Friday, April 27, 2007

Is John Edwards Ready For Prime Time?

While we reluctantly concede that it is so early in the 2008 political process that polls are essentially meaningless, we cannot fail to note here and now the astonishing learning curve that John Edwards has seemingly surmounted since his last, disasterous go-round for the Presidency of the United States of America. Three years ago (The Corsair gingerly lights a Macanudo Robust Petite Corona), the one-term Senator was the Vice Presidential nominee, and he was, well, hollow (Said with an air of restrained laughter).

Granted, John Edwards clearly had vast political potential, but he just wasn't up on all the issues a Vice President during wartime should have at the ready -- and it showed, especially in the Vice Presidential debate with Cheney (Who, say what you will about the Vice President, he oozes Gravitas), where Edwards barely survived (And, unforgivably, failed to bring up Cheney's Congressional vote in 1986 against releasing Nelson Mandela).

But this new incarnation of Edwards is ... astonishing. The other Edwards of the 2004 campaign was slick -- too slick -- not Mitt Romney creepy-slick, mind you (No one but Romney has that greasy-slickness) -- but the kind of slick talking "Butter-doesn't-Melt-in-Their-Mouth" kind of Southern ambulance-chasing attorney that attracts the politically naive college girl campaign volunteer and, simultaneously revolt the Middle American voter. Edwards had a maddening habit back then of staying "on message" whenever he encountered a question to which he did not readily know the answer to. And, to put it kindly, the one-term Senator didn't know much about international relations and much of domestic policy. And so, invariably, an Edwards interview on the campaign trail was so much spin (Which didn't endear him to campaign reporters on deadline looking, aimlessly, for fresh and juicy quote). It was virtually impossible to get an uncanned response from Edwards in the run-up to 2004. It was like interviewing Eva Longoria. Whatever you ask Eva Longoria, it will come up to some pre-processed quote about her sex life; Edwards, in 2004, flipped every tough question to one of his Talking points. Very Longwhoriaesque.

Only Edwards was Prettier. And that hurt the former Senator, too. The "Breck Girl" thing stuck. Remember former Senator Phil Gramm's Maxim: Politics is Hollywood for ugly people. In that sweaty arena, Senator John Edwards was a "bohunk" of USDA Prime man-candy (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). The new Edwards -- owner of the political real estate to the Progressive-Left of Obama and Clinton -- has handled all manner of political crisis Great and Small, from his wife's cancer relapse -- and the ensuing KateiGate -- to that $400 haircut, with elegance and grace. John Edwards is showing -- dare we say it? -- "seasoning." Maturity.

Might Edwards finally be ready for "Prime Time"? Even a cradfty old buzzard like Joe Klein of Time notices, shrewdly:

"'I want this to be a country where everyone has the same chances I had,' John Edwards recently told a large crowd at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa. "I want to live in a country where you can go from having nothing to having everything." He paused. 'Not sure I want to live in a country where people pay $400 for haircuts.' There was a bolt of laughter. 'So embarrassing,' Edwards said. 'So embarrassing.'

"... In fact, the tone of the Edwards campaign has been impressive from the start--from the moment, during Christmas week, that he announced his candidacy by helping clean up a devastated neighborhood in New Orleans, without buttons or balloons, without a bombastic prepared text. Also impressive was his first appearance as a candidate on Meet the Press, a show that had totally boggled Edwards in 2004. Tim Russert hammered the candidate repeatedly on his support for the war. "I was wrong," Edwards said plainly, sans baloney. But most impressive has been Edwards' willingness to step out and get specific on some major issues in a way that none of his opponents have.

"... Edwards has weaknesses: his knowledge of foreign policy is limited; nor does he know much about the U.S. military or national defense policy. He recently opposed the U.S.--South Korea trade deal, which would bring significant economic benefits to U.S. companies and consumers. There are probably better ways to get to universal health insurance than his plan. If his bouts of conspicuous consumption continue, voters may find him untrustworthy. For now, though, Edwards is demonstrating two of the qualities I most value in a politician: self-deprecating humor and real courage."

The full article here (Time)

No comments: