"His Personality Cult is All Personality and No Cult."


I pick on John Edwards a lot, possibly too much, and have (luckily) been asked to explain why. OK, here's why: There's no reason for him to run and several reasons for him not to run. Edwards entered politics as a Clintonite Southern psuedo-populist. True, he never joined the DLC, but he ran a perfect DLC campaign for president in 2004. As Jason Zengerle put it "his policy proposals—including incremental reform of health care and micro-initiatives to help the poor—were fiscally friendly as well, showing that his populist heart was governed by a New Democrat brain." He never fought for universal health care in the Senate or in his presidential campaign, and now universal health care is the trump card of his 2008 run. It simply doesn't mesh with his image: it's like he's running OS X on a Macintosh II.

Another reason: His campaign is just plain funny. Like John Kerry, Edwards intuited from his runner-up 2004 run against Dick Cheney that he was a celebrity, a powerful thinker, a leader, all of that. Kerry tried to remain a celebrity into 2005 and 2006 but he eventually sucked it in and realized he would never be president. Not so Edwards. He and his awed campaign staff think there's a massive national fanclub for Edwards, that his wife Elizabeth is three miracles away from sainthood, that those other Democratic candidates are phonies who won't "show leadership." Sure, cults of personality form up around our presidents and around serious contenders—witness the grown men who talk about Fred Thompson like teen girls who just saw Pete Wentz darting for the limo from TRL to his hotel. But for Edwards?

In the American Spectator, Shawn Macomber has a hilarious column about Edwards' new fundraising gimmick: Supporters can bake a pie using the Bobbie "John's mom" Edwards' recipe and eat it on Edwards' birthday. Macomber:

What does one give to a plantation-owning multi-millionaire with his own basketball and squash courts, a swimming pool and an eponymous lounge who loves to raise barns for neighbors in his spare time? And don't even kid about hair salon gift certificates. Remember, Joe Trippi is back in the fight!

To Bobbie, the answer is clear: Give the man money. "We know everyone can't give a lot," she reassures the Other America, so long as we give in a meaningful way. To that end, the online form is comprised of three donation buttons: Give $6.10 if you would like to commemorate John's June 10th birth date. Or $19.53 to acknowledge 1953, the year Wallace Edwards "borrowed $50 to bring me and our new born boy home from the hospital back in Seneca, South Carolina." (Let your inner voice adopt a slow, Southern drawl.) Of course, if you're really dedicated to the Edwardsian worldview you'll pony up $54—a dollar for every year this planet has been blessed with his existence.

Poor John Edwards. His personality cult is all personality and no cult. One imagines Kim Jong-il sitting in an undisclosed hermetically sealed room somewhere in Pyongyang lecturing an audience of apparatchiks. "Can you believe this Edwards guy?" he squawks, lifting his sunglasses to show his own wide-eyed shock. "Is his ego out of control or what?"