January 26, 2004

Edwards or Bush

All Democrats All the Time is the new nightly news fixation. (Iíll take it over All Michael Jackson any day.) Iíve spent more time watching Democratic candidates for president on television in the past few days than in the previous two months combined.

John Edwards impresses me. Heís Bill Clinton without the sleaze. (At one point Bill Clinton was also Bill Clinton without the sleaze, but I see no reason to believe Edwards will follow him down.) Heís smart, articulate, decent, and convincing. It helps that my own views line up with his rather nicely. But I also actually like him. I rarely like politicians as people even when I like what they say and do.

Itís also nice that Edwards is the only one, aside from Joe Lieberman, who doesnít come across like a hectoring leftist. He doesnít wallow in Bush-hatred, nor does he attack the other candidates. He is optimistic, cheery, and focused on the future instead of the past.

He hardly utters a peep about foreign policy. And I think I know why. His authentic hawkishness is a liability in the primary. Maybe this will change if Joe Lieberman drops out and he can run as the only real liberal hawk in the bunch. But for now he sticks to other subjects. That is probably wise.

Heís not a cipher on foreign policy, though. In September 2002 he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the problem of Saddam Hussein. All hawks should read this and know where he stands. A year and a half later, heíll still earn my vote for this as long as he doesnít backpedal.

As for the rest of them:

I donít particularly like Joe Lieberman. His sanctimonious moralizing is just too much. Iíd take him over Bush even so. Not that it matters. He has little chance of winning the primary. Heís a protest vote.

John Kerry, for the most part, is a decent and reasonable man. I donít loathe him and I doubt I ever could or will. He would be preferable to Bush in many ways. (The fact that heís a so-called ďMassachusetts liberalĒ is not a big deal for me.) Still, the only foreign policy ideas Iíve heard from his mouth can be boiled down to Bush lied and Bush was rude to France. Iím not getting behind anyone who thinks thatís a defense policy.

Kerry will earn credibility if he can address this problem seriously. But he needs to convince me in my gut that he can overthrow a tyrant while Europe screams. I donít think he can do that, but heís more than welcome to try.

Wesley Clark is just bizarre. He seems to be trying to prove he is a Democrat, but he comes across as a man who is conforming to a caricature because he doesnít know how to be a real one.

Howard Dean is probably toast. Iíve moved on.

Dennis Kucinich is the Pat Buchanan of the Democrats. He doesnít help the partyís image. But heís out of the mainstream and canít do any real damage. I do like the fact that a goofball like him can run for president.

Al Sharpton doesnít deserve a response.

And so. While subject to change and revision, at this point in time I tentatively support John Edwards for president. Failing an Edwards win the primary, this blog in all likelihood will plug its nose and endorse George W. Bush - for reasons of national security.

Strong arguments for others will be considered. And I reserve the right to flip-flop as needed.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2004 01:06 AM
Comments

I LIKE John Edwards, too, more and more every time I see him: The "Two Americas"; The Common Touch; The Southern Twang; The "Real Solutions For America" Agenda of a Million and a Half Policy Proposals...

He's just a damn likeable fellow, all around. Reminds me a whole hell of alot of Clinton in '92...

Two Americas = Forgotten Middle Class

I think he's figured out what maybe no other Democrat has. They all know that an election fought over domestic issues is a sure win and that an election fought over foreign policy is not. I think maybe Edwards has figured out that to make it about "the economy stupid" you've got to at least pass the War on Terror threshold for Democrats.

The American people don't instinctively trust Democrats on defense and Edwards is hawkish enough to maybe at least draw even with Republicans. I've said for months that Tony Blair would be the perfect nominee, if such a thing were possible, that he'd kick the snot out of Bush. Same principle applies, here. Edwards is like a Southern Tony Blair.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 26, 2004 01:44 AM

The link to his "Real Solutions For America":

http://www.johnedwards2004.com/real-solutions.asp

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 26, 2004 01:46 AM

Edwards is prolly the best; prolly won't be good enough in Nov.; after the Southern States primary, he may become the "leader".

It will be interesting to see how he holds up to the coverage. He'll be able to claim a vote against cash to Iraq was a vote against Bush, won't be a big deal -- he/ every Dem HAS to say the Dems could do Iraq better.

And if he gets the Dem nod, he could ease Hillary out of the spotlight in 2008, too -- SHE may well be totally unelectable, ever.

He's got 56 (so far boring) pages of policy w/o much in the way of meaty: who pays, how much, for what. But none other have better that I've seen.

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 26, 2004 01:50 AM

Grant: Edwards is like a Southern Tony Blair.

Yes. And if he wins the primary, he can prove it without having to worry about his left flank.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2004 01:56 AM

He's carrying a big liability though that could really hurt him in November...and no it's not being a trial lawyer (he's actually one of the good guys, check out his record)...it's his lack of experience. They'll hammer away at him saying he's some sort of "lightweight golden boy". That'll be damn near impossible to refute.

For the first time in a very very long time voters are actually looking for experience. The "untainted outsider" ploy doesn't carry much weight these days.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 26, 2004 01:58 AM

Who might Edwards pick as his VP?...

