he acts inauthentically - by, e.g., living in a house larger than Rhode Island, getting expensive hair cuts, etc. The apparent hypocrisy is the basis for the ridicule -- not the intrinsic value of Edwards' position.

I'm not sure what he'd have to do to "appear" serious and truly concerned about this problem.

How about address the problems on its merits, rather than posture based on his past?

Again, compare Edwards to Obama: Obama's childhood was in many ways more difficult than Edwards. I haven't heard Obama argue that a particular domestic policy is correct because Obama's past gives him a unique viewpoint on the issue. Indeed, the few times Obama has tried such a tactic (foreign policy), he has been ridiculed for it.

A few things to note:

One thing Edwards offers now, that he couldn't offer before, is cover. Not just for superdelegates itching to end this -- but for supporters who had rhetorically hemmed themselves in.

Running through comments on various pro-Clinton, but not to the Taylor Marsh level -- had a lot of "Edwards was my first choice, and if he...blah,blah, blah...I guess Obama's not so bad" type of comments. Edwards gives them an excuse to switch to from Clinton support to lukewarm Obama support.

As to AG: It is absolutely true that the AG's office will probably spend the next 8 years cleaning up the legacy of the Bush administration -- from criminal lawbreaking to the simple appointment and promotion of idealogically pure, but otherwise incompetent folks.

The AG personally does not have to do that, nor does he. (Such a large job would be overseen by him, but the logistics would be handled the next level down or lower). What an AG brings to the Justice department is vision and focus. The Justice department has limited funds and manpower, and has to choose which are priorities and which are not.

That's done by a combination of who is hired, fired, or promoted within the various agencies of the Justice department (starting with the AG but moving up and down through all appointment positions AND the civil service), but is generally guided by the desires and visions of the AG himself -- and to a lesser extent, the President.

In short, the person you place in CHARGE of Justice, or Labor, or any federal agency is there to be passionate about the agencies' goals and focus it in directions that the President approves of.

All Edwards needs, in terms of logistics, is to appoint good people, and provide overall leadership on criminal justice matters. I suspect he's quite capable of both.

Re: "because of who[m] he is"...

It should be "because of who he is."

The object of "of" is "who he is," not "who." "Who" is the subject of the clause "who he is" -- hence in nominative case. More generally, a pronoun that is the subject of a subordinate clause is always in the nominative case, even if the clause itself is the object of a preposition, or the direct object of another clause.

Gwangung, if you accept that Edwards' argument is "his policies are right because of who[m] he is," then Edwards' appeal depend in part on him being who he claims to be. Edwards presents himself for ridicule when he acts inauthentically - by, e.g., living in a house larger than Rhode Island, getting expensive hair cuts, etc. The apparent hypocrisy is the basis for the ridicule -- not the intrinsic value of Edwards' position.

Sorry, but this STILL does not make sense.

What you're saying is that Edwards is inauthentic because he is rich.

That's nonsense.

It also assumes that poverty is a static quality, that one cannot move from poverty to richness or that it is impossible for the poor to desire such.

That's also nonsense.

COuld you try again. You are failing miserably in making me understand your position--you still seem to be saying that Edwards has no unique perspective on being poor because he is now rich (again, a logical fallacy).

P.S. But this "rule" is so often broken these days that I wouldn't be surprised to see the usage simply change...if I were going to be around for the next 50-60 years. Who/whom in general is a vexed question, along with some other pronoun case issues like "She called Bill and I."

Never mind, off topic. But it's one of my pet peeves, along with what I consider to be the mushing together of may/might.

Edwards has made any number of serious, passionate speeches about poverty. But all I ever read in the media was "haircut, haircut, haircut" and/or "the three H's"....

No matter in what matter or context he has tried to elevate the conversation, the only reportage has been about the good-looking rich boy with the fancy hair and house.

I disagree with the notion he made it all about his own personal story, though that played into his theme. As it should have.

Final OT on grammar, I promise (at least for now): As a sometime/part-time/volunteer editor as well as a semi-professional linguist (never mind), I fluctuate between prescriptive and descriptive approaches to language. As a linguist I observe (and describe) language; it's whatever people actually do. As an editor, I prescribe what people should do. It was the editor persona writing that comment on who/whom.

