Contempt for Democracy

So John Edwards is Kerry's pick for Vice President, improving if nothing else the decibel level of the ticket. Comments about Edwards being the obvious choice are now bouncing around. Like this one from the LA Times (registration required) titled "The Obvious Choice."

The first thing that surprised me about this was the lack of surprise, real or feigned, in many quarters. It's as though Edwards hadn't been the third or fourth guy on most everybody's list - Kerry's included - since the "Veepstakes" (detestable word) heated up. But set that aside. Now that he's been chosen he is, and was, the obvious choice.

What does the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times think made Edwards the obvious choice? Four things:

1. He's an excellent speaker.
2. His positions are undefined.
3. He's ambitious/inexperienced.
4. He's a hottie.

I'm not kidding. It would seem that the majority of the LA Times editorial board are, as they used to say, simple.

Or not. Each of the four I-won't-put-it-in-quotes qualifications serves as a pretext for a swipe at Dick Cheney. Quotes from the editorial illustrate each major point. Check it out:

1. He's an excellent speaker.
Edwards could win a talking contest against his GOP rival with one tongue tied behind his back. Vice President Dick Cheney gives speeches that are so barren of any effort to charm or persuade that the delivery alone seems to reflect contempt for democracy.

2. His positions are undefined.
lack of deeply held beliefs can be useful in a political campaign, even for a sitting vice president, whose job traditionally is to support the president's policies and not to reason why. (In the current administration, of course, it works the other way.)

3. He's ambitious/inexperienced.
The right question to ask about experience is not, "How much?" It's, "What kind?" Republicans will be right to note that neither Kerry nor Edwards has ever run anything bigger than a small law firm or a Senate office staff. In recent elections, voters have shown a clear and probably wise preference for governors over members of Congress.

Republicans can brag that their ticket not only has a former governor and current president on the top but has as No. 2 the former chief executive of a company (Halliburton) that could actually teach the government a thing or two about creative accounting.

4. He's a looker.
One more thing. Edwards is handsome. The consensus on Kerry is that he is Lincoln-esque. The traditional grinning-candidates-at-the-podium shot from the Democratic convention will be a thing of beauty, compared with the Republican version, featuring a lumpish Cheney and President Bush trying hard to suppress his patented smirk. That shouldn't matter. But you know it does.

So the Cheney slurs that match Edwards's I-can't-help-but-put-it-in-quotes "qualifications" are:

1. He's an excellent speaker; Cheney is bo-ring.
2. His positions are undefined; Cheney's the head of the evil neocon conspiracy that runs the White House.
3. He's ambitious/inexperienced; Halliburton!
4. He's a hottie; Cheney's not a hottie.

Interesting to find on finishing this little side-by-side look that at least one thing is obvious: that the criteria employed by the Times editors might resemble those of their teenage daughters. If their teenage daughters are, as they used to say, simple.

-Doug Brown
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