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John Edwards and the Future of Our Country

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In the beginning it was Hillary. Well over a year ago, the mainstream media led by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews began to talk the talk, beat the drum; chant the chant. “She’s the one to beat.” “Can anyone possibly beat Hillary?” ran promo after promo. Why not just skip the primaries altogether and just anoint her nominee?

Personally, every time Matthews or another pundit played that card, I simply didn’t understand it. Yes, Hillary certainly had the highest name recognition, having served as a very vocal, intelligent and powerful first lady. She is popular as a Senator in her adopted state of New York and is generally  an effective representative of her state.

In my opinion, the media were gearing up for a New York Senate race rematch between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani. It would make, admittedly, for lots of fun — for media talking heads, that is.  So who could blame them?  And an awful lot of the hype about Hillary coming from the mainstream media I do believe originated in that desire. But really, what has she done to warrant the presumptive title? If her name was Hillary Stone or Hillary Smith, no one would have given her a second glance. But the name Clinton is a powerful and potent lure to a nation numbed by nearly eight years of President “Mission Accomplished.”

Some of her votes and her justifications of them have been (to me, anyway) rather inexplicable, dancing with the words she thinks that voters want to hear. Although her views on some issues have been consistent and strong, on others she seems to waver in the wind, depending upon the audience to whom she’s speaking. She often comes off as overly managed by her handlers or the latest polling data. And whether she’s sincere or not is sometimes hard to discern.

I think what bothers me about Clinton is best exemplified by the May 2007 Senate vote on the Iraq War funding bill. Waiting until the last possible moment before casting her "no" vote, she failed to assume any sort of leadership in opposing the measure. Unlike Chris Dodd, also running for president, who spoke out vigorously against the funding bill as it stood: a stripped and rubber stamped measure, miles from the levels of accountability and oversight — and timetables — that were promised to the voters in November 2006. Yes. I know. She voted “no.” And that was, in itself, an important statement. But her methods seemed at the time to have been politically calculated to both appease “the base” and play to the general electorate (should she get the nomination). I am aware that Obama did the same thing. And both were guilty of paying more attention to their positions in the presidential field than to acting and speaking out as people of principle.

Obama is my Senator in Illinois. I voted for him and will continue to vote for him. He is a bright and thoughtful intellectual with a great deal of compassion and a lot of good ideas. I'm not sure that he yet has his presidential "chops."  I’d love to see him as the VP candidate in 2008. And maybe as the president in 2016.

The rest of the Democratic field, and I would vote for any one of them before casting a ballot for ANY Republican, is okay, but not inspiring. Joe Biden is a good speaker as is Chris Dodd. Fiery and well-spoken. Passionate and inspiring. Both are smart. Dodd’s views are closer to mine than are Biden’s, but long-term “inside the beltway” slickness taints them both.

I said in a recent Blogcritics piece that I liked John Edwards, but that my support for him was soft and I could be otherwise persuaded. But as time goes on, I feel more and more drawn to Edwards’ brand of progressive populism. His message is on target, and although the Iowa Register, a highly influential newspaper in the all-important caucus state of Iowa, suggested that he was too much of an iconoclast to get things done — too potentially divisive for this particular time and place, his "anti-corporate rhetoric too harsh." I disagree. I feel that Edwards is exactly what this country needs.

And he can win.

Yes, this country needs healing. It needs to move on and move past the destruction of the past eight years. And whoever is elected will need to accomplish much.  But what it doesn’t need is a Gerald Ford figure who will say “what’s done is done, it’s time to move on.” What we do need is someone to ensure that the sort of monarchical presidency that this nation has endured for nearly eight years will never happen again. Edwards can do this and at the same time, disentangle Washington from the corporate lobbying hydra that has for years entangled itself in and around the Washington power elite. Never again should we have the foxes guard the chicken coop; have the oil companies write our energy policy; have polluters write our environmental laws; have sycophantic flunkies run our emergency agencies into the ground. Have our health care policies written by insurance and pharmaceutical companies whose primary interest is in enriching their bottom lines.

And he can win.

And that is more important than anything. He can win. And the Democrats need to win. Not for the Democrats only. But for the very soul of the nation.

And Edwards can win.

No one ever wants fascism. It’s something that creeps up like a cockroach in the night, skittering to the edges of the room when it thinks someone is looking; but quite suddenly your house is infested and only dynamite and a lot of toxic chemicals can free you of their presence.

Fascism can only happen when people are either frightened and willing trade their civil liberties for presumed security, or when they are sleeping and apathetic, willing to go along with incremental changes that, when they’re all added up over time become something that no one bargained for. We have lived for eight years with a creeping and incremental erosion of our Constitution. It has been nibbled away by loopholes that bring religion into the public school surreptitiously through things like required moments of silence; faith based social programs that teeter-totter on the fine line of separation between Church and State that our founding fathers were adamant about maintaining. It’s nibbled away by the officials, candidates for national office and mainstream political parties asserting that this is a Christian nation, encouraging the revisionism that endangers the Establishment Clause.

The Constitution is shredded when habeas corpus is discarded like a dirty old rag, with little consideration of the consequences. When lawmakers risk being characterized by the opposition as unpatriotic for casting votes in opposition to the administration to protect the constitution. We, as a nation, are diminished when our leaders stoop to semantic distinctions between “enhanced” interrogation and torture when defending water boarding, renditions or Guantanamo Bay. The constitution is eroded when only a scattered few leaders act to prevent the administration from granting immunity to corporations that spy on citizens at their behest. It makes me sick to know that the Democrats are willing to allow immunity to the telecom corporations because they don’t have the stomach to actually say “NO” and bad PR be damned. “Swift-boating” be damned.

Fascism happens when spying on the bad guys no longer only means al Qaeda, but also spreads quietly, and with little protest from the opposition, to more amorphous enemies of the State. And when the leaders of the loyal opposition become more concerned about their own political futures than the future of this country.

I do not trust Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama to hold this administration accountable for the shredding of the Constitution. And to take immediate and substantial action to put it aright.  I do not trust them to end the war or to be not influenced by the very corporations that fund their campaigns and feed their coffers.

Yes, there are other good candidates out there, but Edwards, for me, at least presents someone who can effect change AND is electable.

He can win.  Edwards' brand of progressive populisim can win.  And "The People" will win.

It seems that momentum is beginning to turn his way. His crowds are growing and his message is being heard and heeded and believed. Only time will tell, and I may be wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time). But for me, at this particular moment in time, barring an entry into the race by someone like, say …Al Gore, it is Edwards who will get my vote in February.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • handyguy

    As I’ve said before [and as Al conveniently continues to ignore], Romney exploited both sides of gay-rights issues before and after becoming governor. He didn’t just “change his mind” – he deliberately staked out politically advantageous positions that are near polar opposites. He’s 100% virgin acrylic.

    Here are a couple of choice bits from the well-publicized “anti-endorsement” from today’s Concord (NH) Monitor:

    If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you’d swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core.

    As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he boasted that he would be a stronger advocate of gay rights than his opponent, Ted Kennedy. These days, he makes a point of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption.

  • Good gravy people, what is wrong with you to be so intent on hating a good guy like Mitt. Y’all keep bleating the liar and flip-flopper nonsense as if you repeating the words a few thousand times will make them true.

    Again, I watched Tim Russert – the baddest interviewer in the land – go to work on Romney for a full hour with clips and research. He says that he has simply changed his mind on abortion. Fair enough. Other than that, Russert really couldn’t make any flip flop charges stick.

    The best prosecutor grilled him hard, and he had reasonable answers reconciling everything. Mostly, he has not changed his beliefs that much substantively – only rhetorically, in style of expression.

    Again, I’m not particularly supporting Romney, but I will take a second to defend his good name. He’s one of the cleanest, most above board guys in politics, and he just don’t deserve all this hatin’

    Now of course, if you want a REAL flip-flopper, there’s John Edwards. Remember John Edwards? This is a story about John Edwards. He voted to authorize the Iraq War and for the dreaded Patriot Act – and now runs against them and more.

    He’ll repudiate every vote he cast as a senator on grounds that it’s not his fault that he couldn’t know those years ago when he cast those votes which direction the wind would be blowing now. Is it his fault he’s not a mind reader?

  • It was interesting watching Romney yesterday grapple with the George Romney/Martin Luther King story.

