01 September 2007

John Edwards' Words

To say that my impression of John Edwards is low would not capture my true feelings. I’m continually shocked that he is considered a top-tier candidate for the Democrats when I read anything about him, let alone by him. After reading his essay in Foreign Affairs, I’m stricken with the sense that it doesn’t take a mastery of the English language to be a trial lawyer. His essay was poorly written, without focus and – as a piece designed, I assume, to inform the electorate on his point of view – telling of what his presidency might be like.

Mr. Edwards uses one word and one phrase continually throughout the essay. They are “reengage” and “moral leadership”. He also falls back on creating plans or programs which are “universal”. All of these are troublesome, as they must be as confused in his mind as they are in the essay.

The first thing that Mr. Edwards would have the reader believe is that there has been nearly universal (to borrow a term) disengagement by the Bush administration. This is evidenced by the eleven instances of the term “reengage” in the essay, not counting title lines. Mr. Edwards believes that we must, or more to the point, he would, reengage with the following: the world, “our tradition of moral leadership,” our history, our allies, the American people, the people of the world, and our military. His sometimes explicit claim coupled with reengagement is that President Bush has disengaged from all of these things. This attempts to paint the overall picture that an Edwards administration would lead the presidency out of the cave of self-absorbed do-nothingness in which it has been hidden for an unknown period of time (presumably since 9-11).

Obviously I believe that these “disengagements” that Mr. Edwards refers to are fictitious. They are his attempt to provide continuity to an essay which lacks substance and, indeed, focus. But his attempt to use President Bush as a vehicle to carry his essay falls well short because his reengagement statements aren’t convincing or even clear, for that matter.

For instance, Mr. Edwards says that we must reengage “with the world’s major powers.” He says that we must “get China to commit to the rules that govern the conduct of nations,” even though it has a “unique political system…with both authoritarian and free-market elements.” He glibly suggests that human rights is an issue (which ranks third behind trade and climate change), but authoritarianism is just fine. The reason: China is “heavily invested in our Treasury bonds.” In the very next paragraph, Mr. Edwards says that Russia is a “very different challenge” simply because it is reverting to more authoritarian rule. One wonders if Mr. Edwards would change his tune if Russia suddenly started buying T-bonds. Moral leadership?

And speaking of which, here’s a juxtaposition of ideas which are again just lines apart from each other. Mr. Edwards writes that we must turn away from “pursuing discredited ideological agendas” such as those which got us involved in Iraq (though he neglects to mention the nearly 13 years of direct involvement prior to 2003). Part of that “discredited ideology” is to build a functioning democracy in Iraq, as stated, if I remember correctly, many times before the formal invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the very next paragraph, though within a new section of the essay, Mr. Edwards claims that “we will face continuing challenges to our efforts to promote democracy.” Discredited ideology or moral leadership – it just depends on who is doing the leading.

As a random switch – for me, not Mr. Edwards – immediately after this previous quote I used, Mr. Edwards claims that, “a host of twenty-first-century developments from climate change to pandemics will likely impose additional stresses,” presumably to America’s moral leadership. These are not, in any way, twenty-first-century developments. Pandemics have come and gone throughout history. The climate did not begin to change with the advent of “global warming” (or “climate change” as it is now referred to). He says that we, America, must “act aggressively against this threat” of climate change…and then in the next sentence that “We should begin our reengagement with the world by bringing an end to the Iraq war.” Just to make sure that I don’t mislead anyone, he wants to withdraw almost all US troops, not win.

And now I realize that perhaps some of what I dislike about Mr. Edward’s essay is rubbing off on me. I’m beginning to ramble. So just one more note and things “universal.” “Global primary education” – Mr. Edwards wants it and wants to fund it. And he doesn’t mean within the US. He means global, literally. Never mind what countries would think about the US sticking its nose into classrooms around the world and what that would do to our image…it’s for the children, so everyone would understand. (Or we would fund without verification of how the money is used. “This Wahhabi madrassa brought to you by the US taxpayer.”) “Universal access to preventative drugs and treatment” for diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Again, Mr. Edwards means global – and aren’t there already agencies that hope to accomplish this? Does the federal government need to tackle this issue? What are all of those UN sub-projects and agencies (and the money they soak up) for? There are more instances, but the idea is that if there is a global, universal or comprehensive plan for a perceived problem then it must be the best solution, without question. Unintended consequences be damned!

Perhaps that’s enough on Mr. Edwards. I could go on and on, but I doubt it would have much effect. Those who support him, I believe, have imbibed of the kool-aid and see the light in his words. I haven’t, and it all reads like disjointed, uninspired sticky-notes of sound bites. No substance. It is, in that way, a reflection of Mr. Edwards himself.

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