No sooner than the media were heaping praise on Senator John Edwards for the positive tone of his campaign, an Edwards campaign document surfaced revealing specific plans to attack other candidates. So is Edwards committed to positive campaigning, or not?
I think not, but not because of the silly campaign document the media are buzzing about. It's his negative message that ought to grab our attention, but so far he's been able to camouflage it with a sunny smile and his outwardly gracious tone toward his opponents.
No doubt, on the surface Edwards exudes a positive, optimistic image, even defying logic at times. I remember watching a reporter interview him not long ago and actually ask him whether he was serious about continuing with his campaign, given his poor showing to that point. Edwards appeared to be completely unfazed by the challenge and answered cheerily, if somewhat defiantly, that he was going all the way, no matter what.
But when Edwards rocketed to an unexpected second-place performance in Iowa, his irrational optimism all of a sudden began to seem more rational. Such is the volatile nature of politics, especially primary politics.
You could feel the genuine exuberance in Edwards' tone in his post-election speech. He said his "positive optimistic vision of hope" resonated with Iowans, who finally heard it during the last week of the campaign. He was given a further lift by the media, who were greatly impressed by his eloquence and sanguinity. It was as if the media were slapping themselves for being slow on the uptake concerning Howard Dean's negativity and unlikeability and trying to make up for it by anointing Edwards as the Democrats' new anti-Dean.
Then, out of the blue, ABC reported that an official "John Edwards for President" precinct campaign packet contained instructions to Edwards caucus-goers to attack his opponents. Dean was to be described as a "Park Avenue elitist from New York City" who balanced his Vermont budgets "on the backs of the poor and sick." They were to paint Kerry as one having "the stale record of a Washington insider" who "has been part of the failed Washington politics for too long." Wesley Clark was to be derided for having praised the president's "neo-conservative foreign policy team."