And as GBS said, "I am nothing if not explanatory." Though reading ObWi has taught me that I'm far from alone.

Last comment re Edwards as AG: I think the two or three issues that are crucial in an immediate sense in the next AG's office are (1) voting rights; (2) civil rights; and (3) untangling the torture memo mess and getting to the bottom of various other probably illegal schemes. Edwards has no background on any of these. I totally agree that he could supply vision and focus, but I think that someone who has already worked at Justice and knows who to trust would be in a better position to oversee this particular priority. Edwards was my first choice, I have nothing against Edwards at all, I just don't see him as AG.

Edwards "presentation problem"--to the extent that its real and not manufactured--is that although he grew up poor he doesn't retain any visible traces of it. He's turned out handsome in a very elite, waspy appearing way. I think he'd be cut a hell of a lot more slack if he looked like some other southernors have looked--Fred Thompson? Byrd? If he came accross as looking "more like a millworker" or a farmhand and less like a millworker's son who made good. People are very, very, stupid and easily influenced. They love that which is handsome and beautiful, but they are easily convinced that all of a person's life is also/should also be worn on their face. No one looking at Edwards handsome, carefree appearance remembers that he lost a beloved child, or thinks that he has engaged in hard work. Its a failure of our imagination. And the flip side is that Bush was able to sell himself as a kind of warrior/flyboy and texas rancher all at the same time all based on appearance and the complicty of the press. Anyone remember when Gore was ridiculed for wearing his standard cowboy boots? Ever put that up against Karl Rove's rather homoerotic memory of the dent Bush's chawing tobacco tin made in the back pocket of his worn blue jeans? Its always about appearances and appearances are the easiest thing to fake, and the least serious indicator of who a person is.

aimai

Running through comments on various pro-Clinton, but not to the Taylor Marsh level -- had a lot of "Edwards was my first choice, and if he...blah,blah, blah...I guess Obama's not so bad" type of comments. Edwards gives them an excuse to switch to from Clinton support to lukewarm Obama support.

One pro-Clinton blogger has suggested that Obama bring Edwards to as many campaign stops as possible. This might be a good idea for the "I'm not a racist!" Democrats as well as Clinton's "hard-working Americans, white Americans" -- to put a white face on the campaign.

von: How about address the problems on its merits, rather than posture based on his past?

As far as I can tell, that's what he did and has continued to do. An Obama endorsement speech is certainly not the place to run down a detailed policy agenda, but Edwards did that during his campaign.

Edwards' universal health care proposal set the standard for the other Democratic candidates. Clinton's, which she brought out shortly thereafter, was strikingly similar, and most Democratic commenters acknowledged that without Edwards' proposal hers would likely have been weaker.

From the beginning of his campaign, he pushed several other specific anti-poverty policies that the other candidates weren't talking about. I'm not the only one who noticed; this is Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times: "John Edwards... followed [up on his health care plan] yesterday with an excellent speech on poverty at home and abroad, with some good and specific ideas."

These ideas include: raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012 and then indexing it , tripling the earned income tax credit, strengthening not only labor laws (all the major Dems support the Employee Free Choice Act) but stepping up enforcement with a labor task force to target industries and companies that most abuse the minimum wage, overtime, and "independent contractor" classifications; housing vouchers, interest caps on payday loans, stronger protections for borrowers against credit card companies; investment in rural community colleges and rural small business centers; nurse home visits to low-income new parents...

There's more proposals where those came from (Edwards' campaign site), and all of them were presented in his first big anti-poverty speech. He continued to focus on them during campaign speeches -- not in the same detail, because voters were just as interested in his positions on the Iraq occupation and the full range of issues that presidentials candidates are expected to address.

Edwards didn't make his own history a substitute for policy proposals in making poverty reduction the focus of his campaign. He talked about his background to make the case that he has a personal experience of being in the bottom half of the income divide. He's not trying to pretend that he's poor now, and he's not defensive about being rich.

He is strongly in favor of people with his kind of money paying their fair share of taxes, which is another of the policies he promotes. But he's hardly a Leveller.

Does any politician who's serious about fighting poverty have to live as if his net worth were in the hundreds of thousands rather than the millions? If so, we're not going to see too many of them running for president.

