Friday, July 20, 2007

A new ad recalls the suffering of the Edwards family

Slate Magazine:By John Dickerson
What seems new here is that Edwards is making an affirmative act to put his personal life before voters. Yes, he called a press conference and went on 60 Minutes in March when his wife's diagnosis was news, but then it was a major development that required comment. This time, he's not responding to something that's just happened or answering a question from a reporter. He's pointing us to his personal trials in an ad. That the ad and the campaign are coy about what Elizabeth is talking about suggests that they don't want to seem to be profiting from her illness or her son's death...

The indirection is a little irritating—trying to play on our emotions without getting called out—but there is nothing wrong with Edwards making the link between his private pain and his qualifications for office. He has endured his son's death and his wife's illness, and that not only makes him a tough guy but gives him a sense of perspective about the value of life. Those are qualities we want in a president. Not sufficient qualities, but necessary ones. He's not asking for sympathy; he's asking that we make a link to his life experience. It is, in a limited way, a version of the message John McCain sends about his endurance as a POW, though without the obvious element that McCain's suffering was in service to his country.

So, I put up a link to the "I feel pretty" video when it came out. I didn't foresee how much attention that video would continue to command, and how it would divert attention from Edward's platform and ideas for the country, which deserve attention. Thus, I feel a bit guilty about contributing to it.(It's still up; maybe it's time to remove it, as a symbolic gesture.) I haven't switched primary allegiance to Edwards--I still support Obama with enthusiasm--but I respect the positions Edwards has put forward thus far in his campaign, and would like the media to focus more on that than on haircuts. (BTW, did you hear what Mitt Romney paid for makeup?)

Addendum: Elizabeth Edwards submitted a posting to Slate, explaining that the intended reference is to some of the injured clients and their families that trial lawyer Edwards represented over the years and wrote about in his book. (Maybe good summer reading for the Wisconsin legislator trying to defund UW Law School, and the Republican Assembly colleagues who voted with him.) I'm enjoying Elizabeth Edward's feisty engagement in the campaign (as I did Hillary's in 1992), for whatever that's worth; I read that the punditocracy thinks it emasculates her husband. I'm not a good judge of the American public on such matters.

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