Edwards: little more than a pretty face

Diana West
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Posted: Jul 12, 2004 12:00 AM

I find myself in a curious emotional state over the announcement of a winner in the John Kerry veepstakes. The hackles on the back of my neck, raised up by the ghastly sound of a hundred news anchors cooing, have long settled since the
Democratic presidential nominee announced that John Edwards was his running mate.
My ensuing calm has ended in a surge of confidence that Bush-Cheney will defeat Kerry-Edwards come November. Why, then, am I so darn mad?

First, more on the hackles. They are simply natural reactions to the Voice of the Democratic National Committee -- a.k.a., each and every news network (sans Fox) -- as it cranks up the big build-up on the Kerry-Edwards ticket without mentioning the political bottom line: that John Kerry, the most liberal U.S. Senator last year, picked as his running mate John Edwards, the fourth most liberal U.S. Senator last year.

Such reportorial reticence wasn't evident four years ago when George W. Bush tapped Dick Cheney for the veep spot. As the Media Research Center reminds us, the media hammered home Cheney's conservative voting record from Day One -- with all consternation, and no cream puff. This week, all we get is journo-junk food. NBC's Carl Quintanilla promotes Edwards' "rock star status." ABC's Kate Snow laments that business groups plan to "beat up on" John Edwards' background as a trial lawyer. ABC's Peter Jennings asks Edwards, "What were you like as a kid?" And, "I gather you were a hell of a lawyer."

Such penetrating questions may (or may not) explain why Jennings gets the big bucks, but nothing explains why Edwards is the man to stand that one heartbeat we hear about away from the presidency. And this is the point that dispels all goose bumps: John Edwards may be Peter Jennings' idea of a good lawyer, but a career of arguing cases before North Carolina juries, even augmented by five years in the U.S. Senate, has in no way given John Edwards the foreign policy expertise essential to supporting or possibly assuming the presidency in the middle of this global war on jihadist terrorism. The bankruptcy of Kerry's first presidential judgment is staggering. This, for Bush supporters, should be a relief.

Edwards is a guy, who, according to the Charlotte Observer, only started "subscriptions to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist and the New Republic" in 1998 when prepping for his Senate run. Maybe that's why, as Charles Peters reported last year in the Washington Monthly, Senate candidate Edwards didn't know Leah Rabin was Yitzhak Rabin's widow -- or even who Yitzhak Rabin was. The Israeli prime minister who famously shook Yasser Arafat's hand on the White House lawn and signed the Oslo Accords was assassinated in 1995 -- three whole years before the news subscriptions started arriving at the Edwards household.

Edwards has denied the Rabin gaffe, but as frontpagemag.com's Ben Johnson reports, others abound. He writes: "When asked about ... a U.S.-E.U. dispute before the World Trade Organization, Mr. Trade-War replied, 'I'm not sure I even know what you're talking about.'" Or how about Edwards' unforgettable duck when a question about relations with the Islamic world came his way during a Democratic presidential debate? Then running to become commander-in-chief of the war on terror, Edwards put it this way: "I would never claim to be an expert on Islam. I am not." The media were already coming to his rescue. ABC reported at the time that in response to the question on Islam, "Edwards deftly admitted he was no expert ..." (Too bad no network ever reported that Dan Quayle "deftly" failed to spell potato.)

This may be a first, but I can only agree with John Kerry about John Edwards. Or at least with what Kerry said before he changed his mind. "This is not the time for on-the-job training in the White House on national security issues," Kerry said of Edwards earlier this year. And he was right. But, as even the New York Times noted, "While Mr. Kerry insisted he would name a running mate whose qualifications to step in as president during a time of war were unassailable, he chose a 51-year old who has served just five years in the Senate." Guess Kerry changed his mind about that, too. Prizing the pretty hair and toothy smile of the happy class-warrior -- all calculated to give the Kerry campaign stump appeal -- Kerry has chosen a presidential stand-in dangerously deficient in international expertise even as the United States is engaged in a dire international struggle.

And he knows it. Which should make a lot of Americans mad.