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John Edwards: Hypocrite-In-Chief By: Jean Pearce
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, September 01, 2004


There’s a reason why North Carolina newspapers have started calling John Edwards "Senator Gone."

The real John Edwards, the one the media isn’t talking about, has missed 43 percent of Senate votes since suspending his presidential campaign, but claims he represents the powerless. And when the elected officials of the city of Charlotte needed federal money for light rail two years ago, they bypassed Edwards and relied on Congresswoman Sue Myrick, as did desperate North Carolina tobacco farmers seeking a buyout, who went to Senator Liddy Dole instead.

Edwards also failed to show up at the town hall meetings he had scheduled in North Carolina during the same period, sending his campaign manager in his place. Meanwhile, last summer, Edwards met with voters at a dozen town-hall meetings in New Hampshire. "He’s going to stay until every last question is answered," promised spokesman Colin Van Ostern.

 

And this is the same John Edwards who had the audacity, in his speech at the Democratic Convention, to paint a picture of a military wife struggling to pay the bills while her husband is stuck on extended duty in Iraq. Last year, Edwards personally put a “secret hold” on a bill called the HEROES Act that would waive student-loan payments for soldiers fighting overseas, so he could attach an amendment to it and take the credit. Edward’s staff initially denied, then admitted, that he had put a hold on the popular legislation, which passed the house 421-1.

 

It’s all part of a pattern in which Edwards does one thing, and then says another. In September, Edwards said Congress needed to send to the troops in Iraq “what they need” because “they’re in a shooting gallery, a very dangerous situation.” A month later, he voted against $87 billion in funding for those same troops, parts of which would have paid for body armor, increased imminent danger pay for soldiers and family separation allowances, things that would help that struggling military wife he now claims he’s looking out for.

 

Despite that vote, Edwards once again promised last week to “invest in the new equipment and technologies so that our military remains the best equipped and best trained in the world. This will make our military stronger so we're able to defeat every enemy in this new world.” Of course, it remains unclear how Edwards’ vote in 1999 to reduce defense spending by $3.1 billion furthered his goal of “defeating every enemy.”

 

The real story of Edwards’ short political career is one of hypocrisy, cheap rip-offs, flip-flops and boneheaded moves. But in the media’s version of the story, Edwards is the political prodigy who is going get John Kerry elected president, forgetting that had Kerry not picked him as his running mate last month, the tattered thread by which Edwards’ political career had long been hanging would have snapped.

 

Given the media coverage surrounding Edwards, it’s easy to forget that the man has been elected to something exactly once in his life, barely sliding past incumbent Republican Senator Lauch Faircloth with just 51 percent of the vote in 1998 after Faircloth ran one of the lousiest campaigns in North Carolina electoral history. Of the18 candidates to run statewide in North Carolina in a general election in the last decade, Faircloth got the fewest votes. Edwards didn’t do much better. He was third from the bottom of the heap.

 

By last summer, a poll for the Raleigh News & Observer showed that North Carolinians had had it with Edwards’ endless campaigning for national office, first for the vice presidential slot on the Al Gore ticket in 2000, and then for president. Just 32 percent said they’d reelect him. (By comparison, 45 percent said they’d re-elect Faircloth when Edwards took him on in 1998.) As candidates in North Carolina lined up to run against him, Edwards jumped ship to the Senate seat that has been little more than a distraction to him in his campaign for the Oval Office.

 

For years, answers to simple questions about what has been going on around him in the Senate have eluded Edwards.

 

Edwards, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2001, has long been screaming about the Bush Administration’s failure to detect and stop the terrorist plot that led to the 9/11 catastrophes. But when Edwards was asked by PBS’ Margaret Warner in May 2002 whether the intelligence committee had been briefed before September 11 on Osama bin Laden or the possibility of airline hijackings, Edwards couldn’t answer the question.

 

“We're just responsible for sort of broad oversight,” he told her.

 

“So you don’t really remember?” Warner pressed.

 

“I don’t remember the specifics of what we were told about this,” Edwards finally admitted.

 

A year after praising the Patriot Act and voting for it, Edwards claimed at a Democratic Presidential debate in Baltimore that he was seeking a dramatic revision to parts of the law dealing with civil liberties that, as it turns out, weren’t actually part of it.

 

When he appeared on Hardball in October, Edwards refused Chris Matthews’ invitation to play the “Foreign Leader quiz”, which would have required him to name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, Pakistan and India. How Edwards could spend five years in the Senate and propose a presidential foreign policy platform of his own without knowing the answers to these questions is unfathomable.

 

Much of Edwards’ career has been based on bashing President George Bush for things that he himself voted for and advocated. Edwards voted for the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, and then spent the next three years bashing Bush for the law.  

