Adjusting the focus on Edwards

Whoa, as Keanu Reeves might say.

I offer to write a midweek column if my colleagues just won’t gripe about my staying out on vacation an extra day, then I come in to work, and the column has created crazy buzz. It’s on the Drudge Report, the New York Post calls wanting to run it, and I can’t find time to catch up on my mail this morning…

Sure, it was an unusual column, in that I confided the sort of small things that a journalist picks up in the course of following campaigns, the things that form the almost unconscious impressions of character that usually don’t make it into print amid the policy pronouncements, spin-cycle "scandals" and repetitions of the Stump Speech. As you look through the comments coming in, you’ll see that some embrace this added dimension to reporting, and others dismiss it as utterly beneath contempt. The latter assessment was certainly predictable, which is why most writers don’t venture into this territory.

But if I’m going to evaluate a candidate in such a naturalistic manner, I feel obliged to share the following, which offers a colleague’s personal memory of the same event:

Interesting column this morning. Can I mention one thing to you? That day in the ed board back in 2004, I’m pretty sure that I mentioned his boots to him before he plopped down and showed them off. Just fyi.

Aaron Gould Sheinin
Staff Writer
The State

I appreciate Aaron sharing that, because it sharpens the focus of the particular sort of lens through which I was trying to examine Mr. Edwards. It doesn’t change my perspective; the contrast between his Andy Griffith-style (early Andy Griffith, a la first episodes of the first season, when he was still playing the Noble Hayseed to the hilt) conviviality with the board and his stiffing the regular folks is still there. But Aaron at least offers him the out of not having fully contrived that gesture on his own; he merely seized upon the opportunity.

15 thoughts on “Adjusting the focus on Edwards

  1. Howard

    I’ve known of the guano behind Mr. Edwards grinning, glad-handing ways for years now, and I don’t believe he’s the only such person residing in his Chapel Hill mansion. When Mrs. Edwards was whining profusely a few weeks back about the mean-spiritedness of Ann Coulter in particular and political campaigns (save theirs, of course) in general, I noticed she conveniently failed to mention her husband’s oft-uttered, unfunny crack, about how if he’d been elected VP in 2004, he would have accidentally shot Vice President Cheney. Edwards is as smarmy as they come and is the type of guy who gives phony politicians and posturing trial lawyers bad names. The Swami predicts it’s about over for him.

  2. Burlroad

    John Edwards a phony? No doubt. But then so is Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and every other candidate who reinvents his stands on various hot-button issues until he has distilled a persona that will appeal to the voters he considers his target. Probably the only candidate who has really spoken his mind is Ron Paul…and he’s taken a position on foreign policy so reactionary that the only thing that he’s going to get out of this campaign is self-satisfaction.

  3. wirmo

    Agreed – John Edwards is, to quote one of the previous respondents, “smarmy”.
    However, Brad and the other members of the State Editorial Board seem to have a significasnt capacity to select other “smary” characters as their persons of choice for ellective office – – Tommy Moore, now the guru of “hose the little man lending” syndrome being exhibit A.
    He is the same man now that he was when ‘The Board’ chose him to be our next Governor. Perhaps if a ticket that includes Tommy, Jimmy (Diamond Jim Hodges the Lottery King) and the now incarcerated Kevin we could really make some progress in SC.

  4. Doug Ross

    I may not agree with you on the content of your Edwards story – I’m in the “there’s no difference between Edwards and 95% of other politicians” camp. But I do think it represents what those of us who read your blog regularly would like to see – more behind the scenes insight into the South Carolina political scene.
    I do wonder why you seemed to hold back on your observations of Grady Patterson’s capabilities last fall. I would imagine you had similar questions about him based on your observations, anecdotal evidence, and believable rumors but apparently held back on them until very late in the game. Even then, you didn’t come right out and say what everyone else could see from your videos.
    Do you have similar anecdotes regarding politicians you admire (McCain, Graham) that you discount due to your support of them in general?

  5. Ready to Hurl

    Brad, your stubbornness and tunnel vision are phenomenonal.
    Your little jujitsu move with Mr. Sheinin’s explanation as to Edwards’ boot comment must be one for the record books. You take a comment which might exonerate Edwards from your indictment of calculated phoniness and turn it on its head.
    The only problem is that your obvious personal animus against Edwards drives your intellect to find ways to crucify him. Your hatred of Edwards blinds you to the self-evident disingenousness of your debate strategem.
    I saw a C-SPAN interview with Edwards on a street in Cleveland recently. “How do you eat healthily? Do you exercise?” Edwards noted that it was difficult to eat healthy foods but that he “always made time to jog” so that he could “go the distance of the campaign.
    I suggest that you take a three weeks leave from the editorial page and travel with John Edwards. I will bet that you will be more jaded than either John or Elizabeth afterwards.
    After walking in Edwards’ shoes for three weeks, see if you still think that holding a crowd up while he jogged is an unforgivable and unpardonable sin weighty enough to disqualify him from serving in the White House.

