Son of a whore, and other political niceties

To be honest, I don’t know quite where to start. The nexus isn’t so much confusing for the number of pathways that come together, but for the number of roads it offers. Rather than charging blindly up any one road, wisdom suggests that I should take it slowly, ease my way into it, much like mounting Jonah Goldberg’s mother. (There we go. See? It wasn’t so hard.)

Thus, a starting point. Over at the Huffington Post, writer Chris Kelly takes a few moments to consider the wisdom of the National Review’s cruise up the shores of our great neighbor to the north.

I hope Canada doesn’t forget that it’s all just for laughs. That the National Review isn’t really a magazine at all, it’s just a club where a certain kind of chin-challenged endomorph can sniff deeply of his own fingers and experiment with cruelty as a counterintuitive answer to everything ….

…. I hope Canada still doesn’t have it’s back up about the National Review cover story that called the whole country “Wimps” ….

…. Of course, they didn’t mean it when they ran it. Same goes for the cover line about “whiny and weak.” They were just kidding around. Like when they said Saddam Hussein had WMDs ….

…. You have to take it in the spirit of fun. Like when I say that Jonah Goldberg fit right in, going to a girls’ school, because he was born in a whorehouse. I’m just being provocative. But he really was born in a whorehouse.

It is a strange sort of trip, when viewed from Kelly’s perspective. At first, I was simply amused that Seattle, a city that makes many conservatives nervous, should be the starting point for a National Review holiday in Canada. Take either Seattle or Canada there. The whole thing seems silly, if not absurd.

However, I mention the Kelly article largely because it is the impetus. I’ve been sitting with a story from a local newspaper that I haven’t been able to figure out what to do with. Add to that the gnashing self-rebuke that came when I realized that the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen had picked up a bit about GOP might-be Fred Thompson that I had passed on; rather than indicting the Post for taking up what I considered not worth worrying about, I have taken the note, accepted the lesson, and am still trying to figure out what it means.

But enough about me. Believe it or not, this whole blog entry has to do with Democratic candidate and former Senator John Edwards. I confess, the Kelly digression was worth it, in large part because the local article I’ve been sitting here wondering about has to do with a cocktail party in Seattle, part of the National Review’s cruise to Canada. Paul Constant, in this week’s edition of The Stranger, writes,

These people think I’m one of them. We’re at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in downtown Seattle, schmoozing under the auspices of the National Review. Founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955, the National Review is a biweekly conservative magazine that has remained staunchly right wing through Nixon and Reagan and Clinton and the Bushes, defending the upper-class white man against all comers: Bra-Burning Feminazis, Welfare Queens, the Homosexual Conspiracy, Do-Nothing Mexicans, and other assorted Democrats.

They’ve been successful enough at conservative punditry that, this year, they’re hosting a week-long Alaskan cruise, wherein lucky well-to-do National Review readers get to share the same ship as the magazine’s editorial staff. This steak-house reception is the kickoff ….

…. Hillary Clinton’s name is mentioned more than anyone else’s. Some are defending her recent debate dustup with Barack Obama, adding that they never thought they’d support a Clinton, but most think she’s going to win the Democratic nomination and then lose the election ….

It has long been a belief of mine that there is one potential problem with the Hillary Clinton campaign: we’ve taken the bait for a GOP plot. Now, I’m not going to say that Hillary Clinton would not make a fine president; indeed, if she is the candidate, I will certainly vote for her. And she has plenty of time to convince me to support her in … well, okay, we’re caucusing this year, so I need to remember to actually prepare for that. Point being that conservatives have been wondering publicly from the moment she decided to run for Senate whether Hillary would run for president. They’ve spent years sharpening their knives for this one. They think they’re ready. She will ride the buzz that the GOP has generously provided over the years, and then be eviscerated in the general election.

One would think, then, that giving the nod to Edwards or Obama might throw their plan into disarray. And it would be easy enough to think of Mr. Spock, in the second Star Trek movie, reminding Captain Kirk to maneuver in three dimensions instead of two. The GOP, like the villain Khan (except considerably less appealing in any human context), might be so set on taking down Hillary that they will stumble if called upon to fight a different battle.