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson? Best all around pick, hands down. Would build the Latino base.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer? I love this guy, I really do. A model New Democrat.

Dare I say it, Wesley Clark? Can't stand him but he IS a General. Balance the ticket.

Any suggestions?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 26, 2004 02:06 AM

Oh, and hey...did you guys know that Edwards is 50?! He's gotta be the youngest looking 50-year-old I've ever seen.

Okay...I'm going post-crazy. Need to stop. Going to bed.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 26, 2004 02:09 AM

Agree with Lieberman but think he's too sanctimonious? Check.

Think Dean is toast? Check.

Think Clark is "weird"? Check.

Wish to ignore Sharpton? Check.

Now supporting Edwards? Check.

I think I agree with every word of this post.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at January 26, 2004 02:14 AM

"while Europe screams" - as a European I strongly object.
British soldiers died fighting to liberate Iraq. Spain, Italy and Poland all supported the military action and all have military forces stationed there, and have had casualties in doing so - and these are just largest that supported the removal of Saddam.
About time you realised that it was France, Germany and some smaller countries that opposed - NOT EUROPE.

Posted by: Den at January 26, 2004 03:25 AM

Grant,
I have no strong opinion on Edwards BUT I have to strongly disagree with your take on his trial lawyer background. He made his money (and quite a bit of it I understand)suing OB/Gyns for "birth accidents" in kids that were born with CP when the vast majority of scientific evidence indicates that the birth process has nothing to do with it. It's (yet another) abuse of the tort system, but how do you argue with someone carrying a devastated child? The only reason it doesn't lean me strongly away from him is that I think he's just yet another person taking advantage of an evil system.

Posted by: Bill at January 26, 2004 04:39 AM

"The only reason it doesn't lean me strongly away from him is that I think he's just yet another person taking advantage of an evil system"

Well, he was acting in the interests of his clients, which was his job. If the scientific evidence was suspect, it was up to the defense to demonstrate this and convince a jury. I can't knock the guy for being a good attorney. And if the health care system does not have a way to help families who have to raise a child with cerebral palsy, then the courts become the only recourse.

Using the trail lawyer thing against Edwards will probably backfire.

Posted by: BF at January 26, 2004 05:18 AM

Tim Blair, http://timblair.spleenville.com/ provides a good reason to consider John Edwards.

"Of the four main Democratic candidates, the one that has perhaps received the least celebrity support is North Carolina Senator John Edwards."

Posted by: funhawg at January 26, 2004 05:19 AM

If you would grant me that judging people by their appearance, not as the final analysis, is a reliable way, based in lifelong experience, to evaluate the value of investing more time in getting to know someone, then I offer the following:

Clark: Gollumy, smarmy, nervous, sleezy, small.

Dean: Angry, bully, talker not listener, unstable, napoleanic.

Edwards: Handsome, articulate, polite, positive.

Kerry: Dour, slow-mouthed, monotone, dull, condescending.

Lieberman: Smart, articulate, nice guy.

Sharpton: The hair, the clothes, the voice.

Does Kerry become more interesting the more you listen to him? How about Sharpton? Will Edwards be able to maintain those strengths, i.e.; is there any there there? Is Dean the sort of guy that grabs your attention at first but you have a hard time leaving him because he keeps showing up at your door, keeps calling?

Anyway, this is admittedly superficial and not sugggested as the final decision criteria, but it is interesting to see how all this will play out relative to the original assessment.

Posted by: steve at January 26, 2004 05:30 AM

Edwards hasn't even completed one term as Senator from NC, his first public office, and has declined to seek reelection. His experience in govt is minimal and experience in foreign policy is zip (trial lawyers association has no foreign policy that I'm aware of). He is very articulate and intelligent and surely a man to watch but I do not see he has credentials to be President, not now. And the lesson of Clinton should be beware of Southern centrists who seem too good to be true.

Posted by: Zhombre at January 26, 2004 05:35 AM

The guy voted to stop sending bullets to Iraq. There is no justification or rationalization which avoids that he used our troops as pawns for political "gain". Had he gotten his way the war on terror ends right there. Either he believed that vote was a good thing or he was posturing. That would make him either a dope or a craven dope. Screw him. I am NOT mesmerized by his oral skills. And I don't care how youthful looking he is. This is not Survivor the TV show folks.

Posted by: SteveM at January 26, 2004 05:45 AM

What Steve said. Edwards would be a disaster.

Posted by: eric at January 26, 2004 05:56 AM

At one point Bill Clinton was also Bill Clinton without the sleaze

What, when he was 12? Bill Clinton's didn't suddenly turn sleazy after winning re-election to the White House. He was a sleaze from way back. He and Hillary had to give that "stand by your man" interview to 60 minutes back in '92 for a reason, you know. People who didn't realize that Bill Clinton was utterly unethical and self-centered back during the '92 campaign were being willfully ignorant.

