“My Guy”, John Edwards.

It’s tough denying stuff you were imprudent enough to put in writing. But yeah, John Edwards was “my guy” heading toward the ’08 election. This would be the same John Edwards now widely despised as the most loutish, disreputable bastard this side of Silvio Berlusconi. And that would be without the public farce and fun of all those “bunga bunga” stories.

A recent poll puts Edwards’ favorability ratings in North Carolina at 3%. Dick Cheney could do better than that … in southwest Minneapolis. So the verdict — before the verdict — is in. John Edwards is one rat bastard, and he was “my guy”, for a while.

Why? Because I, way over here in Minnesota, responded to his message. The one about the “Two Americas”, the ultra rich and everyone else, and how this sort of thing is a recipe for disaster, kind of like we saw in the fall of 2008. And, based on his years as a cutthroat trial lawyer, I was convinced that Edwards was exactly the sort of guy to make relentless effective war on the power grid supporting not just the George Bush-Dick Cheney kleptocracy, but other retrograde movements as well, (like America’s health insurance monopolies.)  I didn’t see Barack Obama has having quite the same jones for “total victory”, if you know what I mean.

Watching Edwards’ trial from afar you can see why “West Wing” creator, Aaron Sorkin, optioned Edwards’ staffer, Andrew Young’s book, “The Politician”, for a possible movie. I mean, good lord, skip central casting and sign up the reality cast. The nearly hundred year old millionairess, the Texas lawyer/political operator, the woozifyingly ditsy “other woman”, the publicly admirable disrespected wife, the sycophantic aide … its American politics at its tumescent, ego-tripping, self-indulgent best.

Not being world-class legal scholar, I can’t offer summary judgment on the merits of the case against Edwards, other than to say that if the intent is to inject criminality — and the possibility of criminal justice — into this country’s obscene campaign finance industry, I hope Edwards goes down like a fireball from deep space. The most coherent legal thinking on the Edwards case suggests that the prosecution may very well have overreached by pressing this matter as a criminal, not civil offense. (Their strategic thinking, likely colored by their own deep political animus toward Edwards, being that the guy is so loathed in North Carolina no jury will acquit him, regardless of the byzantine explanations of what money is “personal” and what is “campaign-related”.)

If convicted, Edwards will certainly appeal, and — here’s where it starts to get entertaining (again) — his kiting of the aged heiress’s money can and should be compared to and placed in the context of how the current system works, post-Citizens United. (With a Super PAC, Edwards would be in far less trouble today.) Point being, I would be very much amused to watch an Edwards conviction, based on a precedent-setting notion of “criminality”, move toward our self-debasing Supreme Court, which is watching its favorability numbers slump into Edwards-Cheney territory as a consequence of its novel interpretation of “individual”.

That aside, my other takeaway from my infatuation with John Edwards is to remind myself of how little any of us, other than the deepest of insiders, really ever knows about the characters we get all excited over, like our favorite sports team, and in whom we project no end of impossible nobility.

I had a two-minute conversation with Edwards in the spin-room after a ’08 Iowa debate. My question was how exactly he intended to pull billions of dollars of profits away from the iron-grip of UnitedHealths of the world in his pursuit of a (fair and sane) single-payer system? As he explained that the key was focused, persistent White House leadership I, being a particularly deep kind of guy, was remarking to myself that the suit he was wearing looked like something off a Macy’s rack, and his shoes, thick-soled, great-for-standing, New Balance dress sneakers were heavily scuffed and worn. It occurred to me then he might be over-playing the common man shtick.

But what do any of us really know about any of these people? We can read their (ghost-written) biographies — although Obama actually wrote his. We can watch their public statements, their votes, gauge their reactions to criticism, shake their hand if they come to town, have our picture taken with them if we give them enough money, process the platitudes from their friends and the invective from their enemies. But really, politics is a highly developed tactical charade designed to produce a distorted picture. If the press were more aggressive we might see something closer to reality, and in fairness, the composite from multiple reporters gets us closer. But the press isn’t in the business of making conclusive judgments about a candidate’s private character. Too speculative, not to mention instantaneously source-burning. Always best to stick with campaign strategies; Effective or not?

Bottom line: The best public service “my guy” John Edwards could perform today is to take a criminal conviction in his North Carolina campaign fraud trial higher and higher up the ladder, with the intent of demonstrating that not only was his sin trivial in comparison to what the Supreme Court has legalized, but that full transparency (currently being avoided post Citizens United) should be imposed on money as well as sex.

Screw the Weiner. Give Me a Real Scandal!

