Senator, You're No Jack Bobby Kennedy

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Liberal reporter Garance Franke-Ruta has the best take on why John Edwards' Poverty Tour '07 isn't being taken seriously—and she does it all without the words "hair" or "cut" or "four hundred dollars."

[I]n his effort to renew the poverty agenda and become a political leader in the fight against it, Edwards has run up against a critical difference between Kennedy's era and our own: Kennedy's travels took place at a time of white male electoral exclusivity and came on the heels of more than a decade of agitation by a daring, outsider-driven civil rights movement.

Today, minorities and women have far greater access to electoral office and, while still underrepresented, one of each is running for president alongside Edwards. Meanwhile, the outsider civil rights movement has given way to a generation that looks to elected minority officials for leadership on questions of social justice and a less combustible form of identity-based representation. As the nobility and controversy of the civil rights era gave way to the controversy without nobility of the identity politics era, politicians learned to shy away from genuine challenges to the social order while simultaneously seeking to claim the moral mantle of historical daring. Today's goal, as Edwards' tour shows, is to be noble without being in the least controversial.

That nails the weirdness of the whole adventure and the sense of arrogance Edwards is giving off. Another factor Edwards is missing: RFK was touring impoverished communities after years of Kennedy-Johnson policies. He was running against his fellow Democrats with that combination of compassion and arrogance that Kennedy was a master of. Edwards' tour is an anti-Bush junket, which isn't that interesting in the year 2007.

That and his policy solutions are just… odd. He proposed a 50,000-man federal work program in New Orleans as if there's a shortage of constuction business in the city. He slams lending agencies for "raping families" in poor neighborhoods. As Steve Sailer notices, he's proposing a new surge of school integration with federal grants paying for busing.

How clueless do you have to be to try to run for President—as a purported populist—as the Busing Candidate?

This isn't just a personal failing of Edwards—it reflects how out of touch our ruling class has become. It's not merely how rich they are—the Roosevelts, after all, were extremely rich—but how political correctness has dumbed them down.

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  1. Edwards’ biggest problem to overcome is that for the most part, Americans feel that if you’re poor, it’s your own fault. Even the poor themselves seem to buy into this notion.

  2. “It’s not merely how rich they are — the Roosevelts, after all, were extremely rich — but how political correctness has dumbed them down.”

    I think it has more to do with how they became rich. What has Edwards actually done to become wealthy? What has he produced? Has Edwards created value in the economy, in any real sense, or has he (my view) parasitically siphoned off wealth and resources from more productive uses?

  3. Edwards’ biggest problem to overcome is that for the most part, Real Americans feel that if you’re poor, it’s your own fault responsibility.

    There, fixed

  4. I think it has more to do with how they became rich. What has Edwards actually done to become wealthy? What has he produced? Has Edwards created value in the economy, in any real sense, or has he (my view) parasitically siphoned off wealth and resources from more productive uses?

    He provided legal services to people who otherwise were being screwed over by those more powerful than them.

    That’s the interesting thing about conservatives – they are fond of talking about the American dream, but show nothing but disdain for guys like Edwards and Bill Clinton who were born poor/working class and actually worked their way into prosperity. Meanwhile, silver spooners like George W. Bush are worshipped.

  5. The poor are much better off han the rich because unlike the poor, rich folks can’t take comfort in the belief that all of their troubles would instantly evaporate if only they had more money.

  6. I just don’t understand the Kennedy myth.What did they do that was so great?

  7. The poor are much better off han the rich because unlike the poor, rich folks can’t take comfort in the belief that all of their troubles would instantly evaporate if only they had more money.

    Actually, the rich have found that life is boring without problems so they just kind of invent ones for themselves.

  8. Actually, the rich have found that life is boring without problems so they just kind of invent ones for themselves.

    Yeah, like school busing…

  9. Edwards isn’t out of touch! He recognizes that there are 2 Americas, and that the poor are taken advantage of by major corporations. He’s the candidate that every working man and woman should vote for because he is for fair pay and union rights to make evil companies share their monster profits with those who deserve it instead of industry fat cats! Just like Europe!

  10. He slams lending agencies for “raping families” in poor neighborhoods

    Not to blame the victim, but how were those poor families dressed?

    Seriously, I hate it when people use the word “rape” unless they’re talking about sex crimes. Charging high interest rates may be bad, but I’d rather have that than a penetrative assault.

  11. This whole school busing thing…I’ve now put Edwards officially in the “maroon” category. I thought he had a chance for a while, not anymore.

  12. “He provided legal services to people who otherwise were being screwed over by those more powerful than them.”

    Golly- what an altruist! I’m so ashamed of myself.

    You’re something of a “social justice” bug, Dan; explain to me how these lottery settlements really fix anything. One plaintiff gets a big payday (off the top of which the attorney promptly scoops a large chunk); what benefit is derived by others?