Speaking of Bill and Hillary, right now they are probably your boy Edwards' biggest obstacle to the nomination. The last thing Hillary wants to come out of the '04 primaries is a legitimate rival for the '08 nomination. If Edwards continues to gain traction, you can expect a kneecapping from the Party.

Posted by: R C Dean at January 26, 2004 06:21 AM

Al Sharpton doesn’t deserve a response.

I understand the sentiment, but I'm going to have to disagree here. Al Sharpton deserves to be condemned with the utmost vigor, at every opportunity. The fact that he hasn't been by the other Democrats is just plain appalling.

I grew up in NY, and am much more familiar with his obnoxious hatemongering than I wish. He's not the the Democrats' Pat Buchanan - he's the Democrats' David Duke. Every time he's interviewed, he should be asked whether he really does think that the Koreans are enslaving inner-city blacks, or that the Jews really are preventing the banks from investing in black neighborhoods. He's not an activist. He's not even a demagogue. He's a vile, noxious, hate-spewing racist, and should be called out on it.

Posted by: Independant George at January 26, 2004 06:44 AM

Edwards hasn't even completed one term as Senator from NC, his first public office, and has declined to seek reelection.

Yeah. He's just basically a dude with zilch for experience who decided he wanted to be a president. C'mon, even Bush was a two-term governor.

Let's admit it folks, this country is obsessed with youth and good looks. It even influences who we are "impressed" with for president. Like we're a bunch of infatuated school girls or something.

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 07:02 AM

Dean is coming back. How do I know? EVERYONE has written him off. He's gone from crazy man to comatose in a week. He'll find his range soon and has a ton of money. Primary schedule coming up favors those with money.

Edwards. Again reverse-CW will rule. EVERYONE is in love him. Utterly doomed. Trial lawyer using junk science to early 50 mill before his 45th birthday? Only the naive or willfully dense would believe that won't play. Sitting senator with indecisive record? worst possible resume.

You all are mesmerized by him cause he's a frikking trial lawyer! Where to you think that 50 mill came from? We've seen the Clinton schtick. It won't play again.

Posted by: jim at January 26, 2004 07:27 AM

Sharpton could drop his pants at a Democratic debate and the other candidates would pretend not to notice. The Rev has the biggest hands in the US right now because he's got Kerry, Dean, et al, by the cojones.

Posted by: Zhombre at January 26, 2004 07:30 AM

Sharpton could drop his pants at a Democratic debate and the other candidates would pretend not to notice.

It's called pandering to the little brown people. Liberals do that for a living. White guilt and that sort of thing.

We do the same pandering towards Arabs, turning a blind eye towards their ass-backwardness, while holding Israel under the microscope.

Sorry for the OT, but I saw the connecting thread with Liberal's treatment of little brown people here in America, and overseas.

(Michael, I hope you don't ban me for "little brown people". It's not a slam on blacks or arabs. I'm slamming Libs who treat them that way).

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 07:39 AM

... and in continuation. This pandering towards little brown people (see how we treat Sharton and Arabs--above) is nothing more nor less than racism. Cloaked though it may be, it's still racism. Treating them like children instead of adults. Liberal racism.

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 07:45 AM

...and on the same topic. This Liberal pandering (see above), treating black folks and such as children, is nothing but racism. Racism with a smile and a pat on the head. Liberal racism.

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 07:56 AM

Michael,

Good post all around. Except for Edwards, I agree with all your assessments.

As for Edwards, I think you're overestimating his positives (optimism, charm, intelligence) and underestimating his negatives (junk science-peddling torts lawyer, insignificant legislative and national security experience. He also has exactly the same problem as Kerry, that he is an opportunist who bases even major decisions on political expediency, e.g. voting for the Iraq war authorization, then against funding it. I also think his (and Kerry's) insulting our real allies ("window dressing"?!) reflects poorly on his judgment.

Edwards is the D candidate with the greatest potential, but I have a strong feeling that he would be very much like Clinton when it comes to foreign policy, deferring hard choices and letting problems grow.

Posted by: Fredrik Nyman at January 26, 2004 08:03 AM

Okay, I'm going to attempt to gain some credibility by making correct predictions:

1) Dean is not toast. It's Dean/Kerry/Edwards until Super Tuesday, when it will probably be decided. Dean has far too much money and far too deep of support to be gone after two primaries.

2) President Bush will declare victory and pull out of Iraq before the November general election here in the US. It is my sincere hope that this action will cause the liberal hawks to reevaluate their support for him.

If both of these come true, then please consider trusting my judgement and supporting Howard Dean in the general, who will be an excellent President both domestically and internationally. I base this on his superb record as governor of Vermont and his excellent predictive record regarding George W. Bush's international actions.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 26, 2004 08:04 AM

I'm a lifelong independent/libertarian, and I've decided to vote against GWB. I thought the republicans could be trusted to control spending and observe the rule of law, but I've completely given up on the former, and grow more skeptical of the latter each day.

But I am a hawk, so both my wife and I are leaning towards Joe. However, Edwards is a southerner (and therefore the only one who can realistically take any portion of the South away from Bush). If his hawklike attitudes are legit, I'll consider him as well.

