Breaking News: John Edwards is running for president

Posted: Jan 03, 2007 12:01 AM
Breaking News: John Edwards is running for president

Some days nothing goes right. John Edwards had one of those days the last week of 2006 when he announced his candidacy for president -- and hardly anyone noticed.

On the other hand, who didn't already know? Edwards -- who, if I'm not mistaken, is the son of a millworker -- hasn't stopped running for president since he started four years ago.

He paused briefly to run for vice president in 2004, when John Kerry dragged him off the dance floor and made him his main squeeze. But no sooner did they lose than Edwards began running again.

Like Forrest Gump, he can't seem to stop.

Edwards staked out the last week of the year for his kettledrum run at history, which is traditionally a slow news week when the media are bereft of stories to report. Luck apparently didn't get the memo.

The slowest week of the year suddenly became one of the busiest, thanks to that party pooper and thunder thief, Mr. Grim himself. As Edwards talked to a camera and a few reporters, America's eyes were riveted on the Reaper.

First he came for James Brown.

Then Gerald Ford.

Then Saddam Hussein.

The singer, the president and the tyrant robbed John Edwards of his moment. He was the tree that fell in a forest to the sound of one hand clapping.

Poor John Edwards.

No one, Republican or Democrat, has worked harder on his resume or more carefully calculated the timing of his announcement than Edwards, who, by the way, may be the son of a millworker. Could just be a rumor.

Nearly every time we've seen Edwards in the past year, he's been dripping with sweat from raising roof beams and digging out muck in New Orleans, where he and a corps of volunteer youths have been rebuilding the city that George Bush ignored.

It was from New Orleans -- specifically the Katrina-ravaged Ninth Ward -- that Edwards, looking lean in jeans and blue shirt, made his announcement. A simple, Everyman affair, there were no bands or flags, no pennants or patriotic paraphernalia.

Just the raw facts cast against the dreary background of a storm-ravaged house under repair.

In case this isn't perfectly clear, Edwards isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Even though a mega-millionaire, he still identifies with the downtrodden and underprivileged. Because -- I think I'm right here -- he's the son of a millworker.

Not only has Edwards been toiling in the fetid muck of Katrina's aftermath, he's been scouring the planet for the meek and disenfranchised. He established a poverty institute at the University of North Carolina and has visited several of Earth's most ravaged nations. He also has apologized countless times for voting to invade Iraq.

The trick for any politician -- but especially a populist like Edwards, who is trying to build a case for ending what he calls ``Two Americas'' -- is to appear to be a regular guy. Not too rich, too scripted or too sophisticated. This is increasingly difficult for the multimillionaires who pursue high office these days, but Edwards has mastered the act.

At his announcement, he spoke without notes, just talkin' about a few modest goals: ending the war in Iraq, universalizing health care, ending genocide and poverty.

Passionate, but not overwrought, he conveyed the persona of a deeply caring man who wants to make the world a better place. Either that, or the persona of a deeply cunning litigator adept at pulling a jury's heartstrings, which usually precedes the pulling of someone else's purse strings.

Even the sans-serif font on the John Edwards logo is plain and straightforward. But that's where simplicity ends and sophistication triumphs. In Edwardsian politics, sans-serif is a tactic and simplicity a strategy.

No sooner were Edwards' words ignored than they were captured in a YouTube segment and posted on his ``Tomorrow Begins Today'' Web site, which features an array of high-tech options for the wired generation. Visitors can sign up for e-mail alerts, mobile phone messages, and even click on a bar for espanol: El manana comienza hoy. Nothing unsophisticated about that.

Edwards, the aw-shucks country boy, may have unfortunate timing, but his mama didn't raise no fool. Neither did his daddy, who, you may have heard, was a millworker.