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John Edwards: 2-1/2 thumbs up from The Nation

By Michael J. Smith on Friday December 29, 2006 05:48 PM

One of the oddest institutions of our society is the "reviewer". There are respected and powerful book reviewers who have never written, or could ever write, a book. There are theater reviewers who couldn't play Yorick's skull, much less Hamlet. There are music reviewers who can't play a kazoo, and judging by some of the nonsense they publish, probably can't even read music.

But the oddest reviewers of all are the Politician Reviewers -- people like John Nichols of The Nation, who could never be elected dogcatcher, and has no conception whatsoever of the sacrifices in personal integrity, autonomy, and cleanness of mind that it takes to become a Senator, much less a President. The Nicholses of the world will never have a marble Commendatore coming to drag them down to hell, but every politician knows in his heart that Beelzebub has the reversion of his soul.

But you've got to admire the Nicholses. Their fingers fly without inhibition over the keyboards of their laptops, handing out A's and F's and carefully calibrated C-pluses to men and women who have sold their souls. I hate the politicians, hate 'em more than I can tell you, but at least they have some major skin in the game -- if a soul means anything. What's the price of entry for the Nicholses? What have they put on the line, apart from their ear for Engish prose?

Here's a bit of Nichols' latest report card on John Edwards:

The John Edwards who today announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination is a very different contender from the fresh-faced young senator who in 2004 bid for the party nod....

By any measure, he has a lot more to offer progressives than he did in 2004.... Edwards struggled to craft a message in 2004. After stumbling frequently.... he finally developed the "two Americas" stump speech that identified him as a candidate who was serious about broadening the national debate to include a serious discussion of the dangerous gap between rich and poor in America.

Even as he improved as a speaker and debater, however, Edwards remained a vague and frequently ill-defined candidate. He condemned President Bush's management of the war in Iraq.... But Edwards took no clear stand on the war....

Despite his flaws, Edwards did well enough in 2004 to merit another look in 2008.... Most indications suggest that Edwards gets it. That does not mean he is the perfect contender, nor that he is the perfect progressive. But he has grown a great deal over the past several years, and that growth has been in a serious, smart and savvy direction that progressives would be wise to note at this relatively early stage in the 2008 contest.

I dunno. Maybe it's not so much like a movie review as it is like a bond newsletter. And as with the writers of bond newsletters, one has to ask, how exactly have they gotten rich, apart from subscriptions to their weekly bulletin? Why should we believe them? Where do they get the confidence to hand down these... evaluations?

One thing I do know: anybody who can give John Edwards a passing grade, and promote him to "progressives" as somebody who might possibly be taken seriously, has an even tinnier ear than the average reviewer. In fact, I believe we might say, with some confidence, that he has his head up his ass so far that he's starting on his second lap.

Comments (5)

OTOH, listen to Edwards at an Iowa Q&A: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_12/010487.php

Edwards was, I thought, rather unimpressive in 2004, and is still a senator, with all that implies. Still....

js paine:

beware the "jim neighbors" effect
it can move a nation like ours

he was a master
at swaying tort juries
dozens of missing teeth

Or Dean Baker's Rule #10 for reporters: 10) You Don’t Know What Politicians Think or Believe, so Don’t Tell Readers


...which applies to more than reporters.

Even so, it'd be easy (and conventional) for Edwards to insist that he could implement his programs and also balance the budget. It's interesting that he's abandoned the Cliinton/Rubin balanced-budget mantra.

Uhmm...you meant Jim Nabors there, didn't you, JS?

You know, as in sweet, lovable, and dumb as a goddamn' box of rocks? (Although it was actually Nabors' character, Gomer Pyle)

So, I guess what we're really thinking of here is the "Gomer Pyle Effect".

You might have something with that, though it might be tougher this time around as now the entire US citizenry appears to be functioning at or about the level of Gomer Pyle.

js paine:


i hate to confess a fondness
for this buttercup
but his new populist slant
certainly his tar heel corn syrup
are a better watch and hear
then mother clinton
and the narrow faced kidz from zionia

no gomer was indeed a character
i'm talkin nabors odd singing persona
so transformative
from the gomer schtick
morpho magic

that gay mens' chorus
sky high sugar tree
angelic tenor voice
coming out of the off center
hole in his face

be uuuu teee fullll

the dixie
in all
our white bread citizenry
responds to this
treacle slop

then there's the bobby goldsboro
edwards taps that too
in fact he's got a sob sided
corner on pale face
volkish sentiment

like that chain of breakfast houses

the cracker barrell

orthography spoils earish
mis spells are automatic writing at its deepest

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