Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Time for a Trial Lawyer in the White House?

With a few alterations to make it anonymous, shown below is an email I sent to a person writing on a listserve I subscribe to, describing my thoughts on John Edwards' campaign compared to Barack Obama's. I don't doubt that the poster, who stated his earnest belief that Obama has something intangible that Edwards does not, genuinely believes this and believes in Obama. I'm just pointing out my frustration with Obama's criticizing Edwards for being a "trial lawyer" and making the mistake Bob Kerrey did a couple weeks ago when he inaccurately described Obama as attending a "madrasa:" repeating a right wing talking point that will come back to haunt you later, in the general election. Anyway, here it is:

"It may be true that Obama speaks with fire and faith and shows an "ability to move a nation” with his charisma, but could he learn something from Edwards?

I agree with you that Obama is passionate and charismatic, but if he tells
voters that the best proof of his commitment to public service is that he
“didn’t become a trial lawyer” will he truly challenge corporations?

In other words, if you already adopt the language and stereotypes of the
corporately-funded “tort reform” crowd, will you stand up to them once you’re in

I think Obama is an amazing candidate, but can’t figure out why he’d attack
Edwards this way. Perhaps it’s just a ploy to win, but if he eventually does
win, wouldn’t Edwards be a great running mate?

In short, while Obama’s Iowa victory is an amazing event, isn’t it also amazing
that a trial lawyer, who was outspent 3 to 1 by both Hillary and Obama, and who
refused to accept any PAC or corporate cash, got 30% of the Iowa vote, coming in

It looks to me like the country is ready for “sweeping social change” but that
Obama still thinks, like a lot of Democrats, that you have to attack your own
constituencies to win.

While Obama is exciting, I still think only Edwards is saying what truly needs
to be said and having a great effect, win or lose. In fact, Danny Glover
stumped convincingly for him on Democracy Now a couple days ago, presumably
because Edwards said things like this:

- And this is what I see in America today. I see an America where last year the
CEO of one of the largest health insurance companies in America made hundreds of
millions of dollars in one year.
- I see an America where ExxonMobil’s profits were $40 billion just a couple of
years ago. . .
- All of that happening at the same time this picture of America emerges.
- Tonight, forty-seven million Americans will go to bed knowing that if their
child gets sick, they’ll have to go to the emergency room and beg for
- Thirty-five million people in America went hungry last year in the richest
nation on the planet.
- And tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served
this country courageously, as veterans, will go to sleep under bridges and on

I think Obama’s win shows an appetite for “sweeping change” but wish he’d talk
more about the numbers, and the people behind them, that Edwards courageously
talks about.

Maybe then I’d have more of his favorite word, “hope,” that he will push to
change the hold corporations have on our lives, laws, political parties, and our
justice system.

If you can’t even accurately describe the problem, and have to resort calling
the guy who does a "greedy trial lawyer," will you really address the corrupting
influence of corporate power once you get in office, having gotten there with
both charisma and corporate cash?"

Oh yeah, I wrote this yesterday, when the conventional wisdom was that Obama's nomination was inevitable. I guess that's why they play the games: the pundits often get it wrong.

What do you think?

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