Listen to Zeke Stokes

For a whole other perspective on John Edwards, be sure to read Zeke Stokes’ letter on today’s editorial page. For you lazy types, I reproduce it here:

John Edwards
is genuine, caring

During the first half of this year, I was privileged to work with Sen. John Edwards, traveling throughout the United States as he and his wife, Elizabeth, began this campaign for the White House. I have spent hours in cars and on planes with him. I have witnessed him in front of crowds and behind closed doors. And I can tell you without reservation that Brad Warthen misjudged him and painted an inaccurate picture of him in his column Tuesday (“Why I see John Edwards as a big phony”).
    John and Elizabeth Edwards are two of the most caring and genuine people I have met in public life, and they have made it their life’s mission to improve the lives of people like so many of those in rural Lee County, where I grew up, and all across South Carolina and the country.
    While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are seizing the limelight, John Edwards is seizing the hearts and minds of the people of this country who have been forgotten: those in poverty, without adequate heath care, without good jobs, without hope. Our nation would be blessed to have him in the White House.


I wrote my column to explain the subjective impression I had formed of John Edwards from my experience, and it was what it was. Zeke — who is a good, trustworthy young man of respect, an up-and-comer in Democratic campaign circles who helped guide Jim Rex to victory last year — formed an entirely different perspective.

I urge you to pay every bit as much attention to his opinion as to mine. That’s why we have letters to the editor — to foster productive dialogue, from which we can all learn.

He doesn’t change my mind about my experiences, but he does give me another perspective to think about. And that’s the point of it all.

20 thoughts on “Listen to Zeke Stokes

  1. weldon VII

    “Zeke (Stokes) … a good, trustworthy young man of respect, an up-and-comer in Democratic campaign circles who helped guide Jim Rex to victory last year …”
    That would be, wouldn’t it, the same Zeke Stokes who paid a fine for breaking state law when he used the Freedom of Information Act to get the e-mail addresses for 40,000 teachers and send them political messages?
    So here we have a “good, trustworthy” lawbreaker recommended by an editorial-page editor who tells us one day John Edwards is beyond our trust and the next day to pay attention to the lawbreaker, who writes that Edwards is a saint.
    “I urge you to pay every bit as much attention to his opinion as to mine.”
    Thanks, Brad, for letting us know you don’t think enough of your own opinion to back it against a lawbreaking Democrat campaign worker, the ultimate partisan.
    Methinks you should change your name to Monty Milquetoast and go back to barking up what once were trees in Bennettsville.

  2. Gary

    Zeke is a cheerleader for his guy, but I personally don’t see anything wrong with that. And it’s entirely possible that different people have different experiences, depending on not only where they interact, but how they interact with an elected officials. John Edwards and his wife may be very nice people who do care a great deal, as Zeke says, and I take Zeke at his word about that. At the same time, that doesn’t not make them perfect, and I can easily see (from my obviously biased view) how various incidents give him the aura of phoniness, of acting, of a preening self-importance. Neither view may be wholly accurate, and, in my opinion, neither view is even close to the most important reason why or why not Edwards should become president.

  3. Brad Warthen

    By the way, to get this on the record, my own perfectly subjective impression of MRS. Edwards (and my column was a description of the formation of my subjective impression of her spouse) is that she is a fine person, and very genuine. Her husband doesn’t strike me that way.
    The world is full of good women with husbands who don’t deserve them.

  4. Gary

    >>At the same time, that doesn’t not make them perfect<< Gotta edit more often, Gary. Should read: At the same time, that doesn't make them perfect ...

  5. weldon VII

    Here, Brad, in The State’s own words, is who the fellow you’re saying we should hear:

    S.C. Democrat to raise funds for Edwards
    (Columbia) The State, April, 2007
    Zeke Stokes holds the title as the most successful Democratic political consultant in South Carolina today.
    It’s a title Stokes won by being the only Democratic political operative to win a statewide election in 2006, when he steered Jim Rex to victory in the state education superintendent’s race.
    The 31-year-old Bishopville native has parlayed that success into a major fundraising gig with the presidential campaign of S.C. native John Edwards.
    Stokes and his business partner, Patrick Anderson, are raising money in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Missouri for Edwards’ White House bid.

    So the non-partisan blogster wants us to pay attention to South Carolina’s only successful Democrat political consultant about Democrat John Edwards, whose funds from South Carolina are being raised by that same political consultant.
    Gosh, Brad, you sound like the biggest double-speak hypocrite in your newspaper’s history. Did you learn the art at Hugh McColl’s knee or John Lindsay’s?

  6. Brad Warthen

    Don’t go trashing us B’Ville boys now, son.
    Zeke’s a fine young fella, even if he’s from an entirely separate B’Ville — Bishopville.