Posted by: jb at January 26, 2004 08:05 AM

...please consider trusting my judgement and supporting Howard Dean in the general, who will be an excellent President both domestically and internationally.

---Kimmit

Yes, let's all trust Kimmit's judgement on this. Dean would be a great president because...well, I don't know why. I'll just trust Kimmit's judgement. I hope you will too.

And while we're at it, I hope you'll trust MY judgement for Clark as VP. Dean/Clark 2004 !!!

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 08:10 AM

Trust your judgement Kimmit? I would sooner trust Ted Kennedy with my wallet.

Its going to be Kerry folks, he has his momentum back, and Dean has blown off the moderate Dems that he needed.

Posted by: FH at January 26, 2004 08:24 AM

The Blogging Caesar - January 23
"Mostly, the sense I get about Edwards is that he reminds me of Clinton. ... I see that same potential in Edwards, only he doesn't carry the moral baggage that Clinton did."

Michael Totten, January 25
"John Edwards impresses me. He’s Bill Clinton without the sleaze."

Thanks for the journalistic endorsement! :)

Mine is from the comments about the mostly red map in a previous post.

Posted by: The Blogging Caesar at January 26, 2004 08:25 AM

Edwards will challenge Dean for second place in NH.

Posted by: The Blogging Caesar at January 26, 2004 08:27 AM

It's been said that, "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another". Thanks to some rather "lively" conversations with a hard-core Republican friend of mine, I've probably researched the candidates this time around more than I ever have before. I think I started out at least intrigued by Wesley Clark (let's face it, these days retired 4-Star looks pretty good on the resume). My opinion rapidly changed as soon as he started...speaking.

I heard Kerry make a comment regarding the prescription benefit plan as being, "Republican and therefore wrong". This "us verses them" BS is , in my opinion, not the right attitude for the oval office. Dean's website (when I last looked at it) was full of similar rhetoric.

Like most everyone else here, Edwards looks better to me every time I look at him. However, he does lack experience but does seem like a good guy though.

Right now, I like Lieberman best on economics (but I reserve the right to change opinion).

Kucinich and Sharpton and just background noise to me.

I'd almost like to see a Lieberman/Edwards ticket. Lieberman is definately not bad and this would give Edwards the ability to build the resume and take on the office down the road.

(only one in my office today so I get to ramble a little)

Posted by: Joe at January 26, 2004 08:36 AM

Michael,

I suppose I can understand Edwards' political appeal (if I try to put myself in the shoes of a liberal, which I am not) but I think I would still have two probably insurmountable worries.

First, with regards to Iraq and the war on terror, which the article you link to says all the right things, Edwards voted against the supplemental to fund not only the troops in Iraq but also those fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In addition, he has as recently as last week, dismissed our allies in Iraq as window dressing. By his conduct as a Senator and his rhetoric as a candidate, I would place him on the same "unserious about security" category you have correctly placed people like Dean and Clark.

Second, I think Edwards is simply too inexperienced to be entrusted with the presidency. He hasn't even completed his first term in the Senate, and that term is the totality of his political experience. He has no experience at all when it comes to running large bureaucracies nor do we know much about his ability to manage the complex relationships that being a modern chief executive (in business or in government) entails.

I wonder how you resolve these two issues (or if you even view them as issues) to enable you to tentatively support him as the best choice for 2004.

Posted by: Hacksaw at January 26, 2004 08:58 AM

Virtually every PI lawyer looks like a good guy and and advertises himself as "for the people." Edwards at 50 looks so youthful and handsome I suspect hidden away in some locked room there is a Dorian Gray style portrait that shows him bald, paunchy and dissolute.

Posted by: Zhombre at January 26, 2004 09:02 AM

As far as Edwards' inexperience goes, well, John Kerry's and Howard Dean's more extensive experience doesn't help them.

I do have a problem with Edwards voting against the war funding. I think he did it to avoid being "Bush lite" because he was running for president and needed something to differentiate himself in the primary. And since the funding was sure to pass anyway, his vote against was posturing and therefore harmless. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. But some pandering happens during the primary season. Bush went to Bob Jones University, and I give him a pass for the same reason.

Primary pandering says more about the base than the candidate, unless that pandering is central to the campaign, which in these two cases, it isn't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 26, 2004 09:09 AM

yes, i agree with totten. john edwards is the only candidate who i may choose to vote for over bush. the rest are chumps.

Posted by: Glenn at January 26, 2004 09:11 AM

Nope, can't agree. Posturing and pandering regarding support for troops in the field is not acceptable and the bulk of that $87 billion, I believe, was designated for that purpose. Prior to the vote Senator Edwards could have made all the fiery declamatory speeches against the administration he wanted, and then stated he voted yea only out of commitment to US armed forces placed in harms way by a reckless policy, etc etc etc.

Posted by: Zhombre at January 26, 2004 09:19 AM

John Edwards, yes a real statesman. Proven track record, veritas, etc. Oh, and he just happnes to be young and good looking. Just icing on the cake right? Right?

