2007/06/23

Electoral troubles of John Edwards

The Politico, which purports to cover "the politics of Capitol Hill and of the presidential campaign ... with enterprise, style, and impact," declared that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has what "opponents call 'the three h's' -- the haircut that cost $400, his huge house and his lucrative involvement with a hedge fund." Funny, but all three "scandals" were manufactured by news outlets including and just like The Politico.

As Media Matters demonstrates, there simply is no contradiction between being wealthy and between wanting others to live comfortably as well.

Apparently, seeing that the "three h's" weren't having any impact, the NY Times decided to up the ante by suggesting that Edwards' 2004 initiative, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, was just a cheap front for funding his own presidential campaign. (TalkLeft points out that, were the accusation to be made explicit and of course, were the accusation true, then Edwards would be guilty of the crime of tax fraud.) The accusations are not made explicitly, but the report uses "lines... highly charged with innuendo in a way that's beneath the Paper of Record."

"John Edwards ended 2004 with a problem: how to keep alive his public profile without the benefit of a presidential campaign that could finance his travels and pay for his political staff.
"Mr. Edwards, who reported this year that he had assets of nearly $30 million, came up with a novel solution, creating a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of fighting poverty. The organization, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, raised $1.3 million in 2005, and — unlike a sister charity he created to raise scholarship money for poor students — the main beneficiary of the center’s fund-raising was Mr. Edwards himself, tax filings show."

Problem: there's simply no proof that any of these charges rest on factual evidence. The main, primary charge, of course, is that Edward's was the program's primary beneficiary. The apparent assertion that Edwards was motivated by anything other than a desire to help people is simply the reporters' unsubstantiated opinion, unsupported by any facts.

In fact, as The Daily Howler discovers, to its astonishment and amazement [/snark], "Edwards didn’t do anything wrong! But we get this statement in the next-to-last paragraph, after 1700 words of insinuation."

The really amazing kicker is that:

"...no mention of how the programs actually impacted people appears until the story's 18th paragraph -- and at that point it comes from the mouth of an Edwards spokesman. There's no indication that the reporter made any genuine independent effort at all to discover whether the programs helped anyone."


Of course, the National Review manages to work the "three 'h's' " into its quickie overview and also suggests that the NY Times piece rests on factual evidence.

A diary on DailyKos examines the deeper meaning of the story: "It suggests that the rich cannot care about poverty, that throwing money at a problem is the only solution and that candidates cannot care about issues." The whole point of mentioning that Edwards has "assets of nearly $30 million" seems to be only that "rich people can’t be concerned with the poor" and hey, look! Edwards is rich!

This kind of corrosive cynicism is like suggesting that "Vice President Gore doesn’t care about global warming and is only raising the issue to keep his viability as a candidate alive." A view which probably contains a few grains of truth, but the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" makes it clear that Gore was concerned about Global Warming many, many years before it became a real issue.

Yes, the question of "qui bono?" i.e. "to whose benefit?" is an important one and it certainly should be asked, but it's often portrayed as a massive, looming, overarching premise. It's often portrayed as the only really important question in a story. One of my college professors pointed out the problem with this kind of thinking. We had been discussing the subject of the post-World War II Marshall Plan in Western Europe and one of the students asked "Wasn't the whole purpose of that plan just to fight communism? Wasn't the recovery aspect irrelevant?" Our professor replied "The people of the US back then didn't see any contradiction between the two. They didn't believe that they had to choose, so they believed in both. The Marshall Plan was BOTH a way to help the people of Western Europe recover from World War II AND a way to build a strong Western Europe that could resist communism."

There's simply no reason that Al Gore cannot believe in both ideas at once, that Global Warming is a threat to all of mankind AND that the issue might improve his presidential prospects. There's no reason why John Edwards can't BOTH be fighting to improve the lives of those people who don't make anywhere near as much money as he does AND to be worth a great deal of money. There's simply no contradiction.

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