  7. weldon VII

    And I’m a B’villian, too, which I might have thought you already knew, but then you didn’t profess to know Dennis Miller now appears on the Fox News channel, so that makes me wonder what tunnel you’re looking down.
    Origins aside, if you dish up a column that expresses one opinion, and then tell us to pay just as much attention to a contradictory opinion, doesn’t that mean that when you write your column, you don’t necessarily believe what you write? Isn’t that being just as phony as Edwards stepping onto the stage?

  8. Randy E

    Ok Zeke, explain his defense of the anti-Catholic bloggers he kept in his employment. If they had posted such vile remarks about blacks or homosexuals Edwards would have given them a “fair shake” then?

  9. Brad Warthen

    Weldon, I respect Zeke enough that I think people should pay attention to him when he disagrees with my view to such an extent. He doesn’t change my mind, but maybe others would have good reason to believe he’s right and I’m wrong. Or they might learn something from what he says without agreeing with him.
    I was informed by several people today that Dennis Miller was on Fox. But you see, my TV doesn’t pick up that channel.
    On the few occasions I’ve seen Fox — such as when I’m working out down in the basement at The State — I have sometimes enjoyed it, and other times (such as when they get on the immigration obsession) put off. But the times I have enjoyed it have not depended upon agreeing with the opinions expressed. I just sort of like hearing information presented with an attitude, a definite perspective, whether I agree with that perspective or not.
    A particular viewpoint, when focused on the news, often gives a better reference point for considering that information than sources who are pretending to themselves that they are “objective.” It doesn’t have to be my viewpoint for it to help me in triangulating my way to deciding what to think about it. A description of an event or and issue that comes from … nowhere… is less helpful in helping me to decide what I think.
    I enjoy reading The Economist, which does not hesitate to put the publication’s editorial viewpoint into its news writing. That makes the news writing more interesting, and easier to engage, even though the “liberal” (by which it means, “libertarian”) Economist’s position is hardly mine much of the time.
    The other two publications I enjoy the most out there are The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Their news pages, I mean. I also enjoy their op-ed stuff, but I only read their editorials when I have a particular need to, which is not often. Strangely, I’m more likely to read the Economist’s “leaders” (editorials) than those American publications’, even though I disagree with its libertarian worldview. I think one reason for that is the way the Economist integrates the leaders into the news coverage.
    It’s a paradigm that is considered anathema in American journalism. The NYT and the WSJ labor mightily to keep their news from being “tainted” by their editorial positions — despite what you hear the right wing say about NYT, and the left about WSJ. And somehow, that makes their editorial positions less interesting to me.

  10. Herb Brasher

    Brad, you must have the patience of Job. I don’t always agree with you, but your continued explanations in the face of hypocritical mud-slinging is exemplary.
    What I can never figure out is why people think they can use somebody else’s forum to insult the guy who runs it.

  11. Herb Brasher

    Nor can I understand people who can’t figure out why you would publish rebuttals to your own column. Have these people never been to school? And if they were, didn’t they ever have to read something that disagreed with their own opinions, and interact with it? I thought that was one of the pillars of good education.

  12. Ready to Hurl

    weldon VII, if we’re to believe Brad’s defense of his Edwards assassination piece then it just amounts to “one guy’s opinion of another guy.”
    You know, like when a guy walks into a bar wearing Crocs and the stranger next to you at the bar turns and says “Man I hate Crocs and the gay people who wear them.” Your expressions clues him that you might have a pair at home and he shrugs: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
    So, Brad, in rebuttal to his critics on here, writes “Hey, here’s another guy’s opinion— sure he’s a Democratic political operative working for Edwards– but, he’s got an opinion, too!”
    He’s being transparently dishonest and disingenuous, obviously.
    It’s like the NYT drama critic ending his damning review of an opening night Broadway show saying… “But, I mean, that’s just MY opinion– you and the director might disagree.”
    Brad conveniently sheds any responsibility for impacting the election of our next president. If he isn’t just cynically or cluelessly attempting to evade that responsibility then he ought to resign and write his personal opinions in his diary.

  13. Doug Ross

    Herb says “What I can never figure out is why people think they can use somebody else’s forum to insult the guy who runs it.”
    Yes. We should allow Brad to insult Libertarians, John Edwards, people against the war, people who want vouchers, people who want the Confederate flag on the statehouse lawn, Andre Bauer, Mark Sanford, and so on.
    Because it’s not insulting when he does it – it’s a professional opinion.

