Recent Headlines, And Past Statements, Harmful To Edwards’ Image

Even before the report on Bob Shrum’s new book, which portrays Edwards as a lightweight, recent headllines have been damaging to Edwards’ campaign theme. The San Francisco Chronicle reviews these stories which, regardless of one’s opinion of Edwards, must be taken as a warning of what Democrats will be up against if Edwards should win the nomination:

Democrat John Edwards has eloquently established his credentials as an advocate for the poor with a presidential campaign focused on the devastating effects of poverty in America. But the former North Carolina senator’s populist drive has hit a series of troubling land mines: a pair of $400 haircuts, a $500,000 paycheck from a hedge fund, and now a $55,000 payday for a speech on poverty to students at UC Davis.

The problem now facing the Democratic presidential candidate is whether the pileup of headlines, including the latest regarding hefty fees from university speeches reported Monday by The Chronicle, threatens to obliterate Edwards‘ dominant campaign theme. The former senator, who has been portrayed as the champion of the poor and the son of a humble mill worker, now faces the possibility that voters will have a different image: that of a millionaire trial lawyer who talks one way and lives another.

With months to go before the first primaries and caucuses, the growing perception about Edwards highlights a danger of modern presidential campaigns: In the 24/7 media environment, a few maelstroms of unconnected and unexpected headlines and images can quickly gather momentum and morph into a political storm that obliterates even a carefully crafted strategy and message.

“It’s outrageous. He’s trying to come off as Mr. Populist and Mr. ‘I’m trying to help the poor,’ and he charges $55,000 for a speaking fee? That’s ridiculous,” says Dick Rosengarten, Los Angeles-based publisher of the California Political Week newsletter. “Combined with the haircut, who’s in charge of this guy’s campaign? What are they thinking?

They note that other politicians have been harmed by unfavorable news stories, which are not always even accurate. For example, “Former Vice President Al Gore regularly was the subject of stories suggesting he was an exaggerator and often fudged facts; the theme became so prevalent that opponents accused him of boasting that he ‘invented the Internet’– a statement he never made.

The stories about Edwards could be more damaging as, unlike the slurs against Gore, they all appear true. While any one of them by themselves might be considered trivial, the combination creates a pattern which is altering public perceptions of John Edwards:

Edwards‘ political troubles began after revelations that his campaign paid $400 for a haircut, prompting GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to quip that Democrats are “spending more than John Edwards in a beauty shop.” Edwards also was rapped for his work for a hedge fund — an investment seen as catering to the super rich — and his $500,000 salary.

The criticism intensified Tuesday as conservative bloggers, commentators and opponents jumped on Edwards for charging $55,000 for a 2006 speech at UC Davis. Critics said the speech about poverty before a mostly student audience of 1,787 — who were charged more than $17 a ticket — challenges Edwards‘ campaign message and raises questions about the candidate’s judgment.

Democratic strategist Kam Kuwata said the incidents suggest sloppy message control and a tendency toward being tone deaf in the campaign — something Edwards must address immediately before it causes irreparable harm among voters in the early Democratic primaries and caucuses.

John Edwards of 2007 is also haunted by the John Edwards of 2003-4. While he now panders to the liberal blogosphere and stresses his almost born-again devotion to the anti-war movement, his past views have not been forgotten. Edwards has gained recent publicity for correctly criticizing the state of hysteria created by the Bush administration’s use of the “war on terror.” In return, conservative blogs such as Hot Air are now posting video clips of John Edwards embracing the “war on terror” in the past.

Gore Won’t Make a Sherman Statement Ruling Out Run

I almost wish that Gore would give a definate answer about running for President simply so that he could talk about matters of substance and not spend every interview discussing this. Of course that will not happen. The reasons for Gore to leave the door open are rather obvious. In an interview with Larry King, Gore said he will not make a Sherman statement that he will not run:

And I’m — but here is my — and you know my answer, that’s the problem. Because I don’t want to sound repetitive. I am not thinking about being a candidate. I have no plans to be a candidate. But, yes, it’s true, I have not made a so- called Sherman statement and ruled it out for all time. I see no reason or necessity to do that.

But that’s not an effort to be coy or to prop the door open or to invite such speculation. Look, I don’t know why it’s ordained that one — that as soon as one presidential campaign is over with, the next one begins right away. I’m one of those who doesn’t like to see the Christmas goods put into storage right after Halloween.

And I think the American people are not well-served by having an endless campaign. We are 500 days away from the next election. So why just sort of close up the field and say, OK, this is it. Place your bets. I don’t have to play that game.

KING: No, you don’t. But — and I don’t mean to be coy, but why not take the Sherman approach? Why not say, I don’t want to run, and if nominated, I won’t serve?

GORE: Or whatever. Well, I see no reason to do that. Why would I do that?

KING: Because when you don’t, you leave things open.

GORE: Well, look, I’m 59 years old, 59 is the new 58.

KING: And you’re 40.

GORE: Well, I have not closed the door at some point in the future to consider being a candidate. But even saying that makes me want to immediately follow up with another disclaimer. Because I don’t expect it to happen. And I’m not jockeying to create an opportunity for it.

