Boy was I wrong

I sure am glad I didn’t get my way during the presidential primaries. John Edwards would surely have been a step up from the Bush administration, but as one negative news item after another makes clear, he wouldn’t have been the leap forward that Obama already has been. And considering that these stories started breaking while the election was still in progress, we might now have President McCain, or perhaps by now even President Palin.

Bullet: dodged.

Home stretch

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.

Doubling jeopardy

I have temporarily removed the link that has been at the top of my sidebar for several months, allowing you to contribute to the John Edwards campaign via ActBlue, and for now I urge you to make your contributions directly through John Edwards’ website.

This comes on the heels of news that the Federal Election Commission may publish an opinion that would treat ActBlue like other political action committees and disqualify ActBlue contributions from eligibility for federal matching funds. As you may know, John Edwards, alone among the major presidential contenders, has opted for voluntary spending caps in order to qualify for public campaign financing funds. Small, private donations made directly to the campaign are matched by public funds, doubling their effectiveness. Until this news, ActBlue users believed the same was true of their donations; now this is in doubt.

ActBlue and other organizations like it are not political action committees in the conventional sense; they do not do their own fundraising. Instead they are conduits providing a convenient technical mechanism for individual contributions directly to the campaigns they support. There are just a few days in which to influence the FEC to choose this interpretation of the governing regulations.

I wrote to the Edwards campaign and asked their advice. Here was their response:

I would encourage you to make your remaining contributions directly through our website. As you can imagine we are deeply disappointed with the FEC’s potential decision as we view ACTBlue as a valuable resource.

So though I am a big believer in ActBlue I reluctantly urge you to avoid it for donations to the Edwards campaign, at least until this issue is settled. And regardless of how you feel about John Edwards, it’s a fact that public financing of political campaigns is the best chance we have of reducing corruption in politics, so please do as I have done and urge the FEC not to nip it in the bud with this anti-small-donor policy. Here’s the letter I just sent to Mary Dove, Secretary of the FEC:

To: Mary Dove <>
Subject: ActBlue et al.

Dear Ms. Dove,

I am a private individual who occasionally donates small amounts of money to favored political candidates through I learned recently that your Draft Opinion 2007-31 would disqualify such contributions from eligibility for public matching funds (where such contributions would otherwise be eligible).

I made my donations in the full expectation that they would be treated exactly like small, private donations made directly to the candidates. I daresay that was the expectation of the overwhelming majority of ActBlue users.

I therefore urge you to support “Draft A” of Opinion 2007-27, which would affirm that expectation, and to reject Draft Opinion 2007-31.

Sincerely, [name and address]

If you write your own letter, keep it short, to the point, and polite, and include your name and address.

You can find out more about this issue at these links:

Update 14-Dec: The good guys lost.

Wow wow wow wow wow

I’m an avid reader of DailyKos. Once in a while I post an article of my own there, but those invariably sink like a stone in DailyKos’s highly competitive article-rating system, and almost no one sees them. On very rare occasions I post a comment about someone else’s post, but those get even fewer readers so I seldom bother.

Just now, however, I was moved to post the comment “Wow wow wow wow wow” after reading the post John Edwards and The Best Christmas Gift Ever by someone called “leisure.” I hope you’ll read it too. Your heart will grow three sizes.

If ghosts could vote

Yesterday would have been my mom’s 73rd birthday. Her death earlier this year was in part a case of “Murder by Spreadsheet,” which is the phrase that describes the criminal cost-cutting widely practiced by health insurers. They routinely delay or override the official recommendations of medical professionals, fully aware of the deleterious and often fatal effects on their patients. The outstanding and passionate reportage on this subject by DailyKos’ nyceve will curl your hair.

In my mom’s case, her doctors wanted to keep her at the hospital while she recovered from a severe infection and received radiation treatments for (a very treatable form of) cancer. The insurance company said no and sent her to a nursing home, where the standard of care was far lower. There her health declined rapidly; she was dead within a few weeks.

Now here’s a surprising fact: of the 100 U.S. Senators, Democratic and Republican, who is the one who has taken the most campaign money from evil HMO’s? Hillary Clinton.

Here is another surprising fact: who is the U.S. Senator who has taken the second largest amount of HMO money? Barack Obama.

Now, which presidential candidate made a career of fighting evil HMO’s and drug companies and their ilk — and winning? Which one has promised, if elected, to discontinue Congress’ golden health-care plan unless it passes meaningful health-care reform? Which one has a detailed and realistic plan for just such reform? And which one has opted for public campaign financing in order to be free of undue corporate influence? John Edwards.

My mom’s ghost and I implore you to vote for John Edwards. He’s our only good hope for making sure the insurance companies don’t turn too many other people into ghosts.

Corporations are not people

Corporations are not people, yet as “juristic persons” they enjoy many of the same protections that our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” grants to people. At the same time, they suffer fewer of the penalties. How do you incarcerate a transgressing corporation? Why are people subject to capital punishment and corporations aren’t?

It’s hard to pick the greatest threat to the American idea right now, but the lopsided power of amoral corporations is certainly on the short list. They profiteer from war, they mute our public discourse, they produce unhealthful things in unhealthful ways and then use corporate Jedi mind tricks to get us to buy them.

People have a time horizon of a generation or two: they want to leave a better world to their children and grandchildren and are willing to sacrifice in the short term to make sure of it. But even conscientious corporations are required to focus only on the next few fiscal quarters. Taking a longer view — not maximizing profits right now — risks a shareholder lawsuit.

On the other hand, there has never been a greater engine of prosperity in human history than the modern corporation. It’s easy to demonize corporations for the evils they cause — but it wouldn’t be so easy without the comforts they also provide.

Here is why John Edwards is my choice for president: he alone is dedicated to standing up to the power of big corporations. He alone has the paper trail to prove it’s not just campaign bluster. He alone has announced a plan to make corporations play fair. Yet he’s a corporate player himself — not a frothing, dogmatic anti-capitalist — who understands their underlying value.

Jim Taylor

John Edwards has been getting vocal lately about Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. empire (which includes Fox News), urging Congressional Democrats to block its acquisition of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal, and chiding the other Democratic presidential hopefuls for accepting News Corp. donations.

Today the New York Post (a Murdoch newspaper) wrote,

John Edwards, who yesterday demanded Democratic candidates return any campaign donations from Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., himself earned at least $800,000 for a book published by one of the media mogul’s companies.

(It’s under the headline, “Edwards in a biz hate & $witch” for extra we-report-you-decide journalistic impartiality.)

The Post would have its readers equate cash donated by News Corp. in support of a political campaign with cash earned in a retail venture.

The screed continues,

The campaign didn’t respond to a question from The Post about whether it was hypocritical for Edwards to take money from News Corp. while calling for other candidates not to.

I’ll respond: Edwards took money from the purchasers of his book, not from News Corp. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, did take News Corp. money. (Disclaimer: I endorse John Edwards for president, but I am not endorsed by him or his campaign and do not speak for them.)

Let’s say this distinction is lost on you. What would be an honorable thing for Edwards to do with the disputed cash? Give it to charity?

Edwards claimed $333,334 in royalties from last year’s release of the book, according to media accounts. The campaign said last night that those funds were part of the advance.

He says he gave that amount to charity, which would also provide tax benefits for Edwards.

The cynical Post can make even the honorable thing have the taint of hypocrisy. A ham-handed attack like this belongs in a Hollywood movie from the ’40s, not in real life. But I guess we should expect no less from News Corp. journalists, the remains of whose souls are at this very moment dribbling down the chin of a cackling and engorged Rupert Murdoch.