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Sam Smith: Why Hasn't John Edwards Done Better?

Why Hasn't John Edwards Done Better?

By Editor Sam Smith

When Democrats talk about things they don't like about John Edwards, they typically express skepticism about a wealthy trial lawyer advocating populist positions or his $400 haircut or the size of his 10,000 square foot home and 15,000 square foot barn. These same Democrats - and the media - never talk about Hillary Clinton's $1200 makeup job or the fact that when you add up the size of her Washington and Chappaqua homes, they surpass 10,000 square feet, not to mention her husband's 8300 square foot office with a $30,000 a month rent is picked up by taxpayers.

The difference is another example of how some politicians get away with the same things that do others in. In the end, it isn't about the haircut or house at all; it's about who is getting it or living there.

In fact, John Edwards falls into one of the smallest and most appealing classes of politicians: a reformed sinner who is better than he used to be. Hillary Clinton is not only unreformed, she has never uttered the slightest words of remorse for behavior that almost got her prosecuted, let alone for all her other offenses against integrity and decency. And Barrack Ohblahblah is still trying to convince people that he deserves the White House primarily by regurgitating endless bromides like a bulimic fortune cookie.

It is true that Edwards could be lying to us, but it is curious that those most inclined to think so are the same who have yet to notice any hint of mendacity in Mrs. Clinton - and thus may not be all that equipped to judge deception. My guess is that a combination of mundane success and extraordinary tragedy left Edwards feeling an emptiness that he has attempted to fill with a heavy dose of conscience. It would be nice to see the other candidates give it a try. And it would be nice if some of the Democrats sniping at Edwards' wealth would recall that Franklin Roosevelt and John F Kennedy weren't poor either.

While falling far short on some issues like Iraq and healthcare, what Edwards has proposed would represent the most fundamental shift in social and economic policy in several decades. He proposes returning the Democratic Party to its roots in the New Deal and Great Society; he proposes restoring some of the social democracy that Bill Clinton and George Bush so successfully dismantled; and he proposes reintroducing collective responsibility to a society that has become obsessed with individual acquisition.

It is small wonder that the establishment - including the leaders of the Democratic Party and the sycophantic media - finds Edwards so troubling. If he were to live up to his promise, a President Edwards might change this country for the better in a way not seen since LBJ's domestic programs.

This scares a generation of greed - Generation G - which has outdone the 19th century robber barons in abusing the advantages of this land by turning them solely to their own benefit.

But this same phenomenon has also misled those who have not benefited - i.e. most of the country. The destructive myths of imaginary free markets, privatization and globalization have destroyed this country in a manner no would-be foreign invader has ever achieved. The RBCB years - of Reagan, Bush, Clinton & Bush - have trashed social democracy, our constitution and sense of common purpose, leaving us run by an avaricious adhocracy and running into the ground our sense of honor and standing in the rest of the world.

So Edwards has been up against two formable forces: a bipartisan Generation G that recognizes the threat he would be to their narcissistic game and a potential constituency that should support him but has been too deeply deceived to do so.

Yet even if the tide doesn't turn, even if we end up with the rotten apple campaign of Clinton vs. Giuliani, Edwards has performed a service. He has reminded us what a decent mainstream American leader can be like. And those he has encouraged and those who have encouraged him won't disappear even if he loses. Let's hope he doesn't desert them if things don't work out, but instead uses the campaign as the first step in creating a coalition of conscience that helps America find its way back home again


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