    [As in the case of Indian raids on the frontier, the other settlers learn the need for stronger doors and shutters, right?]

  13. @Michael Pack

    I just don’t understand the Kennedy myth.What did they do that was so great?

    Died dramatically at an opportune time. The phenomena is hardly unique to politicians. Plenty of movie stars and rock musicians who would otherwise be deservedly long forgotten have been beneficiaries as well.

  14. Hey Dan, I thought of you when I read this article below. It states Obama has called for an “updated social contract.” Your favorite thing…a social contract. I thought you might get a kick out of it.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-dems18jul18,1,639458.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

  15. P Brooks,

    I believe Nietzsche argued that Altruism in and of itself is self-serving. Not that I agree with Nietzsche, but I figured I’d try to get a most substantive conversation going than “Edwards sucks, haircuts, blah.”

  16. It states Obama has called for an “updated social contract.”

    The Constitution does not require updating, just reinstatement.

    Thank you, good night…

  17. Ruling class? Maybe you’re taking the “marxists of the right, thing to much to heart.

  18. Oh, Dan T,

    a you, oh so gay, with Parisian demands, you can run-around

    And your view of society screws up my mind like you’ll never know

  19. That’s the interesting thing about conservatives – they are fond of talking about the American dream, but show nothing but disdain for guys like Edwards and Bill Clinton who were born poor/working class and actually worked their way into prosperity.

    That’s because they’re fucking lawyers.

  20. Edwards is running on the idea that America is sharply divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and that the “haves” are in the elite minority. Seriously, what fucking country does he think he lives in? Maybe his definition of “haves” is different than mine, but then his would be out of tune by all world or historical standards.

    He’s a Marxian populist. Throw him out!

  21. I just don’t understand the Kennedy myth. What Who did they do that was so great?

    Corrected and answered: Marilyn Monroe.

  22. Busing? Yeah, that is idiotic!
    On the other hand I think Dan T. nailed it with the silly conservative frothing at Edwards making it good. Legal services are something to offer like construction services or consulting services. One post above asks if this “creates vale.” One has to have a myopic view of value indeed if it does not factor in giving damaged folks who otherwise could not afford a remedy justice. Tort law is essential to a free and market society. We cannot have people running around selling deadly products at every corner or practicing quack medecine and still have a free economy. Tort law is where a private individual contracts with another private individual to argue that another private individual has violated their reasonable duty of care to them. It’s all about personal responsibility and is an alternative to government regulation.

  23. Taktix- I appreciate that. I intended my point to be more substantive than “Edwards sux despite his fabulous hair.”

    It has to do with why I don’t think Edwards is a guy we want tinkering with economic policy. Or claiming to know what makes this country tick. If Edwards had become fabulously wealthy writing computer code, or devising a cheap and efficient way to sort the aluminum cans out of landfills, or devising a more efficient combustion process for coal-fired power plants, I would be quite happy for him.

    Altruism is not, so far as I can tell, the prime driver of multi-million dollar product liability jackpots; those lawsuits impose costs in the economy above and beyond the cash payouts, inhibit innovation, and reduce economic efficiency.

  24. There, fixedI’m a flerking retard who can’t come up with anything funny to say so I just edit someone else’s post

    Now THAT’s fixed.

  25. “One has to have a myopic view of value indeed if it does not factor in giving damaged folks who otherwise could not afford a remedy justice.”

    Myopic or not, my view of making damaged people whole does not encompass entrepreneurial litigation which results in irrational punitive damages accruing to individuals and their attorneys.

  26. I just don’t understand the Kennedy myth. What Who did they do that was so great?
    Corrected and answered: Marilyn Monroe.

    It’s true. That’s also the source of Joe DiMaggio’s popularity, and the reason our nation turns its lonely eyes to him.

  27. I might belive Edwards if if wanted to do to the legal system what he wants to do to health care.It’s obvious if your of limited means and falsely acused your in deep.If the Duke boys parents were poor they’d be in jail now.I say,nationalize all legal sevice.All attoneys will recieve a flat fee,determined by the goverment regardless of the case.Think that will fly?

  28. “Man, oh man, do I hate those fancy lads.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMuScu9OpfA

  29. “those lawsuits impose costs in the economy above and beyond the cash payouts, inhibit innovation, and reduce economic efficiency.”
    They also make sure that merchants behave themselves in ways that make our economy, well, possible. If someone makes and markets an item which causes untold misery on the consumers of it, is it wrong to bring an action against them because it would “impose costs on the economy” (I submit it is the negligent maker who imposes the costs), “reduces innovation” (I’m not big on harmful innovation and am glad to see it reduced) and “reduces economic efficiency” (increasing the amount of crippled consumers while decreasing consumer confidence in products of couse is good for economic efficiency?).

