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LABORING HARD! Tom DeLay condemned liberal bias. We liberals kept playing it dumb: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2007

LABORING HARD: Like Larry Craig, we modern Dems can’t state the most basic facts of our lives. We refer to what Elizabeth Edwards told Time’s Eric Pooley:
POOLEY (8/29/07): Soon she's pressing the argument that her husband is the most electable candidate, the one who will help other Democrats win in the South and West—and she's managing to attack Clinton while defending her. "I want to be perfectly clear: I do not think the hatred against Hillary Clinton is justified. I don't know where it comes from. I don't begin to understand it. But you can't pretend it doesn't exist, and it will energize the Republican base. Their nominee won't energize them, Bush won't, but Hillary as the nominee will. It's hard for John to talk about, but it's the reality.”
Elizabeth Edwards “doesn’t know” where the hatred of Clinton comes from? But then, we’ve all agreed to stay in the closet on these topics for the past fifteen years.

(Quick question: Any chance it came from those endless claims about the first lady’s serial murders? We liberals and Democrats kept our mouths shut when Hardball and Hannity pimped them. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/19/07, with links to earlier reporting. When we cowered and let this sort of thing stand, the hatred grew in the land.)

It’s Labor Day, so we won’t kvetch, but we had to laugh when we read that statement. And no, this isn’t Edwards’ fault; given our fifteen-year group silence, she might have seemed like a bit of a kook if she’d been more forthcoming. But we liberals and Dems have long agreed to play it dumb about the press corps’ wars on the Clintons and Gore. Result? Yesterday, Tom DeLay was all over cable, complaining about the press corps’ liberal bias. (Where are the stories about Alan Mollohan?) Meanwhile, one of our biggest, most “honest” players was out there again playing dumb.

At one point, Pooley played it dumb himself. To offer context, we quote at some length—but it’s Pooley’s last statement we’re after:
POOLEY: Nationally, [John Edwards] has found it difficult to break through the media's focus on Clinton and Obama. Edwards trails Hillary by double-digit margins, and he may not have the money to compete against their carpet-bomb television spots. "It's still possible for Edwards as well as Obama," says former Senator Bill Bradley, who in 2000 ran an insurgent primary campaign against an entrenched front runner named Al Gore. "Edwards is the best political athlete in the field—giving a speech, working a room, interacting one-on-one. He has the most detailed domestic policy, and his message [that the system is rigged] has resonance. His challenge is to say what he's going to do to fix it."

Another challenge is that much of the attention he's gotten recently has been the unflattering kind, stories that question his sincerity and assail his image as a fighter for the little guy by focusing on his pricey haircuts, huge house and hedge-fund job. These viral attacks, spreading from the Drudge Report and other blogs to newspapers everywhere, make a dumb argument. They assume that someone who's wealthy can't be a sincere advocate for poor and working people. By that logic, the healthy can't speak on behalf of the sick, or whites on behalf of people of color. But in politics, of course, dumb arguments can hurt you, which is why some Edwards aides urged him not to build such a big house. Their effort failed because the Edwardses—having battled cancer and lost a son, Wade, in an automobile accident 11 years ago, when he was 16—wanted to enjoy the luxuries they could afford. "We live our lives," says Elizabeth. "We're not pretending to be anything we're not. People have said, Don't do this or that. How would it look? But I honestly don't know how much time I've got. So we're going to live our lives."

Here's what would truly be hypocritical: if Edwards spoke out on behalf of the disadvantaged while pushing policies that benefit the rich. This he does not do. He favors boosting the capital-gains tax rate for families earning over $250,000 and closing the loophole that allows fund managers—like those at Fortress Investment Group, where he earned almost $500,000 in 2006—to get taxed at just 15%. "He wants to take money away from the people who paid him," says deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince. "That's not hypocrisy. That's sincerity."

But once a politician is branded as inauthentic, however unfairly, it's hard to shake the label. (Ask Gore.)...
Pooley makes several good points in this passage. Surely, no candidate has ever been “mugged by narrative” in quite the way John Edwards has; in reporting the 08 Democratic race, the press corps has run with “First Woman, First Black”—and that story-line excludes Edwards. And Edwards has been the target of “viral attacks” which make a “dumb argument”—though Pooley reflexively underplays the press corps’ responsibility. To the mainstream press corps, after all, it is always Drudge’s fault when they put Drudge’s bullshit in print.

But we had to laugh when Pooley stated the point which we have highlighted. In that passage, Pooley seems to acknowledge that Candidate Gore was, in fact, “branded unfairly,” just as Candidate Edwards has been. (The trashing of Gore was much more extensive.) But Pooley plays dumb about the source of this branding. He is artfully vague in the creeping admission he is now making, eight years too late

How did Gore get branded unfairly? In large part, by Eric Pooley himself! (And by scores of others.) In 1999 and early 2000, no one played it dumber than Pooley, who endlessly savaged vile Gore’s ways and praised Bush’s masterful character. (Bush was “the most likable guy in the world...You know he’s a decent guy.”) Eight years later, Pooley says the treatment of Gore was unfair. But we libs aren’t the only ones in a closet! Rushing hard to make his deadline, he forgets to say who was unfair.

Yesterday, DeLay was calling the press corps names; we played dumb about real transgressions. Let’s send the analysts out of the room: I’ve never seen a group of people so committed to life in a closet. We simply refuse to tell the truth. Does this explain why the “unfair branding” rolls on? Does it explain why the unfair branding has done harm to Ms. Edwards’ candidate?