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John Edwards
Wednesday, 2008 January 2 - 8:03 pm
Continuing my series on presidential candidates, here's my look at John Edwards.

Pretty boy. Rich lawyer. Inexperienced. Power-hungry. We heard all the criticisms in 2004, when Edwards ran for President and eventually became the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Democrats. And here he is, making another run.

What's changed? Not much, actually. He still pushes his populist "Two Americas" message. He still has broad appeal among traditional liberals, white Southerners, and suburban women. He positions himself smack in the middle of the Democratic party plank, and he has his message finely honed.

You'd think he'd be a model candidate, but Democrats remember how easy it was for Republicans to attack him. The "rich lawyer" theme was an obvious avenue of attack: a pet conservative issue is how our litigious society is lining the pockets of [liberal] lawyers at the expense of honest [conservative] business owners.

And then there was that "pretty boy" criticism, an implication that he's too poncy, not manly enough to be President. In a way, it's a veiled form of homophobia; if you put that alongside racism against Obama and sexism against Hillary, you've completed the holy trinity of bigotry. Kind of fitting, really.

But if there's one criticism that carries some merit, it's that John Edwards is "too slick". The speeches he makes are filled with well-oiled stock phrases, and he often comes across as a lawyer making a case. So while people like his message, they don't always trust that he carries real conviction. It's gotten so some wonder if he's even using his wife's incurable cancer as a political tool.

I find Edwards to be appealing, but whenever I see him, I wish he were less of a robo-candidate. I wish he'd show up in public looking grungy and unwashed sometimes. I wish he'd tell a dirty joke. If he really wants to be believable when he talks about connecting with lower- and middle-class America, he needs to look and act less like a wealthy personal injury lawyer, and more like a blue-collar everyman.

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Posted by Ken in: politics

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