Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Senator Cornpone Alert!

John Ellis says I'm Sensing Some Hostility
Ommmmmmmmmmm! Ellisblog suspects that Bob Shrum and Tad Devine and Tommy V. may not subscribe to the Ashram principles of Democratic presidential politics. Ellisblog suspects that the lads are already editing negative television commercials. The kind that might lead one to the conclusion that Senator Edwards is a hypocritical sleazeball. They better hurry up and get them on the air. Because Big Media is signing on with John Edwards in a big way.
The best thing about Edwards is his stock of pure cornpone. There's a lot of laughs right now about his story of the little girl without a coat:
In his stump speech about the "two Americas," he has repeatedly deplored the plight of the 35 million Americans below the poverty line by imagining a 10-year-old girl "somewhere in America" who goes to bed "praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm."

Last week, after Mr. Edwards introduced an imagined scenario of a worker whose factory was shutting down the very night of the speech, reporters on his plane jokingly asked if this new character was the father of the girl. Mr. Edwards laughed and replied, "You guys are bad."

To some critics of Mr. Edwards, a more serious question is whether the coatless girl is any more representative of America's poor than Mr. Reagan's Cadillac-driving welfare recipient. After all, clothing has become so cheap and plentiful (partly because of textile imports, which Mr. Edwards has proposed to limit) that there is a glut of second-hand clothing, and consequently most clothing donated to charity is shipped abroad. The second-hand children's coats that remain in America typically sell for about $5 in thrift shops.

"Edwards would do better to say there's a girl somewhere in America who's cold because her family can't afford to fix the furnace," said Robert E. Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, who has analyzed data from the Census Bureau and other agencies on the living standards of the poor. Since the typical American family below the poverty line has a car, air-conditioning, a microwave oven, a stereo and two color televisions with cable or satellite service, Mr. Rector said, it was implausible to assume the family could not afford coats.
Senator Cornpone needs to get with the modern age, but it's kind of hard to get teared up about the obese poor.

Mickey Kaus has more:
... stories of children without coats appeal to sentimental paleolibs, even though--as Edwards surely knows--the problem of U.S. poverty is not, by and large, a problem of this sort of abject material want. Poor housing, yes. Poor schools, yes. Bad neighborhoods with bad services, yes. Never-formed families, yes. Restricted contacts, horizons and opportunities, yes. No coats, no. ...

And am I the only one who finds Edwards' award-winning spiel--about unemployed workers with "that vacant look, 'What do I do now?'" because "this is what they have done their entire lives and they know nothing else"--a bit condescending? Are these people or sheep? I mean, most Americans these days know there is a risk of unemployment and recession as the economy stumbles forward and that they need to be prepared to switch jobs. This isn't 1955. Shouldn't Edwards be "optimistic" enough to convince voters that these difficulties can be surmounted even as he pledges to help if he's president? ... Does Edwards, as a former plaintiff's lawyer, spend too much time finding victims? (Don't blame him. It's what he's done his entire life and he knows nothing else!) ...
And he's mighty good at it! Sniff!