July 06, 2004

Edwards for Veep

This was, all told, probably Kerry's best pick.

Still, I'm thinking Kerry won't get a 15% bounce from his Veep selection and the impending Democratic convention in Boston.

I think that figure will trend more towards 8-10% because a) many expected the Edwards pick so the novelty will fizzle quickly; and b) the Democratic Convention being held in Boston will provide rich fodder for Republican attack ads re: the uber-lefty going-ons in Ted Kennedy-land.

For more on Edwards see TNR's lively discussion re: Kerry's pick.

In particular, don't miss Jonathan Chait's take:

It's obvious he's not Kerry's idea of a great pick. Reports held that Kerry was mystified and somewhat resentful that Edwards would run for president without even having completed a single Senate term. Kerry thinks like a senator, and senators respect people who have been in office a really long time and mastered an issue. If Kerry could have somehow been absolutely certain that he'd be elected, I bet he'd have chosen somebody like Joe Biden [ed. note. read: Dick Gephardt]. The Edwards pick suggests Kerry is willing to accede to the judgment of the political professionals.


So he really needs John Edwards, who has remarkably strong instincts both politically and substantively. Of all the primary candidates, I think Edwards most cogently identified what's wrong with George W. Bush's presidency. (Edwards's message was called "populist," but I merely think it was a realistic assessment of a plutocratic president.) And, unlike Kerry, he can communicate. This suggests a logical, if somewhat new, division of labor: Edwards could be the one who pulls the party message into a coherent theme, thickens it out with policy proposals(along with his staff), articulates it before the public, and lacerates the opponent. Kerry would continue to star in the television commercials as the Vietnam veteran/prosecutor/gun nut/fiscal hawk. Between his schedule of filming such commercials, he'd raise money and rest up for the debates. Too much campaigning would only alienate the public and make him even more gaunt.

In fact, here's my ideal plan for the Kerry campaign. At an upcoming rally, an anti-Kerry protestor starts to burn an American flag. Kerry leaps down from the podium and starts strangling the protestor with his bare hands, then hurls him to the ground and rescues the flag. In the course of putting out the fire, he suffers minor burns that, the campaign announces, will force him to be hospitalized and inaccessible to the media and the public until mid-October. In the meantime, Edwards is dispatched to present the Democratic message for the next three and half months.


Worth checking out too are Andrew Sullivan's comments:

He's the anti-bitterness candidate. And his presence will change the dynamic. The trouble with Bush's and Cheney's fundamental position - you cannot trust anyone else to wage this war - is that it must inevitably conjure fear and danger. Americans also like broad grins and happy futures. Edwards will give them plenty.

I'm not one of those who think that Edwards will look like a cool as a cucumber Kennedy figure to a sweaty, Nixonian Cheney. Cheney will do just fine thank you--while pointing out Edward's obvious weaknesses in the national security/foreign policy realm.

But, bursts of profanity aside, Cheney may want to spend a few days on the beach before the debates, you know, hanging out --the better so as to project a chiller vibe.

All well and good to exude macho-gravitas and national security street cred--but an avuncular (full-blown) smile here and there won't hurt either.

Americans do like a winning smile--a certain breezy optimism has always been part and parcel of the American national character.

Put differently, Bush/Cheney can't just run on fear. To be sure, 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror remain, along with the economy, the pivotal issues in this election.

But Bush must approach the war on terror not merely by scaring voters that Kerry and Edwards aren't up to the job of steering the ship of state during perilous times--he must also be sure to place Afghanistan and Iraq into the framework of a larger, optimistic narrative of America attempting to make repressive societies freer.

In this vein, it is critical that Iraq and Afghanistan become more rather than less stable in the coming months. Instability and quasi-anarchy would give the lie to the positive narrative Bush needs to develop.


Here are links to some recent (are there any other?) Edward's foreign policy speeches (courtesy of the Council).

Here's an Edwards policy statement where he sounds like, er, Paul Wolfowitz!

Establishing new international institutions committed to promoting democracy. Edwards will establish a new "Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East" bringing together the world's leading democracies together with countries in the region moving toward democratic reform. The new organization could assist with civil society and political party development, monitor elections, and manage crises. In the 1970s, the "Helsinki Process" played a similar role in advancing freedom in Eastern Europe. Edwards would also create a new Middle East Partnership Program at NATO that would help establish civilian control over militaries in democratizing states, as well as a "democracy caucus" within the United Nations that would work to prevent states like Libya from getting improper roles, like heading the U.N.'s human rights committee. [ed. note: The date of this policy statement is, gasp, after Libya came out from the cold. Quick, add this to the oppo checklist!]

Creating a New "Freedom List." Edwards will direct the State Department to create a new "Freedom List" of imprisoned dissidents to name and shame nations that incarcerate political prisoners. Like the FBI's "most wanted" list, the "Freedom List" will draw attention to terrible international violations of human rights.

Increasing support for democracy programs. Edwards will double funding for the National Endowment for Democracy, which supports grassroots civil society programs around the world.

Curbing U.S. assistance to nondemocratic states. Edwards will reward nations that move along the path toward democracy with increased aid and debt relief. But where governments are nondemocratic and show no interest in developing democracy, he will curb aid or shift it toward nongovernmental bodies.

Hey, looks to be a bumper crop for NGOs in Uzbekistan and Pakistan if Kerry/Edwards prevail!

As for Edward's "Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East"--I'm reminded of the old quip about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--aka "Office of Seriously Confused Europeans."

Imagine the Middle East version!

Oh, and get ready for lots of these kinds of folksy, common-sensical Carolinean apercus:

There are a lot of grand theories about how best to conduct our foreign policy. But it seems to me that much of foreign policy--like much of life--boils down to good judgment, common sense, and common decency. We use them in our daily lives and we should use them in America's common defense as well.

Is Ahmad Chalabi listening?

Posted by Gregory at July 6, 2004 11:01 PM

Interesting assessment, but I don't think Bush's persona envisions doom and gloom. In fact, he scores exceedingly high on the emotional intelligence register.

All four executive candidates speak in platitudes, "I will build strong allies," "We live in two countries," "democracy to Middle East," but the difference is that Bush can demostrate specific actions taken in furtherance of those grandiose ambitions. Kerry/Edwards have no specific actions taken to date nor do they give any particulars about future detailed actions they would take to realize their platitudes -- a gapping hole for the President and the Vice President.

Posted by: Capt America at July 7, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush campaign strategist Dowd's never realistic prediction of a 15% Kerry bounce is Politics 101 Chapter 1: Raising Expectations for your Opponent Through the Roof

Only the silly fall for it.

Posted by: adaplant at July 7, 2004 01:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Edwards can give you 10 minutes on rich folks and po folks, or 20 minutes on rich folks and po folks, or two hours on rich folks and po folks. The trouble is, for him, that style of campaigning is useless except in Democratic primaries. (You need a highly moronic electorate). It worked fine for Harry Truman, and for Fritz Hollings, but it won't work any more. Something like 75% of voters now own stocks and funds, and the very rich seem to be on the Democratic side... Trial lawyers sway juries AFTER removing the educated people... Do you really think Bush and Cheney are more plutocratic than Kerry and Edwards? Theresa-baby now has over one billion bucks! Fortunately, we've got Laura, the girl next door, on our side.

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