Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'll Be the Adult Here

'What I was trying to do was represent the adult wing of the Democratic party.'
--John Edwards on the David Letterman show last night, discussing his reaction to the ferocious squabbling that broke out between his rivals Obama and Clinton in Monday's debate in South Carolina. We happen to be Edwards fans around here, in part because we can't stomach the thought of four years of watching either Barack's puppy dog eagerness or the restoration of the grimly opportunistic Clinton machine. We also happen to think he's been by far the best of the Democratic trio when it comes to putting some actual meat on the bones of his ideas for governing. By all means, Obama fans, feel free to continue your swooning over his allegedly inspiring calls for "change." Around here, we're stubbornly old-fashioned enough to want just a bit of detail about what those changes might include. By the way, we got a serious kick out of how Letterman closed the segment by playfully asking the candidate's permission to mess up his perfect hair just a little. The "Breck girl," as some on the right have dubbed him, gladly obliged.

22 Comments:

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

I'm with you on Edwards. He has consistently talked real change, not just abstract "Change."

 
At 1:23 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You said it. He's responded best to the famous line from Walter Mondale (echoing a now-ancient Burger King TV commercial): "Where's the beef?"

 
At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Gotta respond here, John. I happen to be an Obama fan, and frankly I find the criticism that his message is an empty one to be a little lazy. All you have to do is go to his website and go to the "Issues" section to see - in detail - where he stands on almost everything. For example, here's a link to his section on the economy:

http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/

There's a lot of hard numbers in there and a fairly solid course of action. Mind you, that section is no more or no less detailed than the other candidates' web pages on addressing economic issues. But the point is, what Obama uses on the campaign trail isn't the sum total of his message.

Still, I do wish he would take a little of what are some obviously well-thought-out positions on the issues and convey them in his sound bites and stump speeches. Granted, only a relatively small percentage of Americans would even notice or care, but I think if he did that, we would stop hearing the "Obama-is-all-style-and-no-substance" arguments in a hurry.

Part of it may also be something that Obama is taking from the Ronald Reagan playbook. I think the U.S. of 2008 is much like the U.S. of 1979-80. Americans, like any group of people, want to be inspired. They want to feel good about who they are individually and as a nation. Reagan played on that to great effect when he beat Jimmy Carter, and I wonder if Obama is trying to do something similar. As long as Obama has a practical plan on how he's going to bring about this "change" he's always talking about -- and I think he does -- I'm fine with that.

As always, my two cents, though at least a penny of that I probably still owe to the Jesuits at John Carroll...

 
At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only has Edwards ably represented the ‘adult wing’ of the Democrats in the campaign, he has also served as the entire party’s brains and conscience, too. In the past week I’ve seen a couple of bloggers declare ‘thanks’ that he has raised serious issues, forcing Clinton and Obama to address them. Now, who in the media will step up to represent the ‘adult wing’ of that profession? And when will he/she finally begin to give Mr. Edwards the attention that he and his progressive programs truly deserve?

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger Chris McVetta said...

I've got to go "ditto" with Scott on this one ...although I am a BIG fan of both Obama and Edwards.

And the Clinton fembot ...just leaves me cold.

Waitaminute! Am I talking politics here? Are the Browns still in the playoffs...?

 
At 4:16 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Scott, you argue your case well. I wrote the item so as to tease out some defense from Obama fans, and I was lucky enough to hear first from someone (you) who's always persuasive in marshalling his evidence. So thanks for that. I will indeed take a look at his website, at your suggestion.

Whatever I might find there, however, I'm still left thinking that Obama's default position in this race is to cling as closely to the safe middle as he possibly can, and only react to issues like real health care reform when forced to do so, generally by Edwards. He seems to be taking triangulation (Bill Clinton's old tactic, honed by the egregious slimeball Dick Morris) to new levels.

And I should also note that I'm turned off every time he pretends to be against Washington lobbyists, largely because of a devastating cover story Harper's Magazine ran some months ago about his extensive ties to all those folks.

Finally, there's this piece of it, which I didn't write about but plan to eventually: it's jarring to think of voting for a president who's actually younger than you (he's two years younger, but looks about 15 years younger than he really is, and I can't shake that). Older friends some years ago described feeling similarly torn by Clinton when he ran as a young man, and now I'm finding out how something so irrational (on one level) can nevertheless mean so much on a visceral level. And let's face it, voting for president is about as visceral as any action gets. Most people won't vote for short people nor for those with any other number of perceived defects. That's just the hard truth of the matter.

So he's got that uphill climb with tens of millions of voters, in addition to the obvious one about race. I do wish him luck. I just can't imaging voting for him--yet.