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 09:20 AM


Joe "rheumy eyes" Lieberman is everything John Edwards wishes he could be. But have you seen the schnozze on that guy? completely unelectable.

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 09:32 AM

[Dean's] excellent record as governor

Vermont has a smaller population than Milwaukee. Would you consider an excellent record as the Mayor of Milwaukee to be serious credentials for a President?

Posted by: spc67 at January 26, 2004 10:00 AM

"I base this on his superb record as governor of Vermont and his excellent predictive record regarding George W. Bush's international actions."

I don't have a dog in the fight. My guy is already in the White House.

That being said, what exactly does a "predictive record regarding George W. Bush's international actions" do for Dean? Assuming the Democrats win in 2004 - and Dean is their boy - you are suggesting that one of his most valuable characteristics will be his ability to predict his predecesors actions.

What is he, and the Democrats by proxy, going to do with that little skill?

Predict what GWB would have done and do the opposite?

Predict what GWB would have done and do it themselves?

Predict what GWB would have done, call a press conference and yell "ARGHHHHHH!!!!"?

Sounds like a winner to me. I'm sure the American public will flock to this impressive quality in Dr. Dean.

Posted by: Roark at January 26, 2004 10:27 AM

I do have a problem with Edwards voting against the war funding. I think he did it to avoid being "Bush lite" because he was running for president and needed something to differentiate himself in the primary...

I tweaked Edwards for the political implications of his vote at the time, but (as I also said then) he was entirely right in both his decision and his explanation of it.

I know there are some people here whose head are in the sand about this, but the postwar effort in Iraq has gone badly -- yes, I know you don't believe me, but keep watching the news the next few months and you'll learn -- and in September there was still a chance to get things on a better path. That's what Edwards' vote was about.

Saying, "This isn't good enough, come back with something better" is a standard and proper part of the legislative process (which, at least technically, we're still supposed to have in this country). The argument that the only choices were to (1) give Bush a blank check to keep screwing up or (2) "cut and run," "betray the troops," etc. is the same phony all-or-nothing rhetoric that war supporters have been using all along.

Though I guess there's a good reason for war supporters to pretend there's no middle ground. Perhaps they know Bush's handling of the war has been inept, and they don't want to be forced to defend it. I can't much blame them for that.

Posted by: Swopa at January 26, 2004 10:44 AM

Predict what GWB would have done, call a press conference and yell "ARGHHHHHH!!!!"?

You mean YEEEEAAAARGH!!!!

I don't have a dog in this one either. And Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman, they aren't totally offensive. I even like Lieberman. He's a statesman, and a reasonable member of the opposition. If he won, it wouldn't be a terrible day.

But Howard Dean??? Seriously, what's WRONG with you people?

Posted by: David at January 26, 2004 10:45 AM

Michael,

Using the following quote by Hacksaw as a base for my comment:

I suppose I can understand Edwards' political appeal (if I try to put myself in the shoes of a liberal, which I am not)

I would like to say that I have a dozen pairs of liberal shoes in my closet and feel qualified to speak from those shoes since I voted for Carter and every other Democrat at every level before this year. However with that knowledge and having lived in the cocoon of the conventional wisdom of the left for so long a few critical points of reality. Michael I know what you and most people are saying is part based in the realm of wishful thinking, and I'm sure that is not lost on you, so I speak as a reality check, not out of my own wishes or desires…

First As a read I did research on something I read in an earlier thread and it is true, an incumbent will either lose big or win big, there has never been a close re-election. So we have to ask ourselves, and let’s take ourselves out of our “liberal cocoons” for one moment, oh and that also means we have to add 5% back for the Republicans in any poll, especially a generic poll because historically that has been the result, so actually the margin of error goes to the Republicans, it always has, can Edwards on election day go in with a greater than 5 point lead averaging all the polls?

Second Bush is basically being disregarded in this analysis, now one could say that hey, Edwards looks good so if he can equalize the foreign policy and win (out poll) on domestic issues, Bush watch out! Again to disregard is to underestimate, something we have become very good at with Bush, we plan well for his failures, they just never seem to happen, do they? The true definition of failure isn’t when a person accomplishes something we don’t like, that is called winning, not losing. I thought Reagan was a failure because of his policies. The funny thing was Reagan thought about these things in terms of winning. A political failure is when somebody doesn’t accomplish what they want, not when they accomplish something we don’t like. I Ask, what big stakes political game has Bush lost? I’m not asking what he has done do you not like, but what big stakes political game has he lost?

Third With that I would like to recount another interview I witnessed little before the interview I with George H.W Bush talking about his sons, which quite a few of you referred to as the “natural athlete” analogy. It was an interview with Tip O’Neil former Democratic Speaker of the House. In this interview Tip O’Neil was talking about how George H.W. Bush was vulnerable to losing the election and when the interviewer asked why he said “Because he is not a great leader” I will not bore you with everything he said, but he added “Now Ronald Reagan there was a leader!”, he also added, “I didn’t agree with him on anything, but that man could lead, damn and he could change peoples minds… People knew this and sometimes they didn’t even agree with him, but appreciate leadership and see leadership skill as an overriding factor in presidential elections” he added, “President Bush (the first) isn’t a leader so I believe he will lose, if he were ge would win, the American people will never throw out a great leader!