  14. weldon VII

    You know, Herb, I have been a bit zealous lately, stuck in attack mode towards Brad since he either downplayed the value of his Edwards piece or subjected Zeke Stokes to ridicule, however you interpret it, but if criticizing Brad is out of bounds, so is questioning my education.
    Besides, I never criticized The State publishing a rebuttal to Brad’s column from Zeke. I objected to Brad’s pulling it onto the blog, praising or faux praising Zeke, whicever it was, and then telling us in the above headline to “Listen to Zeke Stokes.”
    Those are two different things entirely, a distinction someone so willing to question my education and yet not question Brad should be able to make.
    Heck, I thought a blog was a valid place to express an opinion, and if the opinions expressed by the host don’t line up, shouldn’t the other participants report it to him?
    You see, I do appreciate that Brad is walking a tightrope between blog and editorial page. That can bleed into this, but this can’t bleed the other way, otherwise Brad and his cohorts might pay a price.
    But, as you yourself pointed out back when Lex or Lee or both were being booted from the house, if you disprove something Brad wrote, he doesn’t respond, or if he does respond to a question or an argument, he often addresses the issue no more directly than the most seasoned of politicians. As you wrote then, it’s his blog. He can do what he wants.
    But when ignores a legitimate argument, it irritates me. Because his opinion may be professional — he gets paid for it — but that doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate than someone else’s.
    Which, of course, backs me into exactly the logic Brad use in saying “Listen to Zeke.”
    So that’s circular logic, sort of, and when I finished playing golf in Conway today, the temperature was 109, so how much sense could I actually have?
    But, really, if the blog is just to be Brad and the sycophants, it has less value than Brad and both sides, like the editorial and the letters to the editor.
    And if people who read The State and thus help pay Brad’s salary should ask questions on the blog, I think he should do his best to be really professional, as time allows, and answer them.

  15. Herb Brasher

    Weldon, I don’t think Brad gets paid for hosting this blog; that’s something he does on his own time, and gives people an opportunity to respond that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
    I think Karen got it right with this:

    When someone (even Brad) identifies something as his own opinion (which was done), says it’s subjective, and gives the reason why he/she thinks that, it is nothing more than opinion. It might have sway if one really likes the person, or trusts his opinion. It might cause the reader to react violently the other way (which it obviously has) if the reader commonly disagrees with the writer, or really dislikes him. For the rest of us, its a case of ‘isn’t that special’ and a tendency to wander off to something else.

    You have opportunity to respond with your insight, research, yes, and even opinions. Brad, for his part, even publishes rebuttals to his editorials in the paper, trying to give both sides a fair chance (why out of state so-called school-choice king-pins with their own agendas are given opportunity is, however, beyond me–I wouldn’t give them the time of day, but he has even gone that far).
    Brad is a busy man; I know that, because my own brother is in the same business. How he finds time to do his work, and host this blog, is beyond me. But if you come up with a brilliant argument, then by all means post it. But don’t expect Brad to necessarily respond to it. He expresses his opinion, and you can express yours. The rest of us can decide who is more to be trusted. But you don’t enhance your cause by insulting the host. There is, of course, a fine line between insulting and making a negative observation based on pertinent data. OK, you make your observations based on data (what have you observed about the candidate in question?), and leave Brad to his.
    And I wouldn’t get too twisted up because of whoever quotes Brad. People quote the Bible all the time, and screw it up. In fact, the closer to the truth, the more the devil likes to use misuse it to his own purposes.
    When did we come to the point that the whole world has to revolve around me, myself, and I? That’s a pretty unholy Trinity, if I may say so.
    And by the way, any CEO worth his salt does some critical evaluation of people before he puts them in positions of responsibility (which is what anyone does when they vote). One CEO I know makes it a point of 1) observing a potential employee when she/he doesn’t know anyone is looking; 2) taking the potential employee on a trip, with the employee driving the CEO’s car. How that person takes care of someone else’s property, and how they drive and respond to critical situations, tells a lot about their inner character.
    So I don’t fault Brad for making his observations of a presidential candidate in somewhat similar situations. He’s not as close as a CEO might get to an employee, but he’s a lot closer than I will ever get.
    Anyway, that’s my opinion for the day.

  16. bud

    As the president said, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, uh, uh, you won’t get fooled again.” Brad’s hit piece on John Edwards crys out for rebuttal. The 2000 and 2004 hatchet jobs against Gore and Kerry demonstrate just how ruthless the right will go in attacking good democrats. At the first hint of this type of behavior liberals must cry out forcefully to expose the slander for what it is.
    To the State’s credit today’s newspaper had a wonderful article by Mayor Bob. I’m sure the outcry from all those who saw Brad’s original piece as nothing more than a gossip column contributed to the need for such a rebuttal from someone with another opinion. That is why it is so important to call out someone whenever a “journalist” crosses the line from opinion to outright slander. Brad’s original article came very close to that line. Thank you Mayor Bob. In just a few words you utterly destroyed the false perceptions created by Brad.

  17. weldon VII

    Well, then, let me follow Herb’s rules for the blog.
    Once upon a time, something John Edwards said gave me the feeling I had seen the monster inside the man.
    That’s not too far from what Brad expressed, so when Brad seemed to be running away from his opinion, I resented it.

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