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It’s just a few days until Iowa Democrats cast the first votes in the 2008 presidential primaries, so it’s time for a summary post not only about why it’s important to vote for John Edwards but also why it’s important not to vote for Obama or Hillary.

A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote my blog post about influencing the Federal Election Commission, I sent a version of it to a mailing list of old school classmates. Because my message advocated John Edwards for president, one classmate replied, “His policies sound good, but he is a phony.” Here’s what I wrote:

When I was in college, I had a few friends who were in CMU’s sizable drama program. I was never really comfortable around those folks, even though I was nominally pretty close to a couple of them. To me, the math nerd/scientist/software engineer with only rudimentary expertise in interpersonal relationships, the way they could (and often did) change personalities on a whim was disconcerting. The way they could project those personalities around a room, and sometimes seemingly right through me, was downright unnatural.

Presidential candidates are like this. They are necessarily playing a role. They are all phonies, though some are better actors than others. You can’t judge a candidate on his or her apparent personality. In the first place, it is guaranteed not to be their real personality. (Case in point: the voters who thought Bush was the one they’d prefer to have a beer with and who now suffer from a monster case of buyer’s remorse. Case in point: the wooden Al Gore of 2000, who disappeared without a trace as soon as the election was over.) And in the second place, the skills a politician uses to project an electable personality have little to do with the skills they must bring to bear as President. To judge those skills, good-sounding policies are a start. A paper trail of actual achievements aligned with the stated policies is even better, and Edwards has that too. The deal-clincher for me is his in-the-trenches experience battling monied interests on behalf of ordinary citizens — and winning.

Later in that thread I added:

However, there are still a couple of good reasons to vote for Edwards regardless of what you think of him or his specific policies. These reasons are kind of “meta” but I think they’re still valid:

  • He’s clearly positioned as the progressive/populist candidate. That alone can set the tone for the next administration and for coattail Congressional races if he should win. The nationwide narrative becomes, “Americans are fed up with coroporatist politics.”
  • The GOP has already attacked him a few times. Why would they? They haven’t gone after Obama or Clinton (yet) and their fundraising is in pretty poor shape; why not hold their fire until after the primaries? It’s pretty clear that the reason is the GOP wants to run against Obama or Clinton and thinks it has a chance against them, and fears Edwards. You may have seen the recent CNN poll that shows only Edwards beating all potential Republican presidential candidates, and by the widest margins. See “CNN poll: Edwards DESTROYS GOP candidates.”

To return to the idea that politicians are phonies, I coincidentally read a great quote yesterday at “Edwards HAS NO money problem!” that makes my point more concisely:

Does Edwards TRULY BELIEVE his semi-populist positions, or is he simply pandering? Who knows. But at least he is pandering TO ME, and not the lobbyists for banks, insurance companies, and defense contractors!

Click here to see my other blog posts about John Edwards.

Here’s another person’s eloquent endorsement of Edwards:

I didn’t start as a fan of John Edwards and at first dismissed him as just another light weight pretty boy politician trying to do his finest JFK impersonation and the media seemed to constantly project that image of him as well.

But as I watched the health care debate unfold and became aware of John Edwards, I could see he was driving the policy debate on the issue. Over time I watched him drive every issue of this campaign one after another.

I watched him not only make proposals but give detailed plans on how he intended to accomplish what he was proposing. I read all of the experts as they vetted his plans and crunched the numbers and watched his support grow among the professionals in all of the fields that he was making proposals in; on health care reform, economics and fair trade, tax reform to reward work, protecting labor’s right to organize unions, and ending the war in Iraq.


All the while John’s plans got more detailed and Hillary’s plans and Obama’s plans seemed to lag far behind and when they did talk details, what they were proposing seemed to be a version of what the Edwards plan was. I listened to the parsing and heard statements of commitment only to be followed by qualifiers like, “I didn’t mean coverage, I meant access.”

Then John Edwards issued his plans in writing and I realized just how really serious about everything he is.

Here’s why not to vote for Barack Obama:

Following close on the heels of Obama endorsements from the neoconservative Weekly Standard and the conservative Republican newspaper the Sioux City Journal, yet another conservative Republican newspaper the Dallas Morning News has now rushed to support Obama.


Why do these outlets and media who have fawned over Bush in the past like Obama so much?

Could it be because his positions on the crucial issues of health care and Social Security are closer to those of the Republican right wing than those of any other Democratic contender?


Or maybe it’s just that these Republicans just want the Democrats to nominate someone they know will be easy to best.

And here’s why not to vote for Hillary Clinton:

In seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton lays claim to two traits nearly every day: strength and experience. But as the junior senator from New York, she has few significant legislative accomplishments to her name. She has cast herself, instead, as a first lady like no other: a full partner to her husband in his administration, and, she says, all the stronger and more experienced for her “eight years with a front-row seat on history.”

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

And during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

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