Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 22, 2004
POLITICS: Edwardian Nightmare
I gotta say, all of a sudden my prediction last January of Edwards and Kerry as the top 2 candidates for the Democrats (in that order), with Lieberman a distant sixth and Dean a candidate with some appeal and advantages but no staying power, is looking pretty good right now, although I did overrate Gephardt and Bob Graham (I clearly hadn't seen Graham in "action" enough). As of now, I'm mentally preparing for Edwards, who's the most dangerous of the Democratic candidates and who will require a different emphasis for Bush.
Three keys to beating Edwards, in my view:
1. Show how his populism really means taking choices away from Regular People and giving them to government. Issues like private Social Security accounts, medical savings accounts, and school choice are kryptonite to populists. Note that all these were emphasized by Bush again in his State of the Union address.
2. Make an issue of judges. Edwards, together with Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer, led the battle against Bush's judges, effectively pushing for more liberal courts. Not only are there "smoking gun" memos showing how this strategy was dictated by Democratic special interest groups, but once you get away from platitudes about "strict constructionists" and get to reality, it's real easy to show how liberal judges take power from the people and use it in ways that the people would never agree to. Bush is wisely pushing this angle of the gay marriage debate; while people remain ambivalent or deeply split about gay marriage, very few people like the idea of having unelected judges tell us that the Constitution mandated all along a radical change in a thousands-of-years-old institution, in ways nobody was even talking about 15 years ago.
3. Don't overplay the "trial lawyer" angle. With apologies to Walter Olson, who notes Edwards' reliance on "junk science" in his career as a lawyer, you don't want to argue Edwards' own cases (he knows them better than anyone), and not everyone hates trial lawyers. What matters more is showing how Edwards is financially dependent on the trial bar and has consistently opposed any meaningful reform of the system, which has the additional effect of revealing the true hollowness of his anti-special-interest rhetoric.