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Edwards frames return with a message

Edwards frames return with a message

When the reliable Des Moines Register poll two weeks ago showed former vice presidential candidate John Edwards leading in Iowa with 36 percent, people were surprised.
How did he do that in a year when it has been Hillary and Everyone Else, then Hillary, Obama and Everyone Else? Quietly, very quietly, which is the best way for a Democratic has-been to have any hope of becoming a could-be.
Democrats hate their losers. Unlike Republicans who routinely give theirs a second chance (see Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole), Democrats would remove all memory of theirs if they could, like latter-day Kremlinologists. (See George McGovern, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, though the last doesn't know he is over.)
Al Gore may be the exception. Having taken on many lives - college professor, itinerant preacher on global warming, Wall Street banker and potential Oscar-winning filmmaker - there are some Democrats asking him to run. Edwards may have telescoped Gore's six years in exile into two as he emerged from his own Elba to announce his candidacy today in New Orleans.
Surely 2008 is a better time for a candidate like Edwards - a non-combative southerner who has won 100 courtroom trials, has an established fund-raising base, is a master of the Internet and finally has a few more lines in his baby face than he did in 2004 when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney carried the day.
Edwards's pitch that there are two Americas is, if anything, truer today than when he first took it out for a spin. There is no better place to take that theme than the hurricane-ravaged Ninth Ward of New Orleans where he will begin his campaign today.
A living wage
For the past year, Edwards has toured the country with the message that those who work deserved a living wage. He favors an expansion of the earned income tax credit, better lending practices, housing vouchers, sprinkling low-income housing amid McMansions and a program to rehabilitate Louisiana after Katrina.
Yet the Bush administration continues to give the rich every break at the expense of the poor. The gap between the haves and have-nots is now worthy of King Louis XIV. Just last week came the news that Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., was paid a bonus of US$53.4 million for 2006, or roughly US$25,000 an hour for a standard work week.
Edwards got right with the Iraq war in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in November 2005. Without making excuses, he said he regretted his vote in 2002 for a resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion.
Bungled opportunity
By eschewing what he called the "old politics of hate and division," Edwards gave up the usual vice presidential running mate's role of hatchet man. He bungled his best chance to show what he was made of in his debate against Cheney.
The trial lawyer who won multimillion-dollar verdicts against well-armed drug companies looked like a Ken doll who had come to ask Barbie's stern father for her hand in marriage. The only blow he landed was wrapped in velvet: congratulating Cheney on his love for Mary Cheney, his openly gay daughter, to point up the Republicans' otherwise ugly strategy to demonize gays. Edwards spent weeks explaining himself.
It could be that in 2004, Edwards suffered from first-time jitters, too much message discipline about a divided America and the handicap of playing second banana to a waffling, windsurfing stiff.
There could be a hunger now for a quieter man after eight years of taking our enemies dead or alive.
Edwards is the candidate most reminiscent of the late Gerald Ford. Ford was a fine president in a difficult moment, so decent he couldn't win the presidency on his own.
We are a schizophrenic electorate. We prefer the likeable candidate over the sourpuss, but we also want a tough guy.
Edwards has a chance only if nice guys don't finish last.
Margaret Carlson, author of "Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House" is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.


Updated : 2020-11-30 18:49 GMT+08:00