  6. Kim

    I met Edwards earlier this year in Los Angeles. He had just appeared on CNN and was leaving the studio. He had NO entourage, had not even alerted the press.
    He was alone but for a CNN escort and driver. I went over to meet him, he was already in the passenger seat with window closed. I said I’d like to shake his hand.
    He opened the window and we spoke briefly.
    His personality was authentic and genuine throughout, from leaving CNN, getting into car, and interacting with me. And I’ve met just about everyone from politicans to movie stars. Edwards impressed me as one of the most sincere and friendly and NOT at all phoney. And yes he has a great smile, what is so awful about THAT?!

  7. Karen McLeod

    I am saddened to hear that Edwardws has responded that way on those occasions. Kim, I’m glad you have had a positive experience when meeting him. I don’t know the man personally, but I appreciate his efforts to avoid mudslinging contests. I am much more interested in hearing his stances, than in hearing accusations regarding other presidential contenders. I would hope that other presidential hopefuls will realize how putting down other politicians cheapens their profession, and takes away from the time available to discuss/debate real positions.

  8. Neil the Ethical Werewolf

    The piece got an interesting review from Sam Boyd at the American Prospect:

    South Carolina’s The State today published what has to be he single worst piece of political coverage I’ve ever read. Really. It’s that bad. It’s the most ineffective hit piece I’ve ever seen…
    …I’ve been told that the media doesn’t like Edwards but this is just ridiculous. Warthen looks like an idiot and it’s hard to see how anyone is going to take his editorial page very seriously after this.

  9. Ruth M.

    Thanks for your piece on John Edwards. He does not have a chance against the Clinton machine to get the nomination, but he is self-centered enough to drag his very ill wife all over the country in his pathetic campaign.

  10. Lookingforhome

    I am not an Edwards fan, because I think he’s taking cheap shots from the cheap seats on things like Iraq. He’s also got the classic populist curse — pandering to people on big issues with ambitious schemes that in the real world of this complicated democracy would never get off the launchpad. In essence, he’s a very irresonsible campaigner.
    BUT, I think the petty observations in your whining hit-piece on the former Senator are beneath an editorial page editor. If he was better at being “on” all the time that would make him more sincere?
    I observed Mr. Edwards at close range in three settings, two professional one much more personal. I won’t go into the details but it would be equally easy for me to craft a story about a diligent public servant and politician, and caring family man as it would to accuse him of all the things that Mr. Warthen did and worse. I could do this because I am in complete control of my subjective recollections of events — and mine were even more direct and up-close.
    The point is that this is why such a personalized attack piece is such crap journalism. There’s a reason why the tradition of the trade generally eschews such tripe, and just because Mr. Warthen can find a few people that say his ‘honesty’ is refreshing doesn’t mean it’s any less contrived or self-serving.

  11. Danny Boy

    He epitomizes the term “Empty Suit” and is so in love with himself I can’t imagine how he could ever stoop to serve others. I’d even vote for Obama over this preening zero.

  12. Will

    More of the same, it appears, from Mr. Warthen, who seems not to realize that after yesterday’s broadside he has thoroughly exhausted whatever meager journalistic credibility he had to begin with. Talk about axe-grinding…

  13. Jack Straw

    The folks accusing Warthen of axe-grinding are missing his point. He did not have a dislike of Edwards policies or ideas, and therefore write a hit piece on him. It was the reverse. He realized Edwards was a preening, empty suit, and wrote the piece trying to explain what his gut was telling him. He was just channeling Malcolm Gladwell.
    Everyone knows he is right, just a lot of folks who like his ideas are whining that it doesn’t matter because everyone else does it, too. But everyone else doesn’t trumpet themselves as the voice of the little people while they sue the pants off doctors, live in garish mansions, take $800K checks fro News Corp, and charge students $25 a head to listen to talks about poverty while paying $1200 for a haircut which they later deny.
    What does it matter, though. Edwards is irrelevant. Clinton-Obama 2008 will be the ticket and Edwards won’t be invited to the party.

  14. Phillip

    Interesting, Brad, that you should mention Andy Griffith above…for a VERY different Andy, and a movie very much about these issues of politics, phoniness, scary exploitation of TV-ready charisma, and many other aspects which make it way ahead of its time, may I recommend to you and your readers the Elia Kazan-directed “A Face in the Crowd.”

  15. mj jennings

    Please get off John Edwards case. He may be a little more laid back than some of the other candidates, but his passion and commitment to the working class is genuine.
    Oh and before you go talking junk about his legal wins as a lawyer why don’t you do some research on the cases that made him wealthy. Then TELL ME HE DOESN’T CARE. hIS BIGGEST CASES CAN BE FOUND IN HIS BOOK CALLED “Four Trials” . Hillary Clinton is alot more phoney than John Edwards. Some people are so desperate to find dirt that doesn’t exist on this candidate than he will try anything to get a reaction. I feel confidant that in a formal meeting Edwards would definitely use proper manners. Do think your presence is that special? John Edwards is loyal,genuine, and determined.

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