Indeed, Nell from 6:46 pm, who the hell would be left?

RFK -- he fought poverty with the best of them, and had some serious green of his own in the bank, yet didn't take the kind of flak today's politicians -- i.e., John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry -- do.

Yes, the media was different then. There was no 24-hour news cycle. No internet. But there was something else, something better about the electorate perhaps.

Perhaps we have grown too cynical.

Even too hateful in some quarters.

Perhaps we have grown too envious.

Too envious of Edwards, envious of Clinton, envious of Kerry, envious of their vast personal fortunes.

Perhaps we key too much on their personalities, their hairstyles, their spouses, who knows what, and don't focus enough on the good these folks have done -- and propose to do -- for the less fortunate, in North Carolina, in New York, in Massachusetts, in the counties and boroughs, big cities and small, across this land.

We hear a boyish, yet 50ish, John Edwards speak and listen to his Two Americas speech over and over again, and instead of being inspired, instead of thinking what we can do to make it One America, we snicker at his $400 haircut, we tune out, and we lose another good man in the political arena.

Edwards story is real. He is a good man. His family is real, ideal in the best Norman Rockwell tradition. He made his way, made his millions, yet so many view that as some sort of ploy for him to get elected to higher office, as a way for him to stroke his ego.

Perhaps we have grown too cynical.

We have lost something.

I don't know what exactly, but we have lost something.

Whatever it is, we, as a nation, need to get it back.

I mentioned this over at TiO, but BTB's mention of Robert Kennedy has me repost this bit from an obituary for Desmond Derbyshire, a linguist who worked in the Amazon, by Geoff Pullum.

The most surprising story Des told of the long period of work in the Hixkaryana village concerned a day in November 1965. He had woken up early and begun work on linguistic analysis as usual, but today he heard the unexpected distant whine of the engine of the Norseman floatplane that the mission used for travel around the Amazon region of Brazil. He thought it was very strange that the plane would be coming to the village without having notified him previously. He watched it circle and land in front of his house.

Once the motor was silent and the pilot's door was open, Des asked the pilot why he had come. The pilot grinned and said "I've got Robert Kennedy on board." Des looked in the passenger seat in the back, and sure enough, there was New York's US Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Bobby Kennedy spent three days with Des among the Hixkaryana, sharing the daily lives of the people in the village and getting to know Des and Grace and their work. Kennedy was an excellent guest, participating fully in village life with its various hardships and never complaining. One afternoon, as Des and Bobbie were bathing in the Nhamunda river, Kennedy asked Des: "What's the name of this river?"

"The Nhamunda", Des told him.

"I want to remember the name," said Kennedy, "because just now, right here in this river, I have decided to run for President of the United States."

(And so he did, announcing his candidacy late, in March 1968, when the weakness of incumbent president Johnson's support was fully clear. He was assassinated less than three months later, immediately after winning the California primary.)

As Kennedy prepared to board the plane on the third day to leave, he turned to Des and said "You know, a lot of people would say that these people are not worth the bother of spending your life, with all of your education, in this isolated jungle spot." And he went on to say how much he admired Des for his work, and for believing that the Hixkaryana were worth the bother.

from here

Try to imagine a current politician being able to get away for 3 days to reflect on their decisions.

you do not hear Obama arguing nearly as much that his policies are correct because he is an honorary member of teh poor America.

You never heard Edwards arguing that. As Neil helpfully pointed out, he wasn't ashamed of his wealth and never minced words about it. As Edwards said ad nauseum, he wants other people to have the chance of success he had, wants to live in a country which values work and the idea of a middle class - which more closely describes the way this country was when Edwards was coming up than it does now. Is that really so hard to understand? Von, you keep switching between disinterested political observation and value judgement as if they are the same thing. With due respect, your argument really doesn't make sense.

So very many people don't-like/hate Edwards for almost entirely extra-rational reasons (I'm excluding Tories, since they have completely rational reasons). I'm tired of arguing about it at this point, but I must say that it's very weird, and says more about them than about Edwards himself. Edwards' problem was always with the Democratic Party and the Press, not with the general electorate. The Democratic primary is a uniquely horrible way to judge political 'effectiveness', BTW.

jonnybutter: but Teh Haircut!!!!!! And Teh House!!!!!