    I’ve just finished reading Richard North Patterson’s new novel “The Race.” I find that the thesis of his novel–that what America is seeking in its next president is person of principle and integrity–one who cares more about the quality of lives of people and the (real) security of our nation. Someone for who moral values isn’t a bumper sticker proclaiming that we’re all doomed if gays live together or teach, or if we use embryos to advance medical research. That his novel takes place within the republican party is interesting and suggests a need for the party (and I would add, both parties) to do a serious and thorough soul searching if our nation is to ultimately survive and thrive. Good read.

  • Clavos

    “Some of the instances when Mr. Romney has tripped up on his facts show that he is prone to exaggeration, taking what is essentially a kernel of truth and stretching it to bolster his case.”

    It’s called politicking.

    It dates all the way back to the dawn of mankind.

    Some do it more than others, but they ALL do it…

  • handyguy

    Good article in today’s NY Times – here are the first couple of sentences:

    ‘Facts Are Stubborn,’ Romney Once Said, and He Should Know

    There was the period last spring when Mitt Romney claimed while campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire that he had been a hunter “pretty much all my life,” only to have to admit later that he had seriously hunted only on two occasions.

    Then there was the endorsement Mr. Romney claimed on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” last Sunday that he received from the National Rifle Association while running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, when it turned out the group had never endorsed him.

    Some of the instances when Mr. Romney has tripped up on his facts show that he is prone to exaggeration, taking what is essentially a kernel of truth and stretching it to bolster his case.

  • if our enemies wait long enough, Romney might just flip-flop into agreement with them

    I think it was on Matthews’ show this afternoon where Romney’s flip-flop-iness was highlighted. H showed a series of clips showing Romney not only flip-flopping, but also qualifying earlier statements that were clearly untruths.

  • Jacob

    “This could be a phenomenon that has been cited recently by Media Matters: the media likes to build up a “favorite,” then knock them down…”

    — handyguy

    That appears to be what is happening to Ron Paul — in reverse.

  • if our enemies wait long enough, Romney might just flip-flop into agreement with them

  • handyguy

    Considering Al’s unfortunate apologia for the repugnant Mitt Romney elsewhere on this site, this latest bit of sarcastic slime is particularly unwarranted and unconvincing. Not to mention 100% unfunny.

  • What Edwards needs to really close the deal would be to film a commercial where he goes one more time through his story that he tells the big wigs privately -always for the first time ever – about crawling up on the slab with his dead son at the morgue and promising to fight for the implementation of The Communist Manifesto or some such pinko thing in his memory. It’d be very touching. He could choke up and cry on cue – you know he could.

    Besides sweeping him into power, that would certainly melt the hearts of our enemies. Most likely the Iranians would see his moving testimonial, and give up sponsoring terrorism. At least that better work, cause Edwards don’t have any other arrows in his quiver.

    Then we close down Guantanamo, and gather round with all the terrorists that we’re letting loose. We all give one another handjobs while singing Kum-Bi-Frickin-Ya.

    And then we’ll have World Peace.

  • Baronius

    Barbara, a national primary day would be a disaster. You think money requirements are high now; imagine the crowding-out that would occur if the only people who ran were the ones who could afford national ads.

    As it stands, we’ve got Iowa and New Hampshire first, then six others before February 5th. On 2/5/08, there are twenty state primaries. So the nominations will be secured by that evening. There’s a gentleman’s agreement to fight it out in Iowa and NH (and South Carolina and Florida). I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I could change my mind tomorrow, though.

    I agree with Clavos. The bias isn’t new or corporate. I think it’s caused by the 24-hour pressure on news outlets. This election cycle started in 2006, and there haven’t been a lot of election stories to cover since then. And the thing is, everyone knows that early polls are pointless. We’re seeing the transition right now, from what polls said aeons before Iowa, and what they say days before Iowa. It happens every time.

    But the media have nothing to talk about but polls. So they “broke the story” about the latest polling data over and over again, all year. And they sponsored numerous debates, and covered all of them. The good news is, in this cycle, we’ve gotten to see each of the candidates, and had time and access to research them. For example, I’ve been really impressed with blogcritics the past couple of weeks. I think that mostly, this has been a good primary season.

  • Clavos

    “It seems like media is no longer balanced and unbiased since they have been taken over by large corporations.”

