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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Edwards' worst enemy is Edwards
By PHILIP GAILEY, Times Columnist
Published August 19, 2007
What is with John Edwards these days? The self-styled populist speaks of dark forces in corporate America and the "mainstream media" who are out to silence him. Has it occurred to Edwards that he could be his own worst enemy? He keeps saying and doing things that distract from his signature issues - poverty and universal health insurance. He sets himself up for ridicule and political knocks because he seems to have one standard for himself and another for everyone else. He makes it easy for critics to tag him for hypocrisy.
He is taking aim these days at the Democratic left's favorite villain - Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp., which own the Fox News Channel and recently purchased the Wall Street Journal. Edwards, who has prostrated himself before every interest group in the Democratic Party, was quick to align himself with liberal bloggers in demanding that the Democratic presidential candidates boycott any debate co-sponsored by Murdoch's Fox News. The other candidates fell in line. No one mentioned that in past years Edwards rarely missed an opportunity to appear on Fox.
More recently, Edwards climbed on his high horse and demanded that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, return $20,000 in campaign donations from News Corp. executives. The Edwards campaign boasted in an e-mail to supporters: "John Edwards will never ask Rupert Murdoch for money - he won't accept his money."
Then how does he explain the $500,000 advance and the $300,000 in expenses he received from HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp., for a coffee table book on the childhood homes of people like, for example, John Edwards, who grew up in a modest house in a North Carolina mill town?
When reporters asked if he intended to return the book money, Edwards said no way. He said he gave "every dime" of the $500,000 advance to charity, although Politico.com reported that part of the $300,000 expense money went to the candidate's 25-year-old daughter, Kate, and a senior campaign aide, Jonathan Prince, for their work on the project. Maybe the Edwards campaign would consider documenting how much of the advance went to charity.
Murdoch has a history doing favors for politicians, and a fat book contract from his book publishing subsidiary is a fine favor indeed. Among those HarperCollins has favored with lucrative book deals in recent years are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Republican Sens. Trent Lott and Arlen Specter.
John Edwards is an angry warrior these days - even a little paranoid. Lately he has been telling voters that "they" - he doesn't really identify "they" - are out to destroy him politically. All the press attention devoted to his $400 haircuts, his North Carolina mansion, his work for a hedge fund for tax dodgers, and what he calls other "trivia" - it's all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to shut him up, according to Edwards.
"This stuff is not an accident," he told an Iowa audience recently (you have to see the video to appreciate his performance). "Nobody in this room should think this is an accident. You know, I'm out there speaking up for universal health care, ending this war in Iraq and speaking up for the poor. They want to shut me up. That's what this is about. . . . Let's talk about this silly, frivolous stuff so that America won't pay attention."
His populist rage is unbecoming and smacks of political desperation. Maybe this champion of the poor and scourge of Corporate America, who is running a distant third in national polls behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, needs to take a break from campaigning and consider just how many of his political wounds have been self-inflicted.
For example, after running a losing campaign for president and vice president in 2004, Edwards returned to North Carolina and set up a nonprofit organization called the Center for Promise and Opportunity for the purpose of "making the eradication of poverty the cause of this generation."
Funny how the center seemed to stray from its mission. The New York Times reported that Edwards used $1.3-million raised by the tax-exempt center to pay for his travel to key political states and to employ campaign aides.
Someone needs to tell Edwards to stop flailing wildly at his political enemies, imagined and real, and get back to talking about universal health care, the issue that most distinguishes him from his Democratic rivals and registers with voters.
After all, a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.