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Chris, I liked the fembot characterization. Right on. I cringed a little on poor Hillary's behalf during the debates when the cameras panned in from behind the three candidates. Hillary's generous...caboose, shall we say, didn't look quite as her image shapers might have liked. Again, sorry to be so frank about such horribly non-PC visceral reactions to candidates, but I'm like most voters, I think: I respond to these things on a gut level when it comes time to a presidential vote. Hillary just will never FEEL like a president for me, almost no matter what she does. Part of that is looks and her icy manner, part is all the baggage she carries from the Clinton psychodramas, and no doubt part of that is just ingrained sexism and a habit of thinking the word president equals a tall male. That doesn't sound nice or right or fair. But it's how I'm wired on this, and I know I'm not alone there.

 
At 6:19 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Scott, I happened to reread your comment, and on closer inspection thought your point about the parallels of the environment facing Reagan in '80 and Obama today is a good one. Both eras seem marked by an almost scary sense of general concern bordering on panic that we've lost our way as a country and that our economy is teetering on the brink.

Bush has certainly been a bigger national and global disaster than Carter by certain tangible measurements, but Carter was perhaps almost his equal in causing concern about the lack of a steady hand on events. And of course he famously helped bring on a sense of general malaise simply by often saying we suffered from malaise. That's the sometimes unfortunate power of the presidency's bully pulpit. Perhaps that's some of what Obama was getting at in his now-famous interview with the Nevada editorial board. Anyway, thanks again for your smart addition to the conversation.

 
At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Mike Q said...

Gee, I'm surprised the scandal sheets haven't grabbed this story and run with it! John Edwards representing the adult wing of the party? As in adult book stores, adult movies, etc.? (Sorry, I have a hard time being serious about politicians.)

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

John: I have to agree with you about Obama and his tendency to lean toward the middle unless pressed. And while I didn't read the Harper's story you mention, I realize that has suddenly been added to my required reading list.

By the way, I should add that this will almost certainly be the first time in my life that I've voted for a Democrat in the presidential race. It pains me -- PAINS me -- to admit that I voted for GWB not once, but twice. I mean, someone can almost be excused for going for the guy in 2000, but 2004? Don't ask me what I was thinking (or IF I was thinking). If someone said I was never allowed to vote again because of it, I wouldn't be able to put up much of an argument. My apologies to the country as a whole...

 
At 6:32 PM, Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

I confess to swooning over Obama, but I like that Edwards says he doesn't take money from special interest groups. Not saying I believe it, but I like it.

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Michelle, great to see your name and face showing up here again. I loved how you turned over your blog to your hubby for your anniversary. It touched my heart, and I wrote about it and linked to it back on January 4th, which you may have missed. Anyway, welcome back. Ditto for Mike Q, who I assume (until told otherwise) is my old JCU/Shaker Sq. buddy.

Scott, congratulations on coming clean in public for voting for W. twice. They say you first have to hit bottom and admit it before you can get better. So good for you for 'fessing up. Ironically, I just might pull the lever (for the first time ever in the presidential race) for a Republican, if the party is smart enough to nominate McCain, who I continue to trust and admire despite his bizarre statements about being in Iraq until the next Ice Age (of course, with global warming, that could be sooner than we used to think). I might be conflicted if the Dems choose Edwards, but wouldn't hesitate to vote for McCain if he's running against Hillary or Obama. Okay, so shoot me for it.

Anyway, Scott, thanks for sticking with this conversation and coming back. You reminded me I meant to post the link for the original item I wrote on that Harper's story, which I was shocked to discover was over a year ago. Anyway, since it's still not online, this at least gives you a meaty outtake and the details on which issue it was should you try to find it at the library, for which you would win an A++.

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Regardless of who it turns out to be, the sad truth is that we need SOME sort of adult in the fray, if only to keep us all focused on issues rather than personalities. If that is Edwards' function, he has my respect and support. I do like that he keeps steering things back towards the issues; I honor that.

I think the truth is, we need AN adult in the White House, which has been lacking a genuinely adult presence at the helm for avery long time. Possibly since Carter.

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Chris McVetta said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Chris McVetta said...

Let it be known that I would vote for Al Gore in a minute (over ALL the current choices) - if he would ever drop his hat back into the ring again. After all, he DID invent the Internet...

But, most likely, he's off enjoying his Oscar somewhere - and laughing at all of us, in the meantime, for the election fiasco of 2000.

Although John McCain is the best of the bunch, there is NO WAY I am voting for any Republican nominees in this election (I watched the debates ...and I vote Independent).

Now - who wants to talk about religion? Kidding!