I find myself asking this question, would Tip O’Neil say the same thing about this George W. Bush as he said about his father? I’ll let you answer that question for yourselves, I have my answer.

Posted by: Samuel at January 26, 2004 11:44 AM

Those of you dismissing Edwards' background as a trial lawyer and insisting it won't be a liability need to read this article in today's National Review:
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/copland200401260836.asp

Pretty devastating if you ask me. Particularly in light of the endless charges of "cronyism" and "tax cuts for the rich" that are bandied about by the Dems.

Unfortunately (since he's not going to win the nomination), Lieberman really is the only credible alternative to Bush.

Posted by: bobcat at January 26, 2004 12:03 PM

For Jim, who thinks Dean is coming back, I have some bad news. If it were a two or three man race, Dean might have been able to claw his way back into the light. But with fresh suitors in the wings (and one who was shunned for a suitable period, then allowed back) Democrats are not going back there.

Dean is like that guy you date for a month or two--things are going great, you're talking about meeting each other's families. Then he makes a horrible breach--a "joke" about how he'll kill you if he catches you with another guy, something just over the edge. He apologizes profusely, but you can never see him the same way again. You change your number or move, just to avoid ever seeing him again.

That's why he's tanking with women, not the wife thing. The creep thing.

Posted by: Kelli at January 26, 2004 12:13 PM

Interesting catch on that WashPo piece. I've blogged this.

Posted by: Gary Farber at January 26, 2004 12:38 PM

Interesting that he says this:

"Congress also should consider authorizing funds now to support such efforts, rather than waiting for events to force us to act with emergency spending."

...but then goes on to not vote for the funding bill for postwar Iraq. I'd love to hear him try and explain that, without saying that it was all about politics.

Posted by: Jason Holliston at January 26, 2004 12:44 PM

Jason, as I noted above, he did explain it.

He felt (correctly) that Bush was screwing up the post-war, and that if we didn't change course, we faced a great risk of losing Iraq.

Maybe an analogy will help: You get in your buddy's car to take a trip south ... but he starts driving north. You keep telling him to turn around, but he doesn't listen. Then he pulls over for gas and asks you for money. What would you do?

In this case, Edwards said, "No more money until you turn the car around." Not because he doesn't want to get to the destination (a democratic, secular Iraq), but because he does -- and the route Bush is taking isn't getting there.

Posted by: Swopa at January 26, 2004 01:18 PM

EDWARDS: I didn't vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. I voted against the Chilean trade agreement, against the Caribbean trade agreement, against the Singapore trade agreement, against final passage of fast track for this president.

EDWARDS: I supported the tariffs as the time. I think they were important, given the surge of steel that had come into the US. I think it was the right thing to do. I supported it at the time.

To paraphrase: Viva protectionism.

That's probably my single problem with Edwards.
(He also has some kooky ideas about reforming UN, i.e. they seem unworkable and remind me of Kucinich's Dept. of Peace plan. But at least that means he's recognizing that there is a problem there which is a plus.)

However, imo, domestically democrats have better agenda overall. Personally this is mostly going to be a foreign policy election for me. Which is in turn a two-fold decision - I'd like to be convinced by the Dems that they are serious about it and I need to think through how Bush not being reelected will be interpreted abroad. The latter is a distant second in my decison making tho'. Above all this is an American election.

Posted by: Dan at January 26, 2004 01:31 PM

David writes:

"Joe "rheumy eyes" Lieberman is everything John Edwards wishes he could be. But have you seen the schnozze on that guy? completely unelectable."

he he he...

Now you got me thinking of a political situation comedy loosely based upon Cyrano. You watch, it'll show up on UPN next season :)

Posted by: joekm at January 26, 2004 01:34 PM

Swopa,

I've not seen Edwards' comments about how he decided to vote on the appropriations bill, so I speak not on the issues of fact, but rather of impression. There's no way on God's green earth to sell "I voted no" as support for the mission as a whole. Assuming your take on things is accurate, it still won't help, simply by virtue of the fact that there's a 3-second statement that requires a 2 minute rebuttal.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at January 26, 2004 01:38 PM

Vis a vis Edwards' odds,

People ought to look a little more closely at '92. Clinton did not originally enter the race with any hope of winning. He was attempting to get some name recognition so he could run in '96 once Bush was re-elected (remember when people were doing their early strategies, it was shortly after Gulf I, and he had very high ratings).

When the economy tanked, his organization then took advantage of the fact that most of the heavy-weight candidates had sat that one out and got the nomination. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is entirely possible that Edwards is simply doing prep-work for '08, in which case his campaign is doing extraordinarily well in that respect.

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at January 26, 2004 01:40 PM

Michael,

I guess I still think voting against the supplemental is significantly different than political pandering in a primary (sorry for the alliteration!). He's a senator, it's his responsibility to execute his office professionally. At a minimum, his voting against funding our soldiers in the war on terror in order to score points on the campaign trail reveals to us the priority he places on this war. That pretty much tells me everything I need to know.