 

“This ‘No Child Left Behind’? This President is leaving millions of kids behind every single day,” Edwards said at the Baltimore debate in 2003.

 

Like Kerry, Edwards came out against the war in Iraq after he had voted for it. But Edwards took it a step further. In the fall of 2002, Edwards was one of the most vocal members of Congress on the need to remove Saddam Hussein. In the hours after Bush’s famous speech before the U.N., Edwards gave an impassioned oration on the Senate floor, demanding the president take unilateral military action to remove Hussein from power.

 

“Edwards almost outdid the administration in his fervor for toppling Saddam Hussein,” the Los Angeles Times opined.

 

Then, just three weeks later, after voting to authorize the war, Edwards trashed Bush for taking unilateral military action in Iraq, referring to Bush’s actions in a CBS interview as “gratuitous unilateralism, a determination to act alone for the sake of acting alone.”

 

When it comes to foreign policy, Edwards seems incapable of having an original thought without help from the Bush Administration. Edwards’ presidential foreign policy platform was little more than a cheap rip-off of Bush’s and reads like a campaign intern had cut and pasted it off the state department site, changing a few words. The Bush Administration had already accomplished about half of it, but since the national media doesn’t report Bush’s foreign policy accomplishments, the Edwards folks probably figured no one would notice.

 

Under close inspection, the ruse is almost laughable.

 

In February of 2004, Edwards promised that if elected, he’d lobby for a new United Nations Security Council resolution to tighten the diplomatic noose around nations that violate non-proliferation agreements. To enforce this principle, law-abiding nations would have the right to search ships, aircraft and land vehicles originating in these lawless countries, he said. One problem. The U.N. has already passed the resolution Edwards described. It was called Security Council Resolution 1540, and it was proposed by President George W. Bush five months earlier in a speech to the U.N. It passed unanimously.

 

Within six months of taking office, Edwards claimed he’d convene a summit of the world’s leading nations to establish clear international standards for the storage and transportation of dangerous nuclear materials and give the international community new tools to deter the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Edwards calls his nuclear non-proliferation plan the “New Global Nuclear Compact.”

 

The leaders of the member nations of the G8 have another name for this plan. It’s called the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and it was already underway over a year before Edwards first proposed it, thanks to the Bush Administration, which persuaded the member nations of the G8 to launch the program at a summit in 2002. Since then, six additional nations have signed on to the program and the US has pledged to pay half its $20 billion cost. The G8 member nations will pay the other half.

 

Then there’s Edwards’ proposed Middle East Partnership Program at NATO, a shameless rip-off of the Bush Administration’s Greater Middle East Initiative at NATO. The plan, which is based on the “Helsinki Process” that advanced free elections and political parties in post-World War II Europe, would help spread democracy in the Middle East.

 

The merits of Bush’s Middle East initiative were debated for months last fall by think tanks and the foreign press before Edwards proposed a nearly identical plan.

 

It’s all part of a similar pattern of ruses that Edwards has been using in the courtroom for years. According to CNSNews.com, Edwards, a trial lawyer who got wealthy suing physicians, won record jury verdicts and settlements in cases alleging that faulty deliveries caused infants to develop cerebral palsy.

 

The cases, as it turns out, were based on junk science. Recent studies have shown that the condition was likely caused by genetics, not delivery problems. Despite this, Edwards continues to claim he stood up for the little guy in court, even though he strenuously fought a bill in the North Carolina legislature that would have created a fund to care for every baby born with cerebral palsy – thus eliminating the future possibility of huge legal settlements.

 

Edwards voted in 2001 to kill an amendment that would ensure that patients receive the majority of benefits from any new lawsuit allowed in the McCain-Kennedy-Edwards “Patient’s Bill of Rights.” He also led the fight against a liability exemption for doctors providing pro-bono services and helped kill medical malpractice reform in 2002 and 2003 that would have saved the federal government at least $6 billion in healthcare costs.

 

Edwards’ campaign against the interests of the “little guy” didn’t stop there. He also voted to kill a bill in committee that ensured that class action members receive the majority of the benefits of settlements instead of personal injury lawyers.  Moreover, in 1999, he voted against a bill to limit lawsuits and damages from potential Y2K computer failures.

 

Edwards was also the only Democrat missing from debates on asbestos litigation reform. Perhaps that’s because the co-finance chairman of Edwards’ campaign was Fred Baron, who pioneered the practice of suing companies on behalf of supposed asbestos victims that resulted in the bankruptcy of 67 companies, $57 billion in economic losses and the loss of 60,000 jobs.

 

Edwards’ record of loyalty to trial lawyers is about the only place his record is consistent. The rest, it seems, is part of slick ploy to fool his biggest jury yet, the American people.




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