I believe I’ve mentioned that going into the last presidential election cycle I was a big fan of John Edwards. As campaign messages go I thought that his “Two Americas” bit was dead on and very saleable. (And it still is, maybe more than ever.) Plus,I assumed that after his ’04 run with John Kerry he was fully geared for the absurdities of the campaign trail … and, frankly, I thought what the Democrats needed was a slick, smart trial lawyer to counter-attack the usual Karl Rove-style selective outrage crap. Also, I figured he might do okay with the female vote.

Lately I’ve also admired the work of Anthony Weiner. In a world of sawdust dull Harry Reids, Henry Waxmans and, well, John Kerrys, I saw some value in a guy who was both on target legislatively and politically and could deliver a steady stream smart bombs on GOP hypocrisies with a satirist’s wit. (Hence the voracity with which he’s being gutted.)

So, in the realm of understatement, last week was a tough one, what with Edwards indicted for kiting campaign money into the care and keeping of his astral-crystal lover mama and Weiner exposed as — what else do you call it? an utter, compulsive idiot — for cyber sexting female fans. Right now I can’t remember where I read or heard someone who knew Edwards pre-’04 talking about the “astonishing transformation” that came over the guy after he got a killer dose of the idolatry that comes from intense public exposure .,.. in a fevered partisan environment. . The phrase “down to earth” was even used. If Anthony Weiner has undergone something of the same, I don’t know, except of course that Jon Stewart considers him a friend and Stewart doesn’t strike me as a guy who readily embraces wanton douche bags.

But this latest … epic scandal, a mostly obscure congressman from Queens/Brooklyn flirting with women to whom he is not married, but as far as we know not breaking any laws … got me thinking again on the Republicans’ singular failure over the past three years. Namely, the inability to hang anything … anything … on Barack Obama. And by “anything” I mean some kind of sexual scandalpalooza. Something titanic. Like, you know,  Paula Jones via the earth-shaking Whitewater real estate deal. What could possibly give? Even if Obama has managed to keep his pants zipped and his fingers off his Blackberry camera all of his career, the likes of Andrew Breitbart should have made something up by now. The Presidential equivalent of a Shirley Sherrod moment. Get video of Obama with Mrs. Sarkozy, Carla Bruni, feed it back and forth through an Avid editing deck and voila! insinuation of scandal and a news cycle dominating story that knocks the Paul Ryan budget debacle, and the looming establishment GOP v. Tea Party crusaders brawl deep into the background.

The book “Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heileman, (soon to be a major movie), was a great read for all the head-slapping bungling, back-stabbing, second-guessing, desperation and craven-ness of everyone on the ’08 campaign trail … except Obama. Point being again, we elected the right guy in terms of someone fully committed to doing the job he was elected to do, and considering the quality of the candidates the Republicans have been swooning over, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and our own “courageous”, budget-balancing choirboy, Tim Pawlenty, he should get elected again.

But now I am wondering, what with the string of all the anti-gay Republicans caught flagrante delicta with male hookers (and worse), Nev. Sen. John Ensign’s “C” Street Bible Study Group/hot chick clearing house, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edwards and Weiner how much the public really cares anymore about the sexual compulsions of influential men swamped with constant, easy access to “somethin’ somethin'” on the side? How soon does this kind of … historically routine … behavior hit the tipping point equivalent  of having smoked a few joints in college? The point where you just can’t care that much … about something that matters so little to you?

If I were to advise Weiner on a career path, I’d suggest he follow Eliot Spitzer’s lead and move to better paying job with a bigger megaphone for attacking the real scandals of our age … the stuff that actually does matter, a hell of a lot, to everyone whether they’re being reminded of it hourly by the mainstream press or not.

Do I have to remind you that as of this date not one key person involved Wall Street’s world economic collapse home mortgage derivatives scandal, (a real scandal, albeit one lacking any naked pictures), has yet gone to jail, and the government is being successfully stymied in pressing indictments against Goldman Sachs for what appear to be beyond flagrant acts of fraud? Weiner on cable news could for example get New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin (author of “Too Big to Fail”) on with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi to discuss their competing views of the veracity/duplicity of Goldman, Sachs’ management team. (Sorkin’s Tuesday column is essentially a public response to Taibbi’s piece of May 10, and here Taibbi responds to Sorkin.)

It ain’t exactly beefcake on Twitter, but I for one am a lot more taken with the gravity of that scandal than this latest Tale of the Weiner.

Order Yours Today…

We seem to be thinking about commerce and scams today here at the Crowd.  I recently ordered some campaign material from the on-line store of one of the candidates (guess) and was struck by how campaigns have turned what used to be an expense – buttons, yardsigns, etc – into a revenue source.

In the spirit of the American tradition of finding a way to make a buck off of anything, let me contribute parts 1-3 of Garry Trudeau’s take on the Sarah Palin phenomenon.  And, yes, there’s a link to where you can get yours today:

Continue reading “Order Yours Today…”