Of course he had to vote against the supplemental. Not because there were not other ways to criticize the president's policies but because those other ways were not sufficient to let him win in today's Democratic party. That was the real issue (just watch what has happened to Lieberman).

Funding our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is not compatible with the current Democratic party's sense of the priorities. And that too, tell me everything I need to know.

Posted by: Hacksaw at January 26, 2004 02:05 PM

Michael said,"do have a problem with Edwards voting against the war funding. I think he did it to avoid being "Bush lite" because he was running for president and needed something to differentiate himself in the primary."

Actually Edwards has states on several occasions that he voted against the "war funding" because we already had the money for it...we were just wasting it away on tax cuts for the wealthy. (He supports the middle-class tax cuts.)

Posted by: EBG at January 26, 2004 02:25 PM

AR --

One problem with your argument is that Edwards Senate term expires this year, and he will not seek reelection.

Unless he gets on the D ticket this year and the D's win the general election, he will be out of the political sphere, probably for good:

1. If a non-Edwards D ticket wins this year, it'll be 2012 before Edwards gets a chance to run again.

2. If the D's lose in the general election, Edwards will be out of politics until 2008; NC isn't going to elect him again. At that time, he will have an even bigger problem with lack of experience than he does now, and if Hillary ever decides to run, it'll be in 2008.

Posted by: Fredrik Nyman at January 26, 2004 02:28 PM

Edwards is probably not lying when he states that he voted against the supplemental appropriations as a protest vote knowing it would pass, and that he would have voted for a bill that was necessary to keep troops funded. But I'm concerned about the $20 billion for reconstruction. Most Repubs wanted it, most Dems didn't -- and this view is very inconsistent with Democratic principles.

It's too bad that we can't move the focus to what needs to be done now in Iraq. There is a tremendous amount of political pressure to pull out, and also strong indications that a premature pullout would really hurt the effort to build a iraqi democracy that also respects minority rights. This is what Edwards, Dean, Kerry, Clark should be debating.

Posted by: markus rose at January 26, 2004 02:33 PM

"And if the health care system does not have a way to help families who have to raise a child with cerebral palsy, then the courts become the only recourse."

The courts didn't pay for it, the Ob/Gyns did, and now we have a shortage of Ob/Gyns. See:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43373-2004Jan23.html

This is no way to run a country.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 26, 2004 04:17 PM

"I know there are some people here whose head are in the sand about this, but the postwar effort in Iraq has gone badly -- yes, I know you don't believe me, but keep watching the news the next few months and you'll learn"

Swopa, this just doesn't cut it. Are you not aware that we've been hearing this since day one of the occupation? Heck, from some corners, the doomsaying predated Afghanistan.

Why is it considered "burying our heads in the sand" to just consider the possibility that we don't know how it will play out? The record of those who share your omnisicent posture would seem to dictate a certain prudence in prognosticating...

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 26, 2004 04:31 PM

Edwards is probably not lying when he states that he voted against the supplemental appropriations as a protest vote knowing it would pass...

When did he say that?! He said the exact opposite in the most recent Democratic debate:

EDWARDS: . . . I said from the very beginning, before the first resolution was ever voted on in the Congress, that in order for this effort to be successful it was absolutely critical that when we reached this stage that it be international, that it not be an American operation, that it not be an American occupation. And so long as it was that, we'd see the problems we've seen right now.

... I thought it would be a mistake for me to say to the President, "What you're doing is right, I support it, go forward, here's your blank check, come back next year and ask for more money."

He needed to change course. We needed to have the United Nations in charge of the civilian authority. We needed NATO present to help provide security there, at least along the Saudi Arabian and the Iranian border so we could concentrate on the Sunni triangle. . . . we needed to say loud and clear to President Bush that what he was doing was wrong and we thought he needed to change course.

. . . had I been the deciding vote, I would have voted exactly the same way. Because what would have happened, had that occurred, is the President would have immediately come back to the Congress with a plan, changing course, so that he could get the approval he needed.

Posted by: Swopa at January 26, 2004 04:40 PM

The record of those who share your omnisicent posture would seem to dictate a certain prudence in prognosticating...

I don't know about "those who share my omniscient posture," but my track record is pretty damn good.

When the U.S. announced its November 15th transition plan, I immediately predicted that it wouldn't fly with Ayatollah Sistani, even though the NY Times said he'd approved the plan. And I was right.

Back in July, I spotted the first signs that the Bush crew was planning to hand over power in time for the 2004 elections, and that they wouldn't be too picky about how that got done. The proof of that is being demonstrated more every day.

So I've got a fair amount of confidence in my prognosticating abilities at the moment. Not because I'm psychic, but because I follow the news closely and understand the motivations of the various players -- which gives me a good grasp of how they'll react to new events. Given my record, you'd do well to listen. ;-)

Posted by: Swopa at January 26, 2004 05:25 PM

Edwards: We needed to have the United Nations in charge of the civilian authority...

