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January 15, 2007

John Edwards: Silence is betrayal

Presidential hopeful John Edwards addressed the Riverside Church on King Commemoration Day, yesterday.

Edwards spoke about King's work as a defender of the poor and a critic of the Vietnam war. He went on to draw parallels between King's anti-war activism and opposition to the Iraq war today.

I was hoping that Edwards would "out-peace" Hillary in her own backyard, so to speak. And that's pretty much what he did.

His theme: "Silence is betrayal", a phrase borrowed from Martin Luther King's war criticism.

Edwards' main target was the escalation, as opposed to the initial invasion or the ongoing occupation. However, he said bluntly that military victory in Iraq is impossible and that the political solution depends on the U.S. starting to leave.

A heckler near the front pointed out that Edwards had voted for the war that he was now denouncing. Edwards acknowledged his error and said he took full responsibility for his mistake. The crowd applauded.

I found myself wondering what it means for Edwards to take "full responsibility" unless he explains what he's taking responsibility for. Aren't all senators assumed to be fully responsible for their votes? I'd be more impressed if he said that he took full responsibility for being duped or for making a political decision or whatever lapse Edwards thinks he made.

In the next few months, we're going to hear a lot of people back away from their war votes. There will be calls to write off the past and focus exclusively on who's best-qualified to solve the present problems.

We will hear expressions of regret and maybe even remorse. Sincere repentance is important, but it's not the same as absolution.

What really matters is whether a candidate has identified the weaknesses that contributed to their own catastrophic error and worked to correct them.

Edwards has come a long way in the last four years. He's not afraid to use words like "poverty" and to talk about the millions of Americans who might literally have to beg for health care for a sick child. His rhetoric has a new edge and a new urgency that I didn't hear in 2004. It's one thing to lament the fact that ordinary Americans are losing opportunities or jobs. It's a whole different level to point out what, until recently has been taboo: There are classes in America, including the poor, and that poor people in America can't afford the basic preconditions for a decent life like health care, a living wage, and enough education to get ahead, and that we should all be ashamed of this fact.

I want to believe that Edwards has changed since he voted for the war. I want to trust that he won't get fooled again, but I need to know more about how he's changed and why.


Here's Edwards' op-ed from Nov 2005 in which he apologized for his vote and called for withdrawal, beginning now. (As in, beginning Nov 2005)

In it, he says, "The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war."

However, he also apologizes and takes responsibility. I think that he's implying that there was a larger error than the misleading intelligence, that foreign policy should be conducted differently.

While Edwards has not laid out a comprehensive foreign policy - he is, though, the only credible Democrat in the race who wants withdrawal to begin today, not after several Friedman units - he has talked quite a bit about fighting global poverty, and the possibilities for good, and for restoring America's image in the world, available if we take on that challenge. I think Edwards is saying both that he was misled and that the war was bad for deeper reasons.

I don't know that I need to hear much about this. The truthful answer for most legislators or former legislators who authorized the invasion is almost certainly that it was a political move. They didn't foresee what might happen in Iraq and probably didn't make much effort to foresee it. The fact on the ground relevant to them was that if they opposed the invasion, they would - for at least the immediate future - become radioactive to the mainstream political news organizations, and they'd suffer for it politically. Edwards wanted to run for president the next year, and took the action most likely to enable that.

I don't really see how there's any answer he could give that would be truthful, plausible, and not damaging. I'm inclined to support someone who was right from the start, but I don't need to see anyone do somersaults to try to find the least-damning narrative for their own earlier wrongness. It seems like it'd make Democrats as a whole look bad. I'd rather people just say they were wrong, say they take responsibility, and move on.

I want candidates who were tricked to come out and assert that there was outright fraud in pre-war intelligence. It's exculpatory for them, and it's an acknowledgment of one of the greatest crimes in modern times (and an implicit promise to investigate and punish the criminals).

I don't see how it can hurt the Democrats to use the f-word: "Fraud." Especially if they all do and tie it into Congress's drive for investigations. Presidential candidates and Congress should be playing off each other to justifiably undermine public confidence in the administration and its approach to national security.

