The man may be too clever for his own good.
The brouhaha over yesterday’s New York Times story that John Edwards may have misused a non-profit anti-poverty organization for his Presidential campaign is a case in point.
Edwards supporters respond by condemning the Times’ journalistic methods, non-supporters claim it proves Edwards’ untrustworthiness.
A pattern emerges. Newsweek summed it up: “Edwards strikes some as a little slick, even (or especially) when he is talking about his family trials. As for his political courage, he is making a bet that old-style soak-the-rich populism can be a winner in this election cycle--though the recent flap over his $400 haircuts has not helped his common-man pitch.”
Confession: Edwards brings out the worst in me, a capacity for prejudice that is deeply troubling, a tendency toward letting skepticism slide toward cynicism. He recalls another public figure I once knew, who wrote, lectured and said all the right things and was even considered for a Nobel Peace Prize. But on closer inspection, everything he did benefited him just a little more than the causes he espoused and, in the end, undercut his alleged idealism.
In elective politics, that is far from a fatal flaw. It is too easy to sneer at the gap between a candidate’s professions and his personal life, but somehow Edwards’ background as a trial lawyer makes him look like he is lying from the heart.
In the next year, the extended campaign will keep testing him and voters will be able to make up their own minds about, to use a phrase I once applied to John F. Kennedy, how deep the glamour goes.
As for myself and as of now, I can only fall back with some embarrassment on the cryptic wisdom of the old nursery rhyme:
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.