For what purpose? If it's for efficiency than I must say that the UN has not been particularly effective in this regard in the past, has it? (Kosovo...)

Would it instil more confidence in the iraqis? The UN puled out it's people after thier HQ was bombed didnt they?

Is the purpose to impress other nations? I think iraqis are pretty much the people we should be focusing on impressing, and for the reasons listed above I dont see that the UN would instill any greater confidence than our own civil administrators.

Posted by: semm at January 26, 2004 08:11 PM

There will be plenty of time to discuss Edwards if and when he emerges with the nomination. At this early stage, it is hard to know what to think. But I will say this. The man is running a "me against the corporate monsters" populist campaign. No one has been elected on such an approach since Harry Truman in 1948. Things have changed a little. Second he is nothing like Bill Clinton. Clinton did not present himself as just a Southern moderate but as a new kind of progressive who was not tied to left wing interest groups and could thus be trusted to do what works, to seek out a "third way" (I'm not saying this is how he governed) Clinton was a pure free trader, Edwards is not. He is a protectionist or a lier. Edwards strikes me as just another clueless Democrat with a prety face and a nice way about him who knows he can't be too liberal but can't come up with an alternative. Finally, you have no reason to assume in any way shape or form that Edwards will carry on the war on terror or promote our national security. You have no idea of his abilities to lead or whether he will be rolled by his advisors. True we didn't know this about Bush either but we know now. If the war on terror is most important to you, and you believe Bush, mistakes aside, is sincerely doing his best to fight it, you must vote to stay the course unless his proposed replacement CLEARLY ununciates (ala Lieberman) his intention to carry on these policies. I do not see how you can say you are concerned with the War on Islamo-Fascism and then vote to remove President Bush. My hope is that after his second term, Bush will have succeeded in solidifying the foreign policy so that successors of either party will not easily change it. If you vote for Edwards you will be voting for a man who spent five years in the Senate and has NO other political experience and who will be forced to rely on the Democratic foreign policy/security establishment that thinks the goal is to arrest the bad guys. Today, Edwards was quoted in National Review Online as saying that we need to strengthen our relationship with countries where the terrorists set up camp. Does he mean Iran and Syria? I will be voting for President Bush and for a Republican for the first time ever.

Posted by: Doug at January 26, 2004 08:22 PM

Swopa, since you're omniscient, did you call Iowa? I didn't.

Posted by: miklos rosza at January 26, 2004 11:49 PM

"who knows he can't be too liberal but can't come up with an alternative."

Substitute "leftist" for "liberal" and you have the plight of liberalism, c. 2004. As long as liberalism is content to be defined by what it is not (i.e. not conservative), and therefore doomed to oppose any and all ideas put forward by conservatives, good and bad, this will continue to be its plight.

Liberalism thus allows its enemies to define it.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at January 27, 2004 03:55 AM

It's easy to project attributes to a candidate who virtually side steps foreign policy. (See http://www.breakdownlane.net). We deserve and should demand more.

Posted by: bob at January 27, 2004 06:14 AM

Kerry has too much in his past. He doesn't belong in there.

Sure, he served in Viet Nam - about 18 months, 6 in a non-combat slot. He got his 3 Purple Hearts early on. Asked about it, he said "Cost me a few days. Walking wounded."

Entitled to stateside rotation after 3 PH, le came back to an Admiral's aide job, then asked for an early out so he could run for Congress. He soon discovered that Massachussetts voters didn't like decorated Viet Nam vets, so he pulled out of that race and allied himself with the left-wing Viet Nam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), initially funded by Jane Fonda.

He led anti-war demonstrations in the 70s.

When he finally got to be Senator, he did little to help, and much to hinder, our POW/MIA talks.

He managed to get a construction company owned by a cousin of his, lucrative contracts in rebuilding Viet Nam.

Since he threw back his medals, we should discount the fact that he got them at all.

It's a disgrace that now he trades on his Viet Nam service.

For me, he loses all around on the character issue.

Posted by: Mike at January 27, 2004 04:37 PM

BF writes: "Well, he was acting in the interests of his clients, which was his job. If the scientific evidence was suspect, it was up to the defense to demonstrate this and convince a jury. I can't knock the guy for being a good attorney. And if the health care system does not have a way to help families who have to raise a child with cerebral palsy, then the courts become the only recourse."

Wow, where do I begin? First, the preponderance of all available evidence is that CP is not a function of the delivery process and that it is pre-natal in nature. As to representing the interests of his clients, nah! No way! Forget it! The airwaves have been pounded for years with trial lawyers advertising that they can get money for CP. It's called exploiting a tragedy. Juries in this country are notoriously big hearted. When they see a doc, usually wealthy with BIG malpractice insurance, and a grieving family with a disabled child, they think "What the heck, the doc can afford it." Trial lawyers KNOW this and they play up to it big time. They get the big bucks for relatively little work and then give healthy hunks of that lucre to Democrats and/or other Trial Lawyers who are running for Congress, the Senate, the Presidency - a pretty clear picture of not just "just acting in the interests of his client" I would think, at least for a thinking person.

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