Review of John Edwards's April 2, 2007 Speech in Portsmouth, NH

Copyright © Timothy Horrigan 2007

In April 2007, John and Elizabeth Edwards visited Durham, New Hampshire. This was one of her first appearances after she announced that she has inoperable cancer.

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John Edwards in Durham, NH; April 2, 2007
by Timothy Horrigan

Four years ago (or, more precisely three and a quarter years ago) John Edwards had a town hall meeting at UNH's  MUB: about 75 citizens gathered in a small lounge next to the Food Court in December 2003, and he answered a wide variety of questions.  On April 2, 2007 he returned to the MUB and everything was very much the same: the issues facing the nation were the same, the format of the meeting was the same, even his position in the polls was the same.  (He got about 15% of the vote in the  2004 New Hampshire Primary, and even though  he is likely to end up much higher once all the Undecideds make their decision, he is currently around 15% in most polls.)  However, one thing was very different: the size of the crowd.  The Granite Room was filled to overflowing and hundreds more watched the meeting on a closed-circuit TV hookup in the food court.

The event was billed as a joint appearance by John and Elizabeth Edwards on the subject of Health Care.  Mrs. Edwards spoke very briefly at the beginning, introducing the guy she has been married to for almost 30 years.  This was her first appearance in New Hampshire since her tragic announcement that she has inoperable cancer.  The main purpose of having her speak was to show that she is still very much alive, still strong, and still very much a part of her husband's campaign, and still very much a public figure in her own right.  (Her diagnosis led to a lot of disingenuous commentary from her husband's detractors --who would have turned around and attacked him for dropping out had he gone the other way.)

In any case, his message has been consistent for the past four years- economic progressivism with the occasional  dollop of social conservatism (such as, at this meeting, advocating that immigrants be required to learn English.)  I think he is holding himself back a little by taking two or three pieces of conventional wisdom a little too seriously.  The first such piece of wisdom is that politicians are supposed to give specifics all the time (even when they don't and maybe even can't know the specifics.)  He spent a  lot of time alluding to plans which were never gone into in much detail.  The second piece of wisdom is that the right wing is still in charge: this led him to ignore some of his more progressive impulses, and it also led him to view everything in terms of free-market reforms.  (This includes global warming and health care, two issues which cannot be solved simply by changing the rules of the free market -- and in any case, any attempt to change the rules is going to characterized as "socialism" by the right wing noise machine.)  The third is that Democrats have to be cheerful and positive all the time.

Speaking of the right wing noise machine, his first question was evidently asked by a Republican bird-dogger who asked him about his "20,000 square foot house" in North Carolina.  Edwards deflected the question  by talking about some changes in his personal lifestyle (e.g., buying a hybrid van, getting rid of his incandescent lightbulbs, etc.) and by segueing into a general discussion of global warming.  He pointed out that the fight against global warming would help the economy by creating "Green collar jobs," and he even pointed out how developing nations such as India are investing in Green technology.  But he was very careful to avoid even the faintest reference to the movement which the questioner obviously belonged to: a movement which blatantly lies about the facts behind global warming (and many other issues) and which is not shy about launching absurd personal attacks (sometimes based on totally fictitious data such as Al Gore's infamous electric bill.)  

(Edwards himself was the victim of a particularly bizarre attack when Ann Coulter called him a "faggot" -- at a major Conservative conference where she was a keynote speaker who shared the dias with several presidential candidates.  I am not saying Edwards should go around making juvenile attacks on his Republican counterparts.  It's not productive and its not his style.  But I am saying that he doesn't have to be so damn polite all the time.  The right wing of our nation's political apparatus has been taken over by vicious and downright evil people.  I wish Edwards and his fellow candidates would be braver about pointing out just how vicious and evil those people are.)

John & Elizabeth Edwards

The Forgotten Liars by Timothy Horrigan

  In 2010, I am cosponsoring a somewhat controversial bill, repealing New Hampshire's 200-year-old adultery laws: