The conspiracy against John Edwards
By John D. Turner
3 Aug 2007

There’s a conspiracy afoot.

According to John Edwards, “they” are trying “to shut him up” by focusing on trivia (like his rather expensive haircuts) instead of focusing on the message he is trying so desperately to bring to the American people. And what is the message “they” are trying so hard to block? Why, ending the war and universalizing health care, of course.

Here’s what Mr. Edwards had to say recently before an audience in Creston, Iowa:

This stuff's not an accident. Nobody in this room should think this is an accident. You know, I'm out there speaking up for universal healthcare, ending this war in Iraq, speaking up for the poor. They want to shut me up. That's what this is about. "Let's distract from people who don't have health care coverage. Let's distract from people who can't feed their children.... Let's talk about this silly frivolous nothing stuff so that America won't pay attention."

They will never silence me. Never.

If we don't stand up to these people, if we don't fight them, if we don't beat them, they're going to continue to control this country. They're going to control the media. They're going to control what's being said. They do not want to hear us talking about health care for everybody.

My question for Mr. Edwards is simply, why? Why would anyone be interested in “shutting him up”? Who cares? He isn’t even really a contender. According to polling data on Real Clear Politics, Edwards is a distant third behind Clinton and Obama. In polls where Al Gore is listed, he trails Gore, who isn’t even an announced candidate.

As for his message? Let’s see…

According to Ms. Clinton’s website, her campaign issues include “Providing Affordable and Accessible Health Care”, “Ending the War in Iraq”, “Strengthening the Middle Class”, and “Supporting Parents and Caring for Children”. No specific mention of “the poor” per se, although they might fall under the latter category to a certain extent. And I know I have heard her mention the poor a time or two.

Mr. Obama’s campaign issues include “Fighting Poverty”, “Plan to End the Iraq War”, and “Creating a Healthcare System that Works”. In fact, his site lists 13 different issues, more than Ms. Clinton’s, including “Protecting the Right to Vote”, which he seems to think is still a problem in America today. “Fighting Poverty” is at the top of his list, so even though Ms. Clinton didn’t mention it specifically, Mr. Edwards can hardly claim he is the lone voice crying in the wilderness.

So once again, since he isn’t saying anything any different than the other candidates are, exactly why would “they” be out to shut him up? Are “they” trying to silence Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama as well?

And who are these mysterious “they’s” anyway? The news media? The Republican’s? Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama? Talk radio? Well, he’s kind of vague on that. Whoever these unnamed forces are, they are, according to Edwards, powerful enough to control the media and what is being said. And they particularly don’t like it when Mr. Edwards says it.

Shutting people in the media up sounds kind of like the “fairness doctrine” to me. But wait! Isn’t that a Democrat initiative? Silencing Rush Limbaugh is fine; he’s only a hate-monger after all. But silencing Mr. Edwards? How evil!

I also took a look at Mr. Edward’s website as well. Predictably, his main theme seems to be his “two America’s” theory. According to Mr. Edwards, “In today’s Two Americas, it is no coincidence that most families are working harder for stagnating wages when there are nearly 60 lobbyists for every member of Congress.” Assuming I accept his premise that wages are stagnating, these two are related exactly how? And would 50 lobbyists for every member of Congress be better? 40? 30? Would halving the number have a measurable effect on those “stagnating wages”?

I know my “cost of living” raise was less this year, but then again, that’s because the Federal Government only voted me a 2% increase this year, which actually turned out to be about 1.7% (before taxes) when all was said and done. Would cutting the number of lobbyists garner me a better raise? I think not. Perhaps I could use a lobbyist in Congress!

Also typically, he seems to have a hard time coming right out and saying what he means. His “speaking up for universal health care and the poor” are buried under a heading entitled “Standing Up For Regular Families”. Would that be as opposed to “irregular” families? What’s a regular family anyway? A “just plain folks” millionaire trial lawyer like himself, someone with multiple mansions, and a carbon footprint the size of a small town?

Why not have a heading like Mr. Obama’s titled “Fighting Poverty”, or “Universal Health Care”? Stick it right out there in the open, unambiguously, where everyone can go right to it. State your case boldly. But no, his call for ending the war in Iraq appears under a heading entitled “Restoring America’s Leadership Role In the World”.

Yawn. Perhaps it’s the lawyer in him coming to the fore. And yet, Ms. Clinton is a lawyer, as is Mr. Obama. Maybe Mr. Edwards simply has a difficult time coming straight to the point. His website has an unfocused and amateurish look and feel to it, unlike the hard hitting, straight-to-the-point websites of Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama.

I might disagree with them politically, but they do know how to get a message across. Mr. Edwards message on the other hand, looks like maybe it was put together by his hairdresser.

Mr. Edwards claims that the media is focusing on trivia, such as his expensive haircuts, his many mansions, and otherwise extravagant lifestyle, instead of his “message”. But in the case of Mr. Edwards, the “trivia” is the news. His message is no different from the message promulgated by candidates Clinton and Obama, both far ahead of him in the polls, and much more likely than he to actually win the nomination. The only thing differentiating him is the cost of his haircuts, which is why the media focuses on that instead of regurgitating the same message from another also-ran.

It’s too bad. From a Republican perspective, Mr. Edwards would be the ideal candidate to run against; all hat and no cattle as it were. Truly the embodiment of symbolism over substance.

It is interesting that this message of his, far from being surreptitiously gathered by some Republican flunky and posted to the Internet by someone trying to make him look bad, was actually posted by a member of his campaign staff. In other words, they think this will help his campaign!

Maybe he is looking to garner the tinfoil hat vote. This “they are out to get me” tactic seems eerily reminiscent of Ross Perot’s meltdown in 1992.