Jon Sanders

According to The News & Observer of Raleigh, John Edwards is "a tough mill village kid who early learned how to punch someone's lights out," "was noted as a bruising hitter on the football fields," and "has a toughness behind his boyish facade." If so, he certainly doesn't act like it. Do tough mill village kids habitually run from debates?

Edwards, a man who since 2002 has openly aspired to be leader of the free world — a job that entails squaring off against, for example, North Korea, Iran, Islamic radicals, Marxist dictatorships in the Americas, drug traffickers, Russian hardliners, Congress — has now backed out of a second presidential debate for being co-sponsored by Fox News.

Why? Because Edwards thinks the most widely watched cable network has a conservative agenda. Or at least that is his justification. According to a statement released by the Edwards campaign, "we believe there's just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they're objective."

Oh, Mommy, please leave the nightlight on!

Even if one accepts Edwards' sinister depiction of Fox, it's hard to imagine a leader of any consequence acting like that. Edwards here resembles the sniveling kid who takes his ball and goes home whenever someone upsets him. And the more his campaign staff and press toadies try to spin his retreat as some sort of principled stand or dissent, the more they sound like the traveling minstrels to Monty Python's "Sir Robin":

Brave John Edwards ran away,
Bravely ran away, away.
When Fox News reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave John Edwards turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
Bravest of the braaaave, John Edwards!

Ducking out of debates surely can't help John Edwards in a general election. As Patton observed, "Americans despise cowards," and that looks cowardly. Why do it? Perhaps stamping that Fox has a right-wing agenda will please the MoveOn fringe, whose support is apparently necessary for a Democrat vying for the party's nomination (aside: look out for the first Democrat to treat MoveOn the way Bill Clinton did Sister Souljah).

But to the "masses" — that vast swath of people across America who don't think "Hitler" when someone says "Bush" — it looks cowardly.

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.