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02/05/2004

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poputonian

Great post and link, Mark. If Edwards would come out and acknowledge that he blew the war resolution vote, I would be real comfortable with him. And a little more due diligence perhaps, to make sure he's not just pumping sunshine up our skirts; but otherwise, he seems great. I plan on staying with Clark until he fades for sure, then I will probably hang with Edwards, and then with Kerry if he becomes the nominee.

Pontifex

It's too little too late for Edwards. Had Clark lost Oklahoma, he might have bowed out for the sake of the party. But by soldiering on, he's insured that the anti-Kerry vote gets split 3 ways which, in turn, insures Kerry gets to Super Tues without any serious challenge. He'll sweep it March 2nd and we're done.

I entirely agree with Jack Beatty's analysis, and I am heartbroken that Kerry, as the nominee, can't help but deliver the Edwards message in a dreary, gray way. The party leadership believes he's the guy. The reality is he's great on paper, but he's so uninspiring and bleak in the flesh, Bush actually stands a chance of winning this Fall.

MichaelA

I think something that is overlooked in the rush towards Edwards is the power of paying your dues. Edwards rushed into running for the presidency, based on the strength of his lifestory and a large dose of charm and good looks. He did not spend his life preparing for the Presidency.

I think that is an important quality for a person to have. Kerry, like Clinton, has spent his life wanting to be the President. That is compelling for me.

Brooklynite

Spending your life is probably NOT a good characteristic to have, since it is likely to diminish whatever impulse one might have to take principled stands or carefully think about public policy. As we see with Kerry, whose every statement seems calculated to gain, or at least not lose, political support.

Clark, Edwards & Dean clearly don't lack intense ambition, but they come across as genuinely concerned about the country in a way that Kerry does not, in part, I think, because pursuit of the presidency has not been their life plan.

I agree with Mark, that of the four Dems still standing, Edwards is by far the best candidate for the general election. If, as seems likely, he loses out to JFK, should he run in 2008, or is Hillary the heir apparent to the Dem nomination?

Hypocrisy Fumigator

Jack Beatty, ever so attuned to candidate personality and its effectiveness in elections, anointed Dick Gephardt as the front runner in December. He didn't even mention Edwards or Kerry.

Nobody wins with the margins that Kerry has gotten without voters liking him. All the Kerry bashers are either obsessed political fans, or beltway types - neither of whom is very attuned to what the general public likes in candidates. But operatives do know, and operatives from the start thought Kerry to be a potentially strong candidate. His comeback indicates a certain level of talent that is not appreciated by his critics.

Hypocrisy Fumigator

Let me be clear: I prefer Edwards, too, and probably Clark next. But everybody who says "nobody likes Kerry" have talked themselves into something. I think Kerry's calculation and smarts is what it takes - and something Al Gore just didn't have. No question in my mind he's better than Gore.

Barnabas Sackett

I couldn't agree more with Brooklanite.
Clinton, Kerry, and Gore all spent their lives wanting to be president and as a result nearly every move they've ever made was carefully calculated. You can't expect someone who has spent their lives making politically expedient decisions to all-of-a-sudden start making the right decisions once they've become president. It wouldn't be in them. While politically I couldn't disagree more with candidates like Dean and Edwards I really appreciate and respect the sincerity with which they take their stands. It seems to me that Kerry doesn't make decisions based on what he believes is right, he makes decisions based on what will make him popular. While this is certainly a common trait of all politicians the extent that Kerry and his predecessor Gore go is a little much. Bill Clinton was at least good at it, Kerry is just transparent.

David Lloyd-Jones

Mention of Edwards brings to mind the question of "Tort Reform," a big Republican drum thump.

The Republican claim is that tort lawyers and random winners of the wheel of chance that is American justice scarf up huge amounts of money at the expense of consumers. We are all consumers, so the Republicans are on your side.

My own experience of tort law is as a former manufacturer of automobile brake rotors. (I'm out of the business now: the Chinese, after many years of buggering around, got some Americans into their industry, learned quality control, and now dominate the industry.)

Auto parts are kept safe by tort lawyers. It's that simple.

