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


  1. 1
    Mark H says:


    I’m a little disappointed in this post. You’re talking about instances from 4 years ago. Has Edwards changed since then? Maybe. And you cite Shrum’s words, but does he (or you) even provide examples of Edwards’ being a “Clinton who hadn’t read the books”? And going back to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I barely remember Edwards, and very few running mates, having a major role in the presidential race. In my view, running mates are a showpiece and supposed to make the nominee look balanced on paper. So, who cares if Kerry regretted picking Edwards? The bottom line is that Kerry lost because of himself and no one else.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    The post was of particular interest as it reinforced the same opinion I had of Edwards for a number of reasons. The fact that these events are from four years ago does not reduce their significance. If I had a post up about George Bush screwing up when he was supposed to be in the National Guard there wouldn’t be any objections about how long ago the events were. Edwards is no more qualified to be president today than he was four years ago.

    Has Edwards changed? On the one hand he’s still showing that he’s not qualifed to be president. On the other hand he has changed in terms of altering his positions for political expediency.

    While I wouldn’t put the blame for losing on Edwards, the manner in which he placed his own plans for a future run over the success of the 2004 campaign is also an indication of the problems with his character. When Edwards was called on to have a role he dropped the ball. You miss the point when you say “who cares if Kerry regretted picking Edwards?” The point is the reasons why, which also pfesent reasons why Edwards would be a poor choice for the nomination this year.

  3. 3
    Mark H says:

    Ron, I saw how you responded to Stossel’s latest article, and I thought, “Cool. Another smart blogger.” After reading this Edwards post and now your response, I’m beginning to think I was wrong.

    Shrum is one guy. If others (who are credible) said the same thing (and you provided their words), I would give it more weight. But, the bottom line is that he, nor you, provide any proof that Edwards is a “Clinton who hadn’t read the books”. This is just slander.

    Furthermore, as I said, this is *four* years ago. Are you entirely the same person you were four years ago? I certainly am not. If you had something to say about Edwards that happened four years ago, and we could see him do it again today, then you would have something. But you don’t. You’ve got nothing.

    Instead of reinforcing whatever arguments you have against Edwards, you have done the opposite. It makes me distrust what you have to say.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    It isn’t only Shrum who holds this opinion. National Journal had a recent survey of party insiders to choose the most overrated candidate. Edwards came in first with 42%.

    It also isn’t only events from four years ago. It was just recently that Edwards didn’t know whether Cuba had a government-run health care system. To make matters worse, just prior to this Edwards was talking about how he saw Sicko and how great a movie it was.

    “You’ve got nothing.”

    Nonsense. There’s been a huge amount of material suggesting that Edwards is a light weight. Many people of both parties have this view. You are just looking for excuses to ignore what you don’t like.

    “It makes me distrust what you have to say.”

    It just looks like you are building defenses to avoid facts which conflict with your biases. Choosing a president is a serious matter and someone like Edwards shouldn’t be given a pass just because he might come up with lines you like politically.

    When you respond in this manner with personal attacks you remind me of so many discussions with Bush supporters. Commonly after I present the case against Bush and the war the response I get is “liar” without a single coherent argument in response. You are doing exactly the same when you dismiss the case against a candidate who has no meaningful experience and has been caught in multiple compromising situations so far this year simply because you don’t like what you hear.

  5. 5
    Mark H says:

    Sorry if you thought I was personally attacking you. I wasn’t intending to do that, but I know my letter was firm.

    Getting back to the issues, what you have just presented is not a real substantial argument against Edwards. So what about Cuba and Sicko. I mean, does this really tell you anything about him? It would be one thing if he said, ‘we should have a bigger Guantanamo’ or ‘I don’t believe in universal health care’. But he hasn’t. Not only does he say things that I agree with, but he’s actually putting together proposals (health care back in Feb 07), which the other candidates are only catching up on. Citing Shrum to say Edwards is a backstabber, or that he flip-flopped on Cuba/Sicko is not enough to convince me he’s a light weight.

    I looked for that National Journal survey and I couldn’t find it. In fact, you were the first google hit. I don’t know how scientific it was (I suspect it wasn’t). But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Should I care about what DC insiders say? No. What I should care about is 1) where does the candidate stand, 2) what does s/he propose, and 3) how he handles himself in public and the world at large.

    The only thing that would dissuade me from voting for Edwards is if he turned out to be lying big time and/or he’s done some really shady things. When it turned out he invested in a company that foreclosed on New Orleans homeowners, I thought that was really bad. But at least he admits it and pulls the money out of the company.

    The bottom line is that he’s practically the only candidate that’s put forth any serious proposals, and he’s the one who talks a lot about the income gap, poverty, etc. All the other candidates like to slam Bush for the bad stuff he’s done. That’s really easy. But I really pay attention to a candidate that goes the extra step, and that’s what Edwards has done.

    In all honesty, of the top three Dem candidates, I could care less who wins (I just hope one wins the presidency). But, like I said, Edwards has separated himself from the pack in ideas and proposals. Cuba/Sicko, Shrum, and DC insiders aren’t very persuasive arguments against him. You will have to do better than that.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    You really think that a candidate that is running on a health care proposal should be unaware that Cuba has a government run health care program? That was an easy one considering that virtually everything in Cuba is government run, and considering that this was a major point in Sicko.

    Any one argment by itself may not be convincing, but we have quite a pattern, including how poorly he performed as a candidate in 2004. Ultimatley the burden of proof that someone is qualified to be president rests with the candidate. Edwards has failed to demonstrate that he is qualified, especially in light of his limited experience–a single unimpressive Senate term which he primarily used as a stepping stone to run for the nomination.

    While you should be concerned where the candidate stands, this is far from enough, especially in Edwards’ case. Edward has changed so many positions which he held four years ago that it is difficult not to be suspicious that his changes are politically motivated. He has basically coming up with the lines which would work best in Iowa and in portions of the blogosphere to go along with his campaign strategy.

    Having a bunch of nice looking position papers doesn’t mean much considering how he kept staffers on the payroll (skirting FEC regulations with his Poverty Center). It is one thing to hire people to write position papers. It is another thing to have the knowledge to make decisions once in office.

    “When it turned out he invested in a company that foreclosed on New Orleans homeowners, I thought that was really bad. ”

    It is far worse than having invested in a company. He actually worked for one such company for over a year. Subsequently he claimed that he didn’t know what they were doing and only worked for them to learn the business. His excuses only added to my suspicions that he isn’t the brightest guy as they amounted to claiming he was ignorant of how a company worked which he went to in order to learn.

  7. 7
    Mark H says:

    This Cuba thing is ridiculous. I don’t expect myself, or anyone else, to have instant recall over 100% of the details. Bottom line is that he had a workable proposal in Feb 07, the other candidates didn’t. I don’t care if he doesn’t even know the colors of the Cuban flag. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference in the substance of his proposal.

    Again, you make sweeping statements without proof whatsoever. I’m new to blogs, but now I understand when the MSM talks about the blogs making mountains out of molehills. All of what you just wrote are your opinions, and that’s fine. But if you want to be *convincing*, you need better arguments.

    As far as the company related to NO, I don’t know much about them, but whatever it was, it blew over in the MSM, and I suspect it wasn’t a big issue. If you have real evidence, and not hyperbole, I would love to see it.

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