John and Elizabeth Edwards: The Politics of Personal Deceit
Yes, Edwards and, especially, his wife were impressive today as they discussed the recurrence of Mrs. Edward's cancer. However, my view of John Edwards is that he's a thoroughly dishonest and cynical candidate, the lilting Southern accent notwithstanding. I take Elizabeth Edwards seriously enough -- not just as "that poor lady with cancer" -- to see her for what she is: an enabler for her husband's deceit and self-absorption.
John Edwards is a Southern populist, running in the tradition established by people like Huey Long, Eugene Talmadge, and George Wallace -- although he's doing it without their highly visible racial politics. In fact, Edwards' use of race is the kind increasingly popular in Democratic politics: portraying himself as someone who will accelerate the process of redistributing income (a key term) to "poor people."
When he ran for the Senate in North Carolina, Edwards ran not so much as a moderate as a Southerner. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana runs the same way. It's the politics of "I talk like you, therefore I am one of YOU."
The "I'm-like-you" is the essence of Southern populism. In one campaign appearance before his "wool-hats," poor whites, Huey Long said, "They [the New Orleans newspapers] say I stole. Well, my brethren I DID steal, but I stole for you!" The crowd roared its approval.
Edwards' presidential primary campaign in 2004 emphasized "The Two Americas," one poor, one supposedly rich. (The middle-class doesn't play a big role in Southern populism.) Basically, it was the politics of envy at work.
Is Edwards really one-of-them, the huddled masses of America? In a U.S. Senate filled with gazillionaires, Edwards was one of the richer ones. He may in fact have been the son of a mill worker, but in his career as a plaintiff's attorney, he traveled a long way from the mill. According to federal filings, Edwards' net worth may be roughly $20 million. So, when he goes on about the "Two Americas," we know which one he inhabits.
When Edwards as a personal injury lawyer was taking a hefty chunk of his clients' settlements, did he explain fully to them how the system worked? For example, did he acquaint them with the exhaustive study done by Progressive Insurance? It pointed out how clients who engaged attorneys received LESS in settlements that those who didn't use. It also took them MUCH LONGER to receive their settlements, often a year more.
(Yes, the monies the insurance companies paid out were generally larger when lawyers were involved, but after the attorneys consumed their 30% or 40%, plus expenses, the injured parties ended up with less money overall.) If this all sounds like a great way to raise the cost of insurance premiums, well, you get it.
Granted, Edwards inearly as rich as Senators like Herb Kohl (D, WI, worth as much as $200 million), or John Kerry (D, MA), rich with Teresa's money, or Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), or Ted Kennedy (D, MA), or a host of other Democratic senators.
Of course, Edwards, as a good populist, sharply criticizes the "Bush tax cuts." He wonders how Bush can cut taxes on "the wealthiest Americans."
In fact, Edwards and his fellow Democrats aren't really talking about taxing the wealthy. In fact, that would put them in the uncomfortable position of taxing people like, well, themselves. They would also be talking about taxing all those Hollywood moguls and Wall Street plutocrats (like George Soros) who channel all those mega-bucks into Democratic campaigns.
See, wealth (net worth) is what you have (like Rockefeller's hundred-million plus and Teddy Kennedy's $50 million and Nancy Pelosi's $50 million -- all made by her husband of course, whereas income is what you're making annually. So, iur Democratic elected officials don't want to tax wealth. They want to tax income, including yours.
If you're working hard ("in the sweat of your brow, as the Bible puts it), the Democrats really don't want you to get rich. They want more of your money, in the form of taxes. They want you to make a lot of money, but they want you to keep a smaller portion of it.
Thus, all the liberal clatter about taxing those "wealthy" Americans has no real meaning. It's just the same old demagoguery. It's the policy favored by those extremely wealthy Americans known as John and Elizabeth Edwards.
I'm very sorry Elizabeth Edwards has cancer. I'm even more sorry that she and her husband are pushing policies that will do great damage to the economic health of Americans.