Are Media Out to Get John Edwards?
Are Media Out to Get John Edwards?
Give me a break about John Edwards' pricey haircut, mansion, lecture fees and the rest. The focus on these topics tells us two things about corporate media. One we've long known - that they elevate personal stuff above issues. The other is now becoming clear - that they have a special animosity toward Edwards.
Is it hypocritical for the former Senator to base a presidential campaign on alleviating poverty while building himself a sprawling mansion? Perhaps. But isn't that preferable to all the millionaire candidates who neither talk about nor care about the poor? Elite media seem more comfortable with millionaire politicians who identify with their class - and half of all
Trust me when I say I don't know many millionaires. Of course I don't know many presidential candidates either (except my friend Dennis Kucinich, whose net worth in 2004 was reported to be below $32,000.)
But I'm growing quite suspicious about the media barrage against Edwards, who got his wealth as a trial lawyer suing hospitals and corporations. Among "top-tier" presidential candidates, Edwards is alone in convincingly criticizing corporate-drafted trade treaties and talking about workers' rights and the poor and higher taxes on the rich. He's the candidate who set up a university research center on poverty. Of the front-runners in presidential polls, he's pushing the hardest to withdraw from
Given a national media elite that worships "free trade" and disparages Democrats for catering to "extremists" like MoveOn.org on
Nor should it surprise us that we've been shown aerial pictures of Edwards' mansion in
Or that a snob like Brit Hume of Fox News is chortling: "What Would Jesus Do With John Edwards' Mansion?"
Or that we've heard so much about Edwards' connection to
Or that Juan Williams and NPR this weekend teed off on Edwards for saying he's "so concerned about poverty" while pocketing hedge fund profits and $55,000 for a lecture at
You see, those other pols aren't hypocrites: They don't lecture about poverty.
What's really behind the media animus toward Edwards is his "all-out courting of the liberal left-wing base" (ABC News) or his "looking for some steam from the left" (CNN).
One of the wise men of mainstream punditry, Stuart Rothenberg, said it clearest in a Roll Call column complaining of Edwards' "class warfare message" and his "seeming insatiable desire to run to the left"; the column pointed fingers of blame at Edwards' progressive campaign co-chair David Bonior; consultant Joe Trippi; groups like Democrats.com and Democracy for America; and a bring-our-troops-home message "imitating either Jimmy Stewart or
Leave it to Fox's Bill O'Reilly to take the mainstream current over the cliff - bellowing Tuesday that Edwards has "sold his soul to the far left... MoveOn's running him... His support on the Internet is coming from the far left, which is telling him what to do."
What seems to worry pundits - whether centrist or rightist - is that Edwards is leading in polls in
Indeed, current media coverage of Edwards bears an eerie resemblance to the scary reporting on the Democratic frontrunner four years ago, Howard Dean. If Edwards is still ahead as the
Today, elite media are doing their best to raise Edwards' unfavorable rating. But the independent media and the Netroots are four years stronger - and have more clout vis-a-vis corporate media -- than during Dean's rise and fall.
And it's hard for mainstream pundits to paint Edwards as "unelectable." Polls suggest he has wide appeal to non-liberals and swing voters.
After years of pontificating about how Southern white candidates are the most electable Democrats for president, it'd be ironic for even nimble Beltway pundits to flip-flop and declare that this particular white Southerner is a bad bet simply because he talks about class issues.