It?s tempting to compare Sen. John Edwards with former Vice President Dan Quayle. But that would be unfair.
To Dan Quayle.
Sixteen years ago, a presidential candidate picked a 41-year-old senator from a medium sized state to be his vice presidential candidate. The media response was swift.
?Try to imagine Dan Quayle as President of the United States,? wrote columnist Anthony Lewis in The New York Times. ?No one seriously argues that he is especially qualified by experience or character or talent to take over the presidency.? Why is that, Mr. Lewis? ?Sen. Quayle is -- to put it more politely than many have -- without weight. He has done virtually nothing in the Senate of an original or substantive kind.?
Time magazine?s Margaret Carlson piled on. ?There are signs that Quayle has been growing in his job, that he is no longer (if he ever was) the dumb blond his detractors claim,? she wrote, generously. ?But he is still a long way from having the temperament and experience needed in the person a heartbeat and a brain wave away from the presidency.?
This year, a presidential candidate has tapped a 51-year-old senator from a medium-sized state to be his vice presidential candidate. But this time the media response was somewhat different.
?Mr. Edwards, the son of a millworker and a postal worker, appears down-to-earth and trustworthy, a fellow who strikes a chord on values as well as issues,? wrote Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. The only potential downside Kristof sees? ?Sure, Mr. Kerry might drop dead. Then we?d have a very inexperienced president -- again!? Obviously not something the columnist is too worried about.
For Newsweek?s Howard Fineman, Edwards? inexperience is a potential positive. ?A mere five years after Edwards entered politics, this man in a hurry has arrived. He?s talented, and fortune favors the brash.?
David Broder, the dean of the Washington press corps, also brushed off the vice presidential candidate?s inexperience. ?Edwards has shown an uncanny ability to connect with both core Democratic constituencies and independent voters in every campaign he has run,? he wrote in The Washington Post, ignoring the fact that Edwards has run in all of two campaigns, and that he won only a single Democratic presidential primary.
Now, Edwards is certainly charismatic. But let?s use Anthony Lewis? standard. Is the North Carolinian ?especially qualified by experience? to be vice president? Well, when his background is compared with what Quayle?s was in 1988, it?s Edwards who is found wanting.