    It’s definitely not unbiased and balanced (the bias just varies from outlet to outlet), but they’ve (particularly TV) always been owned by big corps. Those of us old enough certainly remember the days when ALL the news on TV came ONLY from ABC, CBS or NBC. Then Turner started CNN; also a large corporation.

    I’m old enough to remember pre-TV.

    THAT’s when at least the local newspapers were still independent and editorial bias was usually skewed to whatever town or city they were located in.

    National and international news in those papers usually had a strong USA (but not necessarily partisan) bias to it.

    There were few nationally distributed news sources (NYT, WaPo, WSJ), and the wires were much more important to the distribution of news on both national and international levels than they are today.

  • Ray–you will get no argument from me there. Media coverage, which is far from objective has a direct effect on fundraising for the candidates, which then affect the ability to get their name out, etc.

    Bliffle–I don’t think that will happen until we have a national primary day. Until that time (if ever it happens) candidates will spend inordinate amounts of money courting the very small states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

  • bliffle

    Soon, people will come to realize that the early Iowa and Massachusetts results are immaterial and ignore them. Giulliani seems to have already discovered that.

  • Ray Michael

    I really wonder who would be in ‘first’ place if the media talked about Mike Gravel as much as they do about Clinton and talk about Clinton the least as they do Mike Gravel. It seems like media is no longer balanced and unbiased since they have been taken over by large corporations.

  • Thanks Baronius. I absolutely agree. It becomes a really vicious cycle because the polls go to the “name” candidates–and there are few bigger “names” than Clinton–they get the publicity and everyone else gets left in the media dust. I really do hate the early anointing, as it really skews everything that happens subsequently.


  • Baronius

    Part of the problem was the absurdity of the early polls. There was zero name recognition for guys like Obama and Huckabee a year ago, so people picked names they knew.

    Matthews is an old political insider who never liked Bill. It goes back to some slight against Democratic Congressional leadership in the early 1990’s. Washington insiders never, EVER, forget grudges. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews extend that grudge to Hillary.

    BTW, Barbara, another well-written article.

  • Although Chris Matthews apparently doesn’t really like her, so there must be some other motivation for the early hype.

    This could be a phenomenon that has been cited recently by Media Matters: the media likes to build up a “favorite,” then knock them down, then find a “surprise” upstart [Huckabee], then knock them down.

    I think this is a facile, overheated theory. But it’s fun to talk about. And it’s true that the media is more interested in an audience-grabbing story than in boring old facts.

  • The reason I singled out Matthews (and I do watch his show pretty religiously) is that well over a year ago it seemed that every day he was talking up Hillary; talking about Hillary as if she was the presumptive nominee. I think that sort of early hype (and some of that is due to her novelty, connection to Bill, the fact that she’s a woman) affects the early polling, which then builds on itself. The media by their coverage or lack thereof, especially when suggesting that a candidate is the presumptive nominee so early in the process, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of a sort. So that’s why I was calling out Matthews.

    Jon–I’m the eternal optimist. I’ve always been a bit of an idealist. But I also tend to be pretty skeptical, with a dusting of cynicism. But I do think Edwards can get stuff done. So, here’s hopin’.


  • Handyguy, you’re right about national polls, but Iowa and New Hampshire can give a candidate a lot of momentum nationally. (As can appearing on the cover of Newsweek.)

    Barbara, I’m supporting Edwards too, but I wish had your optimism that he would be able to accomplish what he says he wants to!

  • The “mainstream media” are worth watch-dogging and criticizing, of course…but I think they have gotten a bum rap on declaring which candidates are favorites.

    Those stories are driven almost entirely by poll numbers. You can claim the polls are rigged if you like…but there’s too much consistency of results for that to seem likely.

    HRC’s ‘inevitability’ was deduced from her big lead in the national polls, which continues as of yesterday. Iowa and New Hampshire are different from the national polls, and the MSM has reported that too.

  • You open your article by talking about Chris Matthews. He seems to be one of the more anti-Clinton of Democratic commentators [he would probably object to that party label]. He’s quite pro-Edwards and also admiring of Obama.

    But although he doesn’t hide his own views, he has a diverse group of smart guests on his show who often disagree with him and with each other. It’s the most enlightening nightly hour on the air right now for political junkies. Republicans might like it less, but I think they get a fair shake on the show too.