  30. I’m not very familiar with Edwards’ legal career. By osmosis I’ve gathered that he was a junk science litigator. That may just be bad propaganda that I’ve assimilated, but if it’s true, I would say that one can have contempt for Edwards thereby without calling into question the entire tort system.

    Also, I think that the laughter at Edwards’ strategy is probably misplaced. The conventional wisdom is that progressivism like this is electoral suicide – but there are lots of candidates fighting to be the center-left candidate, and perhaps Edwards figures his one chance is to be the left-left candidate. He’s got no other way to differentiate himself, other than that “I lost a national election recently!” thing he’s got going.

  31. “increasing the amount of crippled consumers while decreasing consumer confidence in products of couse is good for economic efficiency?”
    -Mr Nice Guy

    Dan, have you been shape-shifting again?

  32. I assure you I am not Dan T.
    Brooks-do you think it is good for the market when producers and practicioners promise x, but deliver y, often with harmful consequences?

  33. I can see MNG’s point, of course. I think, as has been pointed out many times on this blog, that the problem is that juries are groomed and carefully selected to grant awards that one must leave orbit to justify.

  34. “I assure you I am not Dan T.
    “Brooks-do you think it is good for the market when producers and practicioners promise x, but deliver y, often with harmful consequences?”

    First; my most sincere apologies for accusing you of being a Dan T. I didn’t think so, but he has been known to inhabit many shells.

    I do not believe it is good for society or the economy for unscrupulous individuals to commit fraud or theft on the unwary with impunity. I think you assumed an overly broad scope to my comments; we all are guilty of this, from time to time. I do it frequently. I certainly would never claim that tort law is entirely bad, or that its practice should be abolished. Reform would be a good idea, and not strictly to the benefit of corporations.

    If you contract with an excavator to have a hole dug, and that hole winds up too deep, or too shallow, or in the wrong place, or doesn’t appear at all, you should unquestionably have a means of enforcing the original agreement. I do not believe you should be entitled to an exorbitant (whatever that means) punitive award, particularly as it may prove to be a “death penalty” for the business.

    If you take a medication, prescribed by your doctor, and that medicine harms you, I believe you are entitled to any necessary resultant treatment at the expense of the manufacturer and/or the doctor, but I do not believe you are entitled to a cash jackpot.

    Et Cetera.

    My comments with regard to Edwards in particular, and my estimation of his macroeconomic acumen stand.

  35. Appy Polly Loggies, as well, for the time lag; I have been trying to create a little value in my own teensy weensy corner of the economic universe.

  36. I won’t defend everything juries award, how could I? However, if you read a Torts Casebook you will fastly learn that cash jackpots are FEW and FAR between. If Edwards got them then he is just that smart, and like Google’s founders, I will not trash someone who made money by being smart. On the other hand, I’ll gladly trash Edwards on his stupid policy positions!

  37. Open up your fucking wallet, Johnny Hairdo.

  38. “Meanwhile, silver spooners like George W. Bush are worshipped.”

    Bush worshipped? What country are you living in? As for Edwards contributing to society, he filed sketchy lawsuits based upon assertions that can best be called fraudulent. He represents all that is wrong with the sue-happy legal profession in this country.

  39. “Just like Europe!”

    Yes, by all means let us make our country more like Europe. I would love to have the double-digit unemployment of France and its cradle-to-grave welfare system that is rapidly bankrupting the country.

  40. I’ve never thought much of Edwards, but the fact so many people seem to hate him is surely a point in his favor…

    Seriously, though, poverty reduction doesn’t seem to be a winning issue for any candidate this year. I kinda wonder if Bill Clinton didn’t kill this one for a while — he was always talking about hope and helping the little guy and then, when in office, kept to a pretty neoliberal sort of economics and didn’t do diddly for the poor.

  41. By DannyK’s standard, how many points does Bush have in his favor?

  42. I want to buy a lawn mower without that safety lever (and the extra $5 it cost) that shuts the mower off when you let go of the handle. And that’s why I don’t like the likes of John Edwards.

    Also, I want to buy some Lawn Jarts.

    Oh, and those safety features on disposable lighters…they suck too.

    If only the big corporations would stop taking advantage of Johnny Nobody, we wouldn’t have to put up with these unwanted product features.

    (Lawn Jarts are supposed to pierce your skull if you get in the way. Live with it)

  43. “(Lawn Jarts are supposed to pierce your skull if you get in the way. Live with it)”
    Is this libertarian humor or serious commentary? Sometimes it is hard to discern…The tort standard is: does this product meet the safety expectations of the reasonable consumer? And you have to convince TWELVE complete strangers to agree to win. That doesn’t sound easy to me.
    And I will ask others, what is their standard? Buyer beware? Would you like that anxiety everytime you buy a lawnmower, dishwasher or hotdog? Watch the market come to a screeching halt…

  44. Lawn Darts over the garage roof was my favorite. Inattentive players have been known to suffer!

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