I look out the window of my office over the floor of my plant, and I see a guy I don't know who has walked in off the dock and is nosing around. That's the inspector for my liability insurance company. He didn't ask to walk in. He just walked in. He's checking the safety lanes, chatting up the guys on the multi-spindles, looking around, comparing stuff with everything else in his capacious memory bank of the industry.

If I don't meet his standards, my liability insurance gets lifted, and I'm out of business. Same for everybody else across the whole industry.

There are irrationalities in this mechanism. Of the roughly $55 cost of a main brake hydraulic cylinder in the after-market, roughly $17 is the cost of liability insurance. This is because when there is an accident caused by a hydraulic failure there will be hydraulic fluid on the road, the jury will look at the photograph and think it's blood, and the settlements will be staggering. This is a damn shame.

On a brake rotor, by contrast, the insurance cost is well under nine cents: the damn things are safe, and in the roughly 30 cases a year where there is even a suspicion of the rotor being at fault, all you need is for an expert to show up and explain the realities. (In the one case in a decade when the brake rotor is *actually* at fault, everybody goes bananas, and the $200 million that gets spent making sure that particular fault is eradicated across all manufactuers, co-operating on this important cause, dwarfs the tort settlement if there even was one.)

Thus -- whew, here' comes the point at last -- Edwards's profession really *does* serve the people.

Vicious pursuit of tort law both works reasonably well, and also works an order of magnitude cheaper than bureaucratic administration of high ideals.

Mike

Could some of you Edwards admirer please explain why you find him so charismatic? I know it's probably true because he had been a very successful (and therefore wealthy) trial lawyer. But from what I have seen of him on C-SPAN, I don't get the aura of charisma that everyone else sees (certianly not to the level of Bill Clinton). He has a way of gesturing with his hands, alternating left and right, that seems forced, a little like a novice orator trying to be dramatic. I seem to be in the minority on this page, but I prefer Kerry's straight-forward no-nonsense delivery.

Barnabas Sackett

I see David's point and have a hard time arguing with him: Trial lawyers at their best keep us safe. Their practice when practiced honorably is good for america but the scenario layed out above is far different then suing restaurants because people get fat from eating too much (like common sense would say)or suing coffee shops because their coffee is too hot (like the cups say) or tobacco companies because their cigarettes cause cancer (like the boxes say). Frivolous lawsuits are the target of tort reform not legitimate lawsuits against companies that make no effort to correct defective dangerous products. As a result the manufacturing of more and more products will be driven off shore because the costs of regulation and liability insurance will be too high. And let's face it, how many people actually think that China and Mexico are really that concerned with lawsuits? Please.

While the inability to acknowledge the difference should be a huge liability to anyone unwilling to do so, unfortunately it isn't. Soccer moms love their John Grisham and Erin Brocavich is an american hero. In popular culture the lawyers are the protectors of the poor, willing to do what ever it takes at no cost to save the world.

No, Tort reform isn't something that fits nicely into a sound bite or catchy repeatable mantra. Like most conservative issues it takes some thought to arrive at the right conclusion which is why this will have zero negative impact on Edwards to anyone other than those who would never vote for him anyway.

apostropher

What I find so refreshing about John Edwards is that he actually mentions poor people. In the Democratic Party's rush to appeal to the middle class, it has seemed to forget the poor existed. Aside from religious issues, there simply isn't much reason for blue-collar workers to cast their lot with the GOP. If Kerry indeed has it sewn up, he'd better examine Edwards' message - particularly the work versus wealth part - and figure out how to integrate it with his own.

DJW

Barabas Sackett:

Do a little research into the "tort tales" you repeat. You'll find that in most cases, these stories have either morphed to fit the script of ridiculous lawsuits out of control (ie, the McDonalds case--once you know the actual story the whole thing makes a lot more sense) or they were thrown out early in the process, after they got a lot of press (like the fast food made me fat case, as I recall).

The bottom line is that two interest groups, insurance companies and trial lawyers, have been battling over this issue for decades. The insurance companies consider public opinion one of their battlegrounds, while trial lawyers have fought this fight in other arenas. While the trial lawyers have largely been successful at blocking various ill-conceived 'tort reform' schemes, their strategy has left us with a lot of misconceptions about lawsuits in America.

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