Also, sometimes Al Gore flies places!!!

"Edwards talks about the America of the rich and the America of the poor as though he was part of the latter, when he is in fact extremely wealthy."

I don't believe this is a problem the way you do.

First of all, I've been poor much of my life -- I mean, really really poor, do I have $.25 to get a potato for food over the next 2 days as my only food, I have no idea how I'll pay my rent, poor, for many months of many years -- and I don't believe you have had that problem for decade after decade.

So if we're talking from personal experience of actually having the perspective of a poor person (the most I've ever made in a year was 18k, and that's higher than any other year by a factor of... more than I care to say), I think I'm as qualified as anyone you're likely to talk to who hasn't also been homeless or grown up in the third world, and more qualified than you are to speak for what poor people might think.

And secondly, explain to me, if you might feel inclined, how it was this wasn't a problem for Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Bobby Kennedy? Why do you think it's a problem for a rich person to actually address the problems of the poor?

Because I have no idea why it would be hypocritical -- the charge usually made -- to care about the poor and those in need. I was raised with the idea that that was everyone's duty, and especially the duty of those most able to help those who are less fortunate. I think it's admirable, and I don't understand why you think that other people wouldn't find caring about people in need to be admirable.

And most of all, since no actual poor person is in a position to run for major elected office, if rich people can't be allowed -- somehow -- perhaps through a campaign to tar them as "hypocritical" for doing so -- to speak up about the need to help those in need, and poor people can't, effectively, run for and gain major office, then what you've done is make a rule that addressing the problems of the lower class, the poor, the disable, the homeless, the in-danger-of-being homeless, those with trouble finding or keeping work, and everyone else in longterm or serious need can never been done by anyone.

So just who do you think should be running for office to address the needs of the lower, non-middle, class, Von? Without, you know, all that "class warfare" that always puts you in a tizzy?

Oh, and why is it more hypocritical (or whatever the nature of your objection is) for rich people to address the problems of the lower class which they are not members of than it is for rich people to address the problems of the middle class which they are not members of?

Why is it not hypocritical or problematic for, say, G. W. Bush to pretend to be a salt-of-the-earth Texan, rather than the rich prep school kid who went to Phillips Academy, Andover, and Yale, growing up son of a millionaire rich and powerful man, grandson of a rich and powerful U.S. Senator, etc., but it's so dreadful for John Edwards, who grew up as the son of a mill worker, the first person in his family to go to college, a man who made his own fortune rather than inherit it, exactly?

This is not a rhetorical question: I'd really really appreciate it if you could explain to me exactly what it is that makes you so wild about Edwards (since you've expressed your opinion that his policy positions are somehow problematic due to his wealth of recent years innumerable times on this blog) in this regard, but you seem to have no such problem whatever with any rich Republican?

Thanks in advance for any response you care to offer.

Gee, there are a lot of comments to go here.

Oh, and Von?

"His 'Two Americas' speech is a good example of that. Edwards talks about the America of the rich and the America of the poor as though he was part of the latter"

Could you do me a favor, and quote a few of the lines you have in mind? I'd like to know what you're talking about, since I've never noticed this, myself.

Thanks muchly!

"John Edwards, however, has made a career out of his 'son of a millworker,' two Americas story, even though he is a living rebuttal to it."

How so? What specifically has he said that you're referring to?

"But, c'mon: Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, also had a relatively modest start as the son of a librarian. Do we give him the same special dispensation to talk about 'two Americas'"?

What "special dispensation" is required to point out that poor people need help, Von? What are you talking about?

"I'm perfectly willing to take your point that his political persona is a bit disingenuous given his personal story. My point was that at least it's consistently disingenuous."

Ok, then you can explain, please, perhaps, what specific "disingenuous" things Edwards has said that you are referring to: cite, please?

"P.S. Who is Helder Camara?"

Let me introduce you to the internet; it can give you answers in two seconds, and save you the wait, and someone else the bother of typing and doing your research for you. Asking someone else to do what you can do yourself may not be the most considerate approach, unless your Google is broken.

"My view is that Edwards is judged less authentic than others because of whom he purports to be. "

Who is he judged "less authentic" by? Which specific working class/lower class persons? Cite?

