A presidential nominee's choice of a running mate is supposed to balance the ticket. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., doesn't balance presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's ticket ideologically, because they have the same ultra-liberal voting record, or geographically, because Edwards can't even carry his own state. That's why he chose not to run for re-election to the Senate.
Edwards' balance for the Democratic ticket is to provide the fundamental quality that Kerry lacks. Edwards is said to be a compelling speaker who knows how to sway emotions, while Kerry just isn't likeable.
The last time the Democrats picked a nominee because of his extraordinary speaking ability was William Jennings Bryan in 1896. The tactic didn't succeed then, and it won't succeed this year after the voters look at the history of Edwards' histrionics.
Edwards honed his oratorical skills by manipulating juries with a combination of junk science and demagoguery. He led them to believe that obstetricians are to blame for causing cerebral palsy when they do not perform a Caesarean section immediately after a fetal heartbeat monitor indicates a warning. After his first spectacular $6.5 million verdict using this theory, he filed at least 20 similar lawsuits and won verdicts and settlements of more than $60 million, typically keeping about one-third of the winnings.
The result of Edwards' lawsuits against obstetricians is that fears of career ruination from malpractice litigation have raised the rate of Caesarean sections in the United States from 6 percent of births in 1970 to today's 26 percent. However, this change has not caused any decrease in the rate of cerebral palsy.
The ongoing medical debate includes concern about needless Caesarean deliveries, which carry the risks of major surgery, and studies that have found that the electronic fetal monitors used during delivery often give false signals. Most studies indicate that cerebral palsy is caused by fetal brain injury long before labor begins.
The current large numbers of Caesareans are costly, harmful and inappropriate in the big majority of cases. Because of hucksters like Edwards, doctors today practice more out of fear of litigation than doing what is best for the patients. The malpractice insurance crisis has driven doctors out of many regions of the country, leaving patients without care. Frivolous and exaggerated lawsuits have made insurance unaffordable for doctors in many key specialties, such as obstetrics and neurosurgery.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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