We'll never get out of Iraq until people see it for what it is: A con job that never should have happened, not some noble but difficult mission.

Edwards is not afraid to use the word poverty, which is why he left his brand-new 10,700 foot mansion around Christmastime to use the ninth ward of New Orleans as a photo op when speaking wanna be President words.

This is one clever operator, believe you me. He is a master malipulator who was at no time manipulated. You can't bullshit a courtroom bullshitter and all that.

His vote was based on persuasion from the White House and the hawks yes, but all of it was based on the same intelligence that Bush saw, that Hillary saw, that the French and Israelis and Brits saw etc.

You probably have a winning hand by criticizing Bush on the decision to go to war, on the execution of the war, on all kinds of judgement and performance issues on it and other things.

But it goes one step too far to allege intelligence fraud. Before you say that, you'd best come up with the reason why all the other countries were fooled also.

The truth's bad enough. No need to make things up.

I can see how it might hurt Edwards to use the f-word himself. The Republican paradigm has generally been to let surrogates and legislative branch members make the most direct allegations, while the executive-branch leadership takes a "well, I can see why people would say that" type of noncommittal stance.

I also don't really see the administration's deceptive overstatement, misstatement, and mischaracterization as adequately exculpatory (or exculpatory-seeming) for two reasons. First of all, I think that the war would likely have been a mistake even if the truth had been at least somewhat closer to the administration's representations. The biggest mistake of the war wasn't overestimating the threat of the Iraqi regime, it was ignoring the real post-invasion risks we faced. Second, Edwards' and others' failure was largely a failure to be skeptical and look at all the holes that were already out there to be found. Blaming it all on deception makes it look like congressional Democrats were lazy and/or happy to avoid responsibility for invading or opposing invasion.

And apparently Phantom believes that you have to either be poor or refuse to be concerned with poverty. How convenient that under that conception, everyone who is allowed to be concerned with poverty is locked out of the upper echelons of the political process.

--And apparently Phantom believes that you have to either be poor or refuse to be concerned with poverty.--

No, I'm just enjoying the show. You'd think that man might want to make the announcement in his town or in front of his house.

But his house and grounds is so embarrassingly vast--not by Teresa Heinz Kerry standards, but vast by the standards of anyone reading this-- Edwards hopped the private jet to the Ninth Ward. Maybe he wrote a few notes on global warming while the jet guzzled hundreds of gallons of fuel. You can NOT make this shit up!

BTW, I expect to be in New Orleans in late April/early May. If there is anyone who will be there who would care to discuss things, please send me a note.

"I was defrauded" is the slogan of the weak President, who will let his advisors walk all over him the way Reagan did.

In it, he says, "The information the American people were hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war."

And in it, he also subtly disses people who knew all along that Saddam had no WMD. It sounds like "Given what I knew at the time, I voted for the war, while you hippies opposed it with your grand ideas of telling the people the truth and not killing civilians for no reason."

No, 'I was defrauded" is what you say when you're sadder but wiser.

"I was defrauded" is probably the truth about a junior post-9/11 senator who still had some faith in the president and his administration. When you're a senator or a citizen, you can't do all your own investigative work. The system only functions when there's some commitment to truth from the president and the intelligence community.

Phantom, what kind of logic is that? Because you're rich you can't care about poor people? That's just incoherent. a) Edwards came from a modest background and made his own money, as you say, defending people who had been hurt by corporations. b) So what? Edwards has made enough money to run for office. He didn't do it by screwing shareholders or accepting government contract charity. He did it, essentially, by hustling as a freelancer.

What does that have to do with being sincere about alleviating poverty? This is a bizarre Republican talking point written by, and directed towards people who don't give a damn poverty. And people keep repeating it like it makes sense.

Edwards isn't saying that nobody should be allowed to accumulate a modest fortune through their own enterprise. He's just saying that people who are already doing well enough to have everything they need, and a lot of things they want, should pay their own way compared to people who have to beg for amoxicillin for their sick kids. How fucking hard is that? Even if Edwards gave his entire fortune away, it wouldn't solve the health care problems of one block in Brooklyn, or one town in North Carolina.

