Walter Shapiro on John Edwards

Walter Shapiro has a favorable look at John Edwards in Salon. While I do not agree with many of Shapiro’s favorable comments on Edwards, at least he understands how many of us feel (ignoring how he writes this off as “elite opinion”).

As someone who has been covering Edwards since his first foray into New Hampshire during the summer of 2002, I have long been stunned by the animus toward him that lurks just beneath the surface of elite opinion. In conversations with Washington political consultants, major Democratic donors, former Senate colleagues and big-time reporters, I have repeatedly heard the vague, but damning, refrain that Edwards is a shallow phony and his commitment to fighting poverty is mostly a political pose.

While I disagree with many of Shapiro’s defenses of Edwards, there is one factual error which I cannot ignore in the discussion of the limitations which Edwards would face by accepting matching funds:

Asked about this problem in the interview, Edwards argued, “I think it’s classic Washington think … It ignores the extraordinary free media that exists for a Democratic nominee for president.” Deputy Edwards campaign manager Jonathan Prince also pointed out that in 2004 John Kerry did not face any fundraising limits, but still was upended by the Swift boat ads, which were nominally sponsored by an independent group.

Contrary to the claim that Kerry didn’t face any fundraising limits, the Swift Boat ads appeared in August when Kerry was forced to limit spending because of the Republican advantage in having a later convention date. Both parties had an equivalent amount of money to spend in the period between their convention and the general election, but Kerry was forced to spread this money out over a longer period. As the Edwards campaign has raised this point, it is also worth noting that the Kerry campaign had wanted Edwards to fulfill the traditional role of the Vice Presidential candidate and go on the offensive in response to such Republican attacks. Edwards refused, presumably to preserve his “nice guy” image for his own future run.

A Republican campaign against Edwards would have a much easier job than they had against Kerry as they wouldn’t even need to invent charges, including some of those noted here. Shapiro wrote, “As a highly successful medical malpractice trial lawyer before his 1998 election to the Senate, Edwards labors under the odd political burden of being too glib and convincing in his public appearances.” It won’t be hard to convince voters to be wary of anything said by a candidate who made his fortune from glib talk before juries to convince them that problems caused by fetal brain injury long before the onset of labor were due to alleged malpractice at the time of delivery.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Jill Bryant says:

    I like John Edwards, I read the article and just saw him doing his job as a lawyer and, that he was good at his job. I think your summation – last sentence – isn’t quite right, either. It doesn’t sound like anyone was sure at the time, sounds like there are cases when that isn’t the case….I don’t want to reiterate it – I would just recommend re-reading it and trying not to bring your personal feelings against him into it.

    My parents had a malpractice suit against the doctor who was criminally negligent against my sister who died (he’d already had three lawsuits against him but she was a young 23 and trusted everyone). I promise you, it was not easy to sue him even though the proof was strong. My parents were happy to give a percentage to the lawyer who fought hard for them (they donated the rest – even though they didn’t have a lot of money – they felt it was blood money and just wanted the doctor to be held accountable.)

    I don’t believe the Swift Boat assumption – and that’s what it is….You seem just not to like him for a gut-level which is fine. But, that’s what it is.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Jill,

    Malpractice in the case of your sister doesn’t mean there was true malpractice in Edwards’ cases. Too many of Edwards’ cases don’t hold up medically.

  3. 3
    Jill Bryant says:

    That’s possible but – I did not see that in the article. This line “It won’t be hard to convince voters to be wary of anything said by a candidate who made his fortune from glib talk before juries to convince them that problems caused by fetal brain injury long before the onset of labor were due to alleged malpractice at the time of delivery” — I did not see anyone say that about that case (I can’t refer back because I can’t find the link again but….. I saw that it said doctors said they are feeling like many of the injuries could come long before the onset of labor – that they think 10% aren’t like that – but, that there was then enough belief in the fetal monitoring system – at least at that time – that they started using it more and performing more C-sections which means they weren’t sure then (but, yes, to avoid malpractice they were erring on the side of caution…)

    If you don’t like him, that’s fine. I don’t care if I like the President. I care who is going to be electable and who is going to be a smart, good one. I also don’t care if he is sincere – I care if he will honestly get the job done. People say Bush is likable —- and, you know, in another time and place, he might be but who cares.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    “That’s possible but – I did not see that in the article.”

    Of course not. It is a terrible article which doesn’t say anything of significance.

    Shapiro starts out by noting how many of us believe “Edwards is a shallow phony and his commitment to fighting poverty is mostly a political pose.” Then he white washes all the criticism of Edwards and ignores all the reasons people believe this. I’ve discussed these points in many previous posts so I didn’t bother to repeat it all here.

    “I care who is going to be electable and who is going to be a smart, good one. I also don’t care if he is sincere – I care if he will honestly get the job done.”

    That’s the problem. I don’t believe he is smart enough or knowledgeable enough to do the job. I don’t believe he can honestly get the job done. You need to set the bar a bit low with regards to sincerity when dealing with politicians but Edwards fails terribly here with his whole career being based upon increasing his own wealth and power while putting on a good act as to how he is helping others.

    His problems also impact his electability. Before he decided to accept matching funds I gave him a slight edge, but a much weaker chance than most of the other Democratic candidates. The spending restrictions for accepting the matching funds now give the Republicans a strong edge if Edwards is the nominee. Kerry had financial limitations compared to the Republicans for one month in 2004, and during that month went from being ahead in the polls to falling significantly behind. Edwards would be at a much more severe disadvantage, and it would last for several months, very likely putting the election out of reach.

    Obviously any predictions this far ahead are risky and it is possible that Edwards might win. Even if he did win, he alienates the types of voters who gave the Democrats their victory in 2006 and risks turning the Democratic Party into a minority party for another generation.

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