Look, I’m enjoying my life. And I’m enjoying serving in other ways. I have been focused on a different kind of campaign to persuade people in this country and around the world that we have to respond to the climate crisis. It is by far the most dangerous crisis our civilization has ever faced.

And in order to solve, it, we have to address these fundamental problems in the way our democracy is operating today.

After eventually getting this out of the way, the interview did get into other topics including his new book, The Assault on Reason, the war, and global warming.

Posted in Al Gore, Politics. No Comments »

Giuliani Under Conservative Attack Over Social Issues

The boring thing about Republican primary campaigns is that, for the most part, they all say and think alike. In 2000 we had John McCain take on George Bush, but we can now see how little differnence there is between the two. Ron Paul has created some controversy, but he’s a fringe character who has no real influence on the party, especially now that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party has been marginalized under the control of the neocons and the religioius right.

The major exception is that Rudy Giuliani. Finding that his waffling wasn’t working, Giuliani has decided to openly differ from the party’s views on some social issues. While This isn’t enough to earn him my support in light of his total lack of understanding of national security issues and his poor record on civil liberties, having a prominent candidate such as Giuliani take the correct stand on a few issues is a welcome difference.

There are elements among Republicans who will not hear of such differences of opinion, and are planning action against Giuliani. The New York Observer reports:

Even as Rudy Giuliani emerges from his campaign’s first real rough patch, a number of conservative Catholic organizations are in the process of rolling out potentially broad-reaching “viral” initiatives with the common aim of denying him the Republican nomination.

A conservative Catholic P.A.C based in a key swing state is planning an anti-Giuliani “multimedia effort” for a June debut. A national network of politically savvy Catholic activists is creating a heavy-hitting Web site—patterned after the controversial Catholics Against Kerry effort in 2004—scheduled to appear around the same time. And earlier this month, a disabled vet working out of his home in Blytheville, Ark., launched an invitation-only “Stop Rudy” social-networking site, where Giuliani-haters from across the nation have begun to meet and coordinate real-world planning from behind the protection of a members-only log-in.

“We’re not going to hide,” said Joseph Cella, executive director of the conservative Catholic advocacy group Fidelis. “We just want to influence the conversation.”

There’s also another group attacking Giuliani:

A separate effort from another group of Catholic activists—to operate under the admirably straightforward title of Catholics Against Rudy—will also take aim at Mr. Giuliani’s record on social issues. It’s the brainchild of Georgia lawyer Steve Dillard, best known as the formerly anonymous voice of Southern Appeal, a conservative Catholic legal blog that drew a wide-ranging, fiercely loyal audience until Mr. Dillard outed himself and subsequently retired the site five months ago.

Mr. Dillard, along with other bloggers, commentators and activists who are planning to participate in the effort, are modeling their project on the headline-grabbing Catholics Against Kerry site that targeted the Democratic nominee three years ago. (Organizers say that none of the individuals involved in that operation are principals in the new effort.)

“It’s not a vast right-wing conspiracy,” said Mr. Dillard, “but if you’re active on these issues, you build up networks of people who share your concerns, who are very involved, and who have very significant followings. These aren’t just ‘likely voters’—these are very serious, die-hard activists. And they all have readers and supporters.”

Visitors to the new site, he said, will find themselves at a one-stop shop of anti-Rudy messaging, material and merchandise, including anti-Rudy bumper stickers, T-shirts and other assorted items. (They will be sold at cost to avoid any kind of potential profit—and the F.E.C. scrutiny that would undoubtedly bring.)

Bush Administration Punishing McClatchy

While so much of the so-called “liberal media” has acted as lap dogs to the Bush administration, McClatchy (formerly Knight-Ridder) has been willing to do real investigating as opposed to reporting government statements as fact. We’ve known all along that the Bush administration makes a Nixonian effort to limit real news, and now it appears that they are retaliating against McClatchy. Editor and Publisher reports:

Staffers at McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., Bureau — one of the few major news outlets skeptical of intelligence reports during the run-up to the war in Iraq — claims it is now being punished for that coverage.

Bureau Chief John Walcott and current and former McClatchy Pentagon correspondents say they have not been allowed on the Defense Secretary’s plane for at least three years, claiming the news company is being retaliated against for its reporting.

“It is because our coverage of Iraq policy has been quite critical,” Walcott told E&P. He added, “I think the idea of public officials barring coverage by people they’ve decided they don’t like is at best unprofessional, at worst undemocratic and petty.”

Bob Shrum Exposes Edwards as Lightweight and Phony

While Bob Shrum’s judgement in running Presidential campaigns is open to criticism, the descriptions of John Edwards discussed in a review of his book at The New Republic are consistent with other evidence. I cannot argue with the manner in which Shrum characterizes Edwards as a “lightweight” and “hyper-ambitious phoney.” It also sounds like the two have not gotten along since Shrum decided to work for Kerry as opposed to Edwards in 2003:

By early 2003 Shrum faced a choice: Would he work for Edwards’s presidential 2004 campaign? Or would he go with another longtime client and friend, John Kerry? (Shrum had already ruled out two other would-be candidates seeking his services: Joe Lieberman had become “too monochromatic … the Republicans’ favorite Democrat,” while Dick Gephardt’s “time had passed.”)Shrum decided to go with Kerry. By now, he was coming to see Edwards as a lightweight–“a Clinton who hadn’t read the books,” as he puts it. Edwards didn’t take the news well. Shrum writes that, in a dramatic early 2003 phone call, Edwards told him: “I can’t believe you would do this to me and my family. I will never, ever forget it, even on my deathbed.” The relationship has been poisoned ever since.

