The Hypocrisy of Edwards’ Attacks on Obama

I’ve long said that one of the defining characteristics of John Edwards is that he approaches politics like a trial lawyer arguing a case. To Edwards it is winning and not principles that matter, and on any given day he will say whatever he feels increases his chances of winning. Like a trial lawyer, he is perfectly capable of arguing the opposite position before different juries or groups.

In recent days Edwards, as well as many liberal bloggers, have been attacking Obama for his consideration of all viewpoints. Edwards charges Obama with living in “never-never land.”

“If he believes that, yes,” Edwards said. “It’s a little hard for me to tell sometimes based on the way he talks about this. I’ve heard him say he would give stakeholders a seat at the table. I assume he’s talking about oil companies, drug companies and insurance companies.”

Supporters of Edwards have picked up on this meme in the blogosphere, and Paul Krugman has repeatedly criticized Obama for being willing to negotiate with insurance companies, and for “his reluctance to stake out a clearly partisan position.”

Others have fortunately seen Obama’s strategy in a different light, realizing that Obama is far more likely to be able to achieve a consensus willing to consider change. Mark Schmitt has described how Obama can bring about change in The American Prospect. As Steve Benen summarized it, “In this sense, the ‘politics of hope’ isn’t about bringing everyone to the table to compromise; it’s about an effective rhetorical strategy to achieve a progressive result.” Should the Democrats lose their generic lead, Obama’s greater support among independents will give the Democrats a far greater chance at victory, especially as more voters realize that Edwards is no longer the moderate he campaigned as in the past.

If you want to see virtually any position on an issue you can generally find it by quoting John Edwards depending upon what point he wanted to make that day. Generally the opposite from Edwards’ current positions can be found by looking back at his brief and generally undistinguished career in the Senate. In this case we only need to go back to February to see how Edwards has changed his position on whether we should “bring everybody to the table” or whether arguing for this is something out of “never-never land.” In an interview with MyDD, Edwards took the opposition position from what he is taking today:

Singer: – also bringing in both corporations and labor and healthcare groups and doctors. Not getting into the specifics at all, but how do you see bringing in everyone so it’s not just an us versus them, because us versus them didn’t work in the past?

Edwards: I think you try to bring everybody to the table. You want their participation, you want to make the system work for everybody. I think there’s a difference between a healthcare plan that builds on the existing system but deals with some of its deficiencies and problems as opposed to a complete new way of doing healthcare in America. The latter will engender huge opposition. And it will engender a lot of just plain political opposition. If on the other hand you’re taking the system that exists, dealing with the problems with it, making sure everybody gets covered, it’s just much more likely to be achievable.

If you think that the Republican charges of flip-flopping against John Kerry and prior Democratic candidates was a problem in the general election campaigns, just wait and see what the right wing noise machine will do to John Edwards. In contrast to their smear campaign against Kerry there will be one major difference which will further help the Republicans: in Edwards’ case the charges will be accurate.


  1. 1
    Pat says:

    This is one of the most fascinating nuances of the campaign to date, and in fact, appears to have positive, not negative implications.

    That speculative hypocrisy can be spread and used by any candidate that is likely to register on John Edward’s radar is actually a help to voters – to discern what is true and what isn’t. Who wants a President who relies upon yesmen without attempting to decipher the truth?

    Haven’t we already been there and done that?

    The opportunity to watch a real trial lawyer experienced in exposing untruths and inaccuracies on cross examination is one of the more entertaining facets of the campaign, and may raise everyone’s truth levels.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Unfortunately Edwards has a history of using his skills as a trial lawyer to spread untruths and inaccuracies as opposed to exposing them.

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