Why is it you keep trying to speak for the perspective of people unlike yourself, Von, rather than letting actual lower class people speak for themselves? How is it that John Edwards is unentitled to address the problems of the poor, but you're entitled to speak for our alleged perspective on him?

Do please explain?

"Never mind, off topic. But it's one of my pet peeves, along with what I consider to be the mushing together of may/might."

Grammar and usage corrections give me chills and thrills, speaking only for myself: the more the better. But, to be sure, many disagree.

Ok, read the whole thread now. Maybe von will finally -- after years of repeatedly asking him these sorts of questions -- find some time tomorrow, or over the weekend, to respond to the queries people have thrown him.

Hey, Von, why don't you write an actual post about your views on Edwards, "class warfare," and all this stuff? Let's try to actually understand each other on these issues, at last: whaddya think?

LIBERAL JAPONICUS --

Couldn't sleep, so I logged on for a quick look-see.

Wonderful post.

Left a lump in my throat, and a bittersweet feeling in my heart, thinking what could have been but also what could be. Thank you for this posting. Now I can go back to bed.

Good night, Bonzo, my big boy, the best ball-catcher that ever was. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of you and that great big beaner smile.

Edwards: What is He Good For?

In a word, plenty.

Now that Senator Obama has accepted Edwards' endorsement w/ open arms, here's hoping he will adopt several of his ideas. Here's hoping said ideas are put into the party platform at the Democratic Convention in August.

To wit -- highlighting Nell's pro-Edwards post from 5/15, 6:46 pm -- some of the Senator's better (and most necessary) ideas to employ:

"These ideas include: raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012 and then indexing it, tripling the earned income tax credit, strengthing not only labor laws (all the major Dems support the Employee Free Choice Act) but stepping up enforcement with a labor task force to target industries and companies that abuse the minimum wage, overtime, and 'independent contractor' classisfications; housing vouchers, interest caps on payday loans, strong protections for borrowers against credit card companies . . ."

I would love to see Obama debate McCain on these issues this fall.

Since I'm sick of talking about this ; ), a little more clarification.

Von perception that Edwards' financial success undercuts his message is at least comprehensible. It is certainly a very good political shot, and if the question is 'who is politically effective?', fair enough.

But it is strictly a political shot, from a distance. Edwards' personal story is perfectly coherent: he watched his parents start out poor, and work their way up a bit, into reasonably comfortable middle class; he worked his way through a public university, busted ass and made a lot of money. Edwards is not a Great Leveler. He knows that regular people don't want a handout or massive subsidy - they just want a little help now and then, and they will do the rest. Things have changed since the 50s-early70s - the tax code, banking regulation, etc. etc. The Edwards' story (or that of my family - I'm about the same age) is much less likely now.

The truer description of Edwards' political weakness is that working people often tend to resent the rich guy - particularly the guy who is recently rich, who started out working class like them. There is less resentment for 'old money' since those people are 'different from you and me'. The coalition against Edwards is the Nixon one: resentment from below; opportunism from above.

Edwards' (aforementioned) huge house is declasse. He and his wife's first date was at Wendys. Edwards was addicted to Diet Coke. He has a total working class ethic. He is personally reserved (the 'thoughtful' press turned against him in '04 when he wouldn't talk about his dead son) and he still works his ass off. He is the quintessential Democrat. It's the Democratic party itself which is incoherent - the Democratic party which, in the last 25-30 years: repeatedly weasled on the tax code, on social security, on degregulation, trade, etc. In short, a Dem party which has been merely less bad than the Republican one.

And if the Republicans are in denial about the self-damage their total fealty to Bush is doing, Democrats in this primary have been in denial about their own political position; but being Dems, they underestimate their opportunites rather than over. Younger pundits on the left frequently evince a strange helpless ruthlessness. It may be understandable, but it's inappropriate to the moment.

OK Barack. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

"John Edwards, however, has made a career out of his 'son of a millworker,' two Americas story, even though he is a living rebuttal to it."

How so? What specifically has he said that you're referring to?

Well, obviously, von hates America. He's essentially trashing the quintessential American myth of the meritocracy.

johnnybutter, what an insightful comment; thanks.

thanks Nell (sorry to call you 'Neil'). And yours too.

johnnybutter:

"OK Barack. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Spot-on.