It would be speculative to say they’ve planned for it. But I don’t think it too far out on the limb to say that they’re aware of the possibility. They’ve been aware of the possibility since the 2004 election cycle. They’ve known because they can’t possibly have not noticed.

See, the thing is that my first reaction was that Constant’s article was a work of fiction. The actors played their roles too well. But the counterpoint is that such stereotypical dross isn’t exactly unfamiliar to my ears. Even if we pretend that every nutsack conservative posting to this or that message board, or calling in to give hallelujahs to talk radio, is a misguided liberal provocateur with no clue about the magnitude of damage such schtick is causing, it is very difficult to let go of the faces that speak the words. So when Constant recalls the PR executive who thinks the Border Patrol’s job is to shoot people, or the churchgoing housewife fretting about Mexicans trying to con Americans at Christmastime, or even the hackneyed call for a return to the “politics of shame”, it isn’t hard to imagine that he is, in fact, reporting real events. For instance, I know damn well I’ve heard someone say that children exploited for dangerous labor ought to be thankful to have a job at all.

So the idea that Hillary’s name is a frequent mention among conservatives does not seem so difficult. That conservatives support Hillary’s run for the Democratic ticket is certainly not implausible. They think they’re ready for Hillary. But now there is a greater threat to their dystopic aspirations, and, like any paranoid critter, the conservative beast has taken notice.

They are frightened senseless of John Edwards.

The attack against Edwards’ legal career has been thus far disorganized. Throughout his political career, critics have taken shots at his medical malpractice history. These salvos ranged from critical anonymous sources to embittered doctors wanting to blast Edwards for personally ruining health care in North Carolina, and, by proxy, the entire nation. Generally, one criticism sought to characterize in John Edwards the indiscriminate greed reputed of all personal injury attorneys. There was another attack that blasted Edwards for being selective about the cases he took. Put together, it’s an interesting contradiction. Indiscriminately greedy, as shown by only pursuing cases that he could win? If Edwards was the problem with health care in North Carolina or anywhere else, I would have expected him to have sued everybody for any reason. Meanwhile, should we cross former prosecutors off the list of potential presidents? After all, they, too, decide whether to go forward with a case based in part on the question of whether or not they can win.

A 2004 CNS News article by Marc Morano relied on an anonymous source to accuse Edwards of using “junk science” in his legal arguments. To be sure, the anonymous source was also described in the article as “a political critic”. A 2001 Washington Monthly article by Joshua Green reminds,

… before running for Senate, Edwards had a team of doctors and nurses privately screen his record to make sure that no case he’d brought to trial could be considered frivolous: “When they got significantly into [their review], they decided he’d never come close to violating the standard.”

And this is the thing that worries the GOP. Green’s article quoted a GOP consultant, Charles Black, as saying, “Edwards has got a lot of Bill Clinton in him—without the ethical or moral problems.” Attacking Edwards’ greatest weakness, the fact that he has been a personal injury attorney, may well see conservatives raking the muck and demeaning children who suffered grievous injuries; even the purest conservative knows this would play about as well as a GOP Q&A barbecue with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the ghost of Saddam Hussein as the panel.

Indeed, I would have loved to see shades of the trial lawyer in 2004. I admit that Edwards was my pick then, and for the time is now. I would have delighted at the spectacle of Senator Edwards carving President Bush in the 2004 debates. But even with the likes of Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani in the race–or not, in Thompson’s case–very little about the GOP field suggests that any of the candidates have the proper combination of perspective and charisma to overcome a John Edwards performing under the ultimate spotlight.

It’s no wonder they want Hillary. They think they can beat her. They’ll take Obama; they believe they can outmaneuver him, expose his youthful weakness. But John Edwards just plain scares them; while they’ve been sharpening their knives over Hillary, the former Senator from North Carolina has been polishing his defense of his career.

They expect to be outgunned, outmaneuvered, and simply outclassed. Perhaps, if they pray hard enough, God will bless this country with a Democratic candidate they can slander mercilessly.