Mitt Romney

The Third Man

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Michael Crowley of the New Republic has read Bob Shrum's memoir, and the tear-stained reflections of the man who blew eight presidential campaigns are chock-a-block with dirt on John Edwards. Short version: He's a lightweight. Long version: If you tied cement blocks to his ankles and gave him a medicine ball to carry, then chucked him off one of the Petronas Towers, dude would float.

Shrum went on advising Edwards for several years, including as Edwards was contemplating his vote on the fall 2002 Iraq war resolution. In the one passage of the book already widely leaked, Shrum recounts how he and other political advisers pushed Edwards into a vote for the resolution that Edwards–and, even more so, his wife, Elizabeth–didn't want to cast. The episode didn't make Shrum look great. But the real damage is to Edwards, who comes across as a cipher taking orders from his handlers. As Shrum puts it: "[H]e was the candidate and if he was really against the war it was up to him to stand his ground. He didn't."

Something that wasn't widely leaked:

Kerry had qualms about Edwards from the start, Shrum writes, but grew "even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else–that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before–and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again."

Edwards is leading in Iowa, as is Mitt Romney on the GOP side (Wayne Allyn Root might be leading on the Libertarian side for all I know), so there's a trend: the guys tipped to win the first presidential contests are the ones best-known for their mall model looks and calvalcade of flip-flops. If there's a difference it's in the sanctimony Edwards brings to his changes of heart. Check out the first passage Crowley quotes, then check out Edwards' statement telling Democrats what to do about funding the war.

Jeff Taylor had some fun with Edwards' Playstation 3 crisis back in November—his original poor-little-rich-populist scandal, before the haircut.