After reading your thoughtful anaylsis, Butter, I am beginning to re-think pushing an Obama-Webb -- or Obama-Strickland -- ticket.

Obama-Edwards may be the way to go after all, for all of the reasons you've stated in the above postings. (And the more I think about it, Kerry, not Edwards, was the weak part of our ticket in '04.)

Added bonus:
With Edwards on the ticket -- unlike say Webb or Strickland or Richardson -- we do not risk losing a Democratic senate seat or a Democratic governorship to the Republicans.

BTfB, Webb has said that he would not accept the VP candidacy if offered.*

However, even if it were to happen, it's far from certain that it would cost a Democratic Senate seat. Gov. Kaine would appoint a Democrat to Webb's seat, who would have a year in office before running in a special election in 2009 (according to a poster at the Raising Kaine site; I'd thought it was 2010). Unless there's a sudden and massive backlash in Virginia in 2009, Democrats would have at least a slightly better-than-even shot at retaining that seat.

*Someone polled Senate Democrats with this question and posted the answers in "yes", "no", and "unclear" categories. (The windiness of some of the responses, and not only the "unclear" ones, made me wonder if Jim Webb wasn't likely one of the few who answered the question with one word.) I'd link the post where I saw this blogged but can't seem to find it now -- could swear it was at OpenLeft.)

The object of "of" is "who he is," not "who." "Who" is the subject of the clause "who he is" -- hence in nominative case. More generally, a pronoun that is the subject of a subordinate clause is always in the nominative case, even if the clause itself is the object of a preposition, or the direct object of another clause.

Good point. I should've stuck with the original.

Gary, JonnyButter's post on May 16, 2008 at 11:26 AM does a very good job of setting forth the problem that Edwards faces.

I'm not making a categorical statement that Edwards never does this or always does that. The topic under discussion is how much help Edwards is to Obama among working class voters. He is certainly some help. But, for a myriad of perception issues (already addressed), he probably isn't the best choice. I continue to believe -- and we have several primaries showing -- that Clinton is at least as effective as Edwards in reaching out to these kinds of voters, if not better.

Nell, you're referring, I believe, to this, which I would have blogged if I had more time and energy.

I found Ted Kennedy's particularly amusing: "Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
“I plan to stick with my current job until I get the hang of it.”

Also interesting were how many Republican Senators younger than McCain ruled themselves out because they were too old. Can we quote you, Senators? Yes, we can.

Von, thanks muchly for responding, but any chance you might inform us of exactly what Edwards said in his Two Americas speech that "he is a living rebuttal to," and what kind of "special dispensation" you are talking about?

I believe Clinton would be a terrible, negative, candidate in the Democratic Veep slot, but I already agree that though I like him, Edwards also has significant negatives. But, then, no one has no negatives. But, yes, Edwards are necessary to discuss, certainly, in any serious discussion from a Democratic perspective as to who would be the best nominee.

Everyone has negatives, but I am convinced that Edwards, despite his, would've been the strongest candidate this time, both in terms of winning, but more importantly vis a vis *how* he won. I'm fine with Barack (thrilled in some ways), but he is bound to be more equivocal in terms of domestic policy, more vague and kumbaya. HRC has her own negatives, not least of which is the lack of overall rationale (gender doesn't count as a overall rationale) for running this time, other than ambition, and, no doubt, a desire to do good work. Why would the strongest liberal and strongest (I believe) national candidate be the weakest in the primary? Because the Democratic primary, especially after '72, is a uniquely horrible way to decide who's electable. Just look at the track record in the last 40 years: a wounded Humphrey; McGovern; Carter (notwithstanding that he managed to win the general once); Mondale; Dukakis; Gore (who by rights did win, but barely); Kerry. Bill Clinton is the only exception. Now, some of those races were going to be difficult for Dems no matter what, but the point still stands. We are buying into HRC's spin equating primary strength with General electability here. A big mistake.

I assume everyone has heard by now that Edwards says he won't run for Veep.

And Mike Huckabee is so hilarious.

Hertzberg has a rich fantasy life.

"We are buying into HRC's spin equating primary strength with General electability here."

"We"?

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