Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of
the CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial
board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety
of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
[go to Liebau index]
Is Edwards really a good pick for Kerry?
Platt Liebau] 7/6//04
that a presidential candidate selects a vice president to provide
balance -- whether in terms of geography, experience,
or area of expertise. By selecting John Edwards as his running
mate, John Kerry has decided to balance his ticket for likability.
Edwards undoubtedly brings a spark of youthful enthusiasm to
a presidential candidate who often seems pretentious, self-regarding
and tiresome. He seems young, attractive and affable.
As for geographical
balance, he is, of course, from the South, but Edwards declined
to run for a second senatorial term in large
part because it seemed clear that he could not win reelection.
Nor is the ticket balanced ideologically -- though Edwards has
enjoyed a reputation as a "moderate," upon closer scrutiny,
his voting record for the most part is reliably liberal.
His experience in the Senate has been minimal -- contradicting
Kerry's oft-stated assertion that, in choosing a vice president,
his chief criterion would be the nominee's preparedness to assume
office immediately in an emergency. During the primary, Kerry
himself criticized Edwards' lack of experience. And in fact,
Edwards' record in elective office is significantly weaker than
that of the oft-maligned Dan Quayle -- who had served two terms
in the House of Representatives and then seven years in the Senate
(where he had defeated Indiana institution Sen. Birch Bayh).
Where Quayle had enjoyed a reputation as someone with significant
knowledge about defense issues (at least before the national
press got through with him!) and worked with Senator Edward Kennedy
to pass the Jobs Training Partnership Act while in the Senate,
Edwards has not become associated with any important piece of
legislation or policy.
Nor does Edwards bring any background in the executive branch
of government to the ticket. So neither Edwards nor Kerry has
any experience in making the tough decisions that leading as
an executive (like a governor) -- rather than as one of 100 senators
-- often requires.
But there's no denying
that Edwards was the hands-down choice of the Democratic party
faithful. It has been reported that Kerry
lacks the personal chemistry with Edwards that he enjoys with
Dick Gephardt, for example. One must wonder whether Kerry's choice
of Edwards actually betokens a lack of confidence in his ability
to reconcile his own followers to another choice -- an example,
in short, of a "leader" actually being led by his constituents.
Finally, there is a decided downside for Kerry in the Edwards
pick -- one that may not be immediately apparent but which will
become so, over time. That is Edwards' history as a trial lawyer,
which will almost certainly galvanize big business and pro-business
institutions to -- quietly but firmly -- support Bush-Cheney
with much more fervor than they might otherwise have demonstrated.
In fact, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated back
in February that the Chamber would become involved in presidential
politics for the first time -- to endorse President Bush -- if
Edwards appeared on the Democratic ticket. Business' antipathy
to trial lawyers generally may also impact both parties' fundraising
-- providing a boost to Bush and presenting some problems for
Kerry. And it will once again play into fears that Kerry, deemed
the most liberal member of the Senate, is merely a throwback
to pre-Clinton Democrats with a knee-jerk hostility to business
It seems likely that Kerry-Edwards will receive a bump in the
polls at least initially from this pick. Whether it will wear
well over time is a different story -- my sense is that Edwards
may have more political enemies (even among his fellow senators,
jealous of his easy, immediate success) than the Kerry campaign
has currently counted on.
Who would have been a better choice? Senator
Evan Bayh of Indiana.
He would have provided a Midwestern flavor to the ticket; has
served as both a governor and a senator; has good relationships
with the business community; might well have brought Indiana
(generally a reliably Republican state) into the Democratic column
and -- above all -- would have given the Kerry ticket a real
leg up in the vital neighboring state of Ohio. Like Edwards,
Evan Bayh would have come across as a moderate, young, articulate,
attractive and experienced candidate.
But Edwards is the choice -- and time alone will tell whether
it was inspired or mistaken. CRO
Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and
CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial director based in San Marino,