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, we always like your sense of history and how you take the long view. But I'd make one exception to your list of non-adult presidents, George H.W. Bush (or 41). He's looking pretty good and pretty wise lately. Chris, I certainly agree with you about Gore, as I'm sure many millions of Dems and progressives would.

But back to the Obama situation. Harpers has since put the original piece (from November 2006) about Obama's ties to the D.C. establishment online. So Scott and anyone else interested in reading it can now do so more easily. You'll find it here:

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/11/0081275

Also, here's the item I wrote about it at the time:

http://workingwithwords.blogspot.com/2006/11/heres-chilling-case-study-of-how.html

 
At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

A dissenting view on Edwards from Russ Feingold at TPM.

But why now, when Edwards is all but out of it? Vying for the VP slot, as one reader speculated?

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's a valuable addition, Bluster. Thanks for that. Couldn't argue with anything Feingold says there, except to observe that the reality is that when someone is running for a nationwide office, they can't depend on nearly the kind of progressive critical mass as Feingold happens to enjoy in his own home state, which has a unique century-plus heritage of what you might call prarie progressivism, going back at least to Robert LaFollette (learn more about him below). Feingold is the real deal when it comes to principled politicians, a guy with an almost superhuman ability to ignore political expediency in favor of what's right, the lone dissenting vote in the Senate on the Patriot Act (that alone will cause him to be remembered a century from now, I think, a guy who bravely kept his cool when the rest of the world was losing theirs). All I'm trying to say is that the soil in which he grew and which still nurtures (and re-elects him) is unique. If only the entire country were more like Wisconsin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._La_Follette,_Sr.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Russ Feingold is a hero. One reason I'm glad I live in Wisconsin again is that I can vote for him again, should he run again. (I supported his first senatorial bid here, which at that time was a real breath of fresh air. He proved that to us in WI that it was still somehow possible for Mr. Smoth to go to Washington.) I tihnk he's become a guiding light in contemporary politics. His thoughts on Edwards I must consider, because I so respect Feingold; thanks for linking to them. I'll look into that carefully.

However, I'll stand by my comments that I'm glad Edwards has been forcing the debate towards more focus on the issues than on the pesonalities. Whoever it is who serves that function in any given election, deserves our thanks and praise, because sometimes it's the only factor that keeps the election focused on what the voters actually want to know about: how the issues that affect their daily lives are going to be managed.

As for G.H.W. Bush I wouuld submit that he only seems more adult in hindsight. During his tenure in office, he had all the appearance of a stumbling or mumbling idiot (literally, at times) who played his cards too close to his chest (the CIA factor). Now, I do believe that he was always smarter than he appeared to be, because he is a smart man; but that's also one reason he seemed untrustworthy when in office, because you could sense his folksy persona was very thin. Bush Senior appears to be a statesmen nowadays largely because he compares so favorably to his own son Shrub.

I will grant that Bush Senior has grown considerably in wisdom since he left office; some of his appearances with Clinton and/or Carter have shown this in a good light.

 
At 12:49 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, I absolutely love that line about how it's still possible in Wisconsin for Mr. Smith to go to Washington. Brilliant! If any readers haven't seen that Jimmy Stewart movie, please do yourself a favor and get ahold of the tape and watch it. Truly a movie for the ages.

Ironically enough, I happened to use a reference to that very movie in a piece I wrote about Lincoln, soon to be published and soon to appear here via a link. It talked about how the moral sturdiness of Lincoln continues to undergird our democracy even today. Remember how a distraught Jimmy Stewart, about to be railroaded out of the Senate by his corrupt home-state political machine, went to the Lincoln Memorial at night to drown his sorrows? Instead, gazing up at the giant Lincoln likeness, he drew the strength to return and face the music, ultimately beating them. It's one of the most memorable moments in any movie I've ever seen (naturally my deep bias toward and affection for Lincoln plays no small part). Anyway, thanks for that addition, Art.

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger Richard said...

As I read thru the comments and saw your comment that you could not see yourself voting for Obama yet, I thought, "it will be a lot easier to imagine once the GOP nominee emerges." Then I came to your comment on McCain, who on balance actually is the best the GOP has to offer. But I have already heard so many Islamofascist emanations from him that I would have to hold my nose and vote for Hillary if that were the choice.

 
At 5:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Dear Richard my friend, how great to see your name here after a long absence. And yes, you make a great point. Naturally, voting for any of the Democrats would be the easiest thing in the world for me against anyone but McCain. How interesting that you too have serious doubts about Hillary. But then, her and Bill have given us so very many reasons to nurse serious doubts. Anyway, I do hope you'll keep reading and come back to add your two cents when the spirit moves you.

 

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