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Thursday, December 06, 2007


Is Edwards a hypocrite?

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, December 06, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
Back during the Dean campaign, we at the unofficial dean blog launched an effort we called the Dean Defense Forces, in which we tried to respond to smears against Dean as they came out in real time. Even if we had done the same for Kerry, it wouldn't have prevented the Swiftboat attacks on him, which were truly devastating. This season, all the Democratic nominees are getting the same treatment and I want to try and address the prevailing swiftboating against each of the major candidates in turn.

Let's start with Edwards. As regular readers of DailyKos know, the infamous $400 haircut included travel airfare for his trusted barber to meet Edwards on the trail. Given that candidates are also television personalities, it's a necessary expense, and there's also the security issue to consider (the barber does, after all, at some point have a blade at your throat.)

However, the reason that the haircut meme survives - even among liberal-leaning voters - is because its subtext is that Edwards is a hypocrite, for talking about the poor but living a life of profligate waste. That's the underlying issue that needs to be addressed in a sucinct way for the meme to die.

On a private forum, a good friend of mine did exactly that, and it was such an excellent refutation of the Edwards Hypocrisy meme that I am blockquoting it in its entirety here:

I'm not a candidate for anything, but I do consider poverty to be second after women's issues (tightly-related of course) on my list of political priorities. I don't, however, think that in order to care about poor people, that one needs to either be or behave like a poor person. Edwards is a very wealthy individual, who truly did rise from a background substantially lower. Wealthy people wear expensive suits, get manicures and pedicures, golf, and have other expensive hobbies, etc. Candidates for that office have zero time flexibility and the expectation that they will be constantly in the presence of the people financing their campaigns. If he needs to fly his hairdresser in because he can't get to where they are, and he can manage to find a hotel and airfare, plus an hourly rate adding up to ONLY $400, then hell, that alone is evidence of his frugality. Just TRY to get a flight and hotel almost anywhere for that!

I really don't think that Edwards showed anything like hypocrisy. He thinks we should work harder on the issue of poverty, and has ideas about how to do that. I doubt that any of those ideas includes "stop getting expensive haircuts and give the money to the panhandler you pass on the way to work." What would any of us really think about a candidate who got suits from the thrift store, cut his own hair, gave away all of his disposable income, etc? I'd think "Wow, I admire that person. They really live their values. He's obviously vastly impractical and I do NOT want him anywhere near the White House." Solving problems of poverty isn't about charity and it isn't about the overprivileged beating their breasts and making token sacrifices. It's about economic restructuring, education, nutrition, business incentives, healthcare, CHILDCARE, population management, and a host of other interrelated social functions. Edwards understands many of those factors and believes he can address them. I believe that. It's not just lip service, and the fact that a multi-millionaire lives like a very busy multi-millionaire doesn't affect my belief that he does.

Enough said. Unfortunately, sensible people like her are too sensible to be political pundits.

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an example of edwards' concern for the poor while he was in the senate:

EDWARDS GOT SOME 'SPLAINING TO DO It's not much of a secret that I've a lot of sympathy for John Edwards' populist turn. And I've actually argued it's not as much of a stretch from his past as some suggest. The main objection I hear, though, is that the turn isn't genuine -- it's simply a classic primary swerve. And bits and pieces of his past voting record pop up that make that hard to rebut.

Here's one: At the Democratic forum today, Edwards spent some time -- as he often does -- lamenting the fact of medical bankruptcies. This is no surprise: Elizabeth Warren, who's done the seminal work in this area, informally advises him.

But when the Bankruptcy Bill -- which Edwards voted for -- came up in 2001, then-Senator Paul Wellstone offered an amendment to "create an exemption for certain debtors that can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that the reason for the filing was a result of debts incurred through medical expenses." In other words, to prevent medical bankruptcies. The amendment failed, 65-34. Edwards was one of the 65 voting against it (as was Biden -- Clinton and Dodd both voted for, and Obama wasn't yet in the Senate). In doing, he broke with just about every liberal in the Senate. At times, votes like this can be out-of-context, as Senators kill good liberal amendments to get an important progressive bill to the floor. But the Bankruptcy Bill was hardly that. It's a hard vote to explain. But I'd still like to hear what the Edwards camp has to say.

--Ezra Klein

Posted by Ezra Klein on August 27, 2007 1:47 PM | Permalink


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.