The fact that Edwards is out of his league on a national ticket seemed clear during the primary campaign, but became even more obvious after he was picked as running mate–a choice which Kerry regretted. As I’ve considered the choice of Edwards to be among the errors Kerry made in 2004, in a sense I’m happy to see that Kerry has since acknowledged this mistake.

Shrum reports that Kerry only offered the position to Edwards after receiving an agreement that he “absoultely” would not run against Kerry in 2008. Edwards denied making this promise after deciding to enter the race before Kerry decided whether he would run. Shrum has more to say about Kerry and Edwards:

But the two men didn’t coexist happily. The Kerry campaign was upset that Edwards didn’t use more aggressive rhetoric on the campaign trail, Shrum writes. And Shrum portrays Edwards as not entirely ready for prime time. In a prep session before Edwards’s one debate with Dick Cheney, Shrum writes, “Edwards came across as unsure and nervous.” The session adjourned so Edwards could spend more time reading his briefing books. Shrum writes that Kerry later told him “that Edwards called [Kerry] before the debate in a state of ‘panic.’ He was worried; maybe he wasn’t ready; could he pull this off? Kerry, who thought Edwards was suffering a peculiar but baffling case of stage fright, told his running mate that he’d … do a great job.” (Though Kerry was ultimately disappointed in Edwards’s performance, Shrum writes.)Shrum says that, in the end, Kerry “wished that he’d never picked Edwards, that he should have gone with his gut” and selected Dick Gephardt. And the feelings between Kerry and Edwards seem fairly mutual. After Kerry reached out to Edwards in the wake of his wife’s disclosure of a recurrence of cancer, Shrum writes, “Kerry told me that the Edwardses simply stopped returning calls or talking to him and Teresa.”

Update: Recent Headlines, And Past Statements, Hamful To Edwards’ Image

Amy Sherman-Palladino And The Real Ending To Gilmore Girls

Amy Sherman-Palladino isn’t revealing her planned ending, and four final words, for The Gilmore Girls yet. If this is true, it will be worth waiting to find out what those words are. Michael Ausiello reports in Wednesday’s column that she is looking at making a two-hour movie to properly tie up the series. From the column:

OK, here’s the deal: Yes, I tracked her down, but, no, she did not cough up those elusive four words. But wait — there’s more. And it’s good. No, amazing. No, un-frakkin’-believable. Amazing, even. Wait, did I say that already? Well, it’s true. Because just as I was about to brand her a big ol’ promise-breaker right there in front of all those industry types, Amy explained why she couldn’t divulge her long-ago-planned Gilmore ending. (Gilmore fanatics: This is the time in Sprockets when you either lean on a heavy object or just sit down.) In the next year or two, she hopes to make — wait for it — a two-hour Gilmore Girls TV-movie that ties up all those loose threads! I nearly fell over when she said it — especially given what she told me back in December. (BTW, lest you think Amy was pulling my leg, her partner in life and in showbiz, Dan Palladino, confirmed that a GG reunion pic is something they’re interested in pursuing.) And I wasn’t the only one floored by this development. “She said what?” gasped Scott Patterson after I relayed the information to him over the phone. “I didn’t think she would be interested in doing something like that. But if she says she is, I would seriously consider it.” Alexis Bledel was equally stunned. “A Gilmore Girls reunion?” she said with a laugh. “That’s certainly not something I had thought of doing. That’s really funny, I have no idea how I would feel in a few years. I don’t know, I’m sure the script Amy would write would be great, but I guess I’d have to read it and see how I felt at the time.” Last but not least, Lauren Graham e-mailed me late last night to say, “Could be a fun idea if everyone wanted to do it. I would do it just to get the four final words out of Amy. They torture me.”

Update: One possibility for the final four words is posted here.

Update II: The status of a possible movie and Amy Sherman Palladino’s vague comments on taking Rory on a different path (November 2009).

Buzz on “The Assault on Reason”

There’s a couple of must read posts regarding the White House’s attack on Al Gore’s newly released book, The Assault on Reason. Think Progress has Tony Snow’s claim that Gore is wrong in saying that the Bush administration had made false claims of a connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks. Multiple links are present which verify Gore’s charges and contradict Snow’s claims.

James Boyce reports on a conference call between bloggers and Gore. Taylor Marsh also has a report, as well as the full audio up.

The New York Times reviewed The Assult on Reason yesterday. Maureen Dowd discusses it in today’s column, but unfortunately is far more concerned with Gore’s weight than anything of substance. As the column is behind the firewall I indended upon presenting a section, but I really don’t find anything worthy of quoting in today’s column.