I think if he had said he was responsible for being duped, it would be to say he did not take responsibility at all.

I think it's often fair to say, "I wasn't as critical as I should have been, and therefore someone took advantage of my credulity. So, to the extent I was making decisions on behalf of other people, I apologize for not being more circumspect."

Apologizing for your part in a debacle doesn't necessarily imply that you were wholly responsible for what went wrong.

>What does that have to do with being sincere about alleviating poverty?

Not to mention, of course, that we would wonder where that leaves the pampered Yale legacy Republican scion of an east-coast, Ivy League Yale legacy from a prosperous banking family, name of Bush. Is he doing better because he neglects to help the poor, say, when they're drowning in New Orleans?

Be sure to mention as often as possible, when you're in New Orleans, that you proudly supported Bush and his FEMA against unfair attacks against his handling of Katrina, vis-a-vis New Orleans' poor. See what the poor down there have to say about that. Perhaps you'll be surprised. That, or I will.

Phantom, what kind of logic is that?

It's "Phantom Logic". Otherwise known as the theory of "This is the most inflammatory and contrarian thing I can think of at the moment, therefore it is right."

George Romney, former auto executive and politician, was running for the GOP Presidential nomination in 1967 and took a State Dept./DOD "fact finding" trip to Vietnam. When he returned he said he had been "brainwashed" about the war, and which he was therefore opposing, as a candidate. That remark was used by his opponents, and the media of the day, to strangle his candidacy. There has been a reluctance on the part of Presidential candidates ever since to admissions of having been duped, in any way. "Fooled me once, uh..."


It is a Republican talking point, but a delicious one.

Thinking of past Presidents- LBJ at his ranch, JFK at Hyannisport, Reagan at his ranch, poor Carter in Plains, even Bush in the badlands of Crawford, all these guys often invited you into their home. It was part of them.

I get the sense that this guy is a little embarrassed about his mansion. You haven't seen the press traipse through it, nor probably will you.

You must admit that there is some humor in a man of this wealth, this luxury, leaving the just built mansion to travel by jet to the Ninth Ward. The photo op wouldn't have been the same at the NC mansion.

I loathe most politicians, and find it intriguing that so many of the Democratic heroes are if anything far richer than the "Rethugs" we're all supposed to hate.


All polls over the years have shown trial lawyers at the bottom of the pile in the esteem of the American public. And I think that the American public is right on this.

Sometimes these privateers get justice to an aggrieved party vicimtized by a corporation.

At other times, as with breast implants, they get an immense verdict where later scientific proof shows zero connection between the product the injuries that were alleged in court. Major corporations went bankrupt over this, workers lost their jobs, but no biggie-the lawyers got paid, and are still members in good standing of the bar association.

At all times, excessive and often (certainly not always) frivoluous litigation lead to a "tort tax" that drives product costs up, and drives jobs out of particularly onerous juristictions in the US.

So, yes, trial lawyers help produce justice at times, but they help produce manifest injustice many other times, through manipulation and abuse of the legal system.

This isn't exactly news. To anyone.

--you proudly supported Bush and his FEMA against unfair attacks against his handling of Katrina, vis-a-vis New Orleans' poor--

The meds are wearing off. Please have the prescription refilled.

I did no such thing. I have however pointed out the obvious--

that the gross incompetence of Nagin and Blanco made problems a billion times worse

that gross corruption in Lousiana was and remains a problem that needed to be dealt with (something that anyone from Louisiana will freely discuss)

that the lowest-lying areas of New Orleans probably should never be rebuilt, for reasons that are beyond obvious

The Phantom -

Your "tort tax" is a fraud.

The opportunity for civil justice cause companies to practice more safety, which saves society money.

--Your "tort tax" is a fraud.--

That is a falsehood. There is a big difference in the price of ladders in the US as opposed to any other country. Tell me why.

How can it be a fraud if, as in the case of breast implants, immense verdicts are paid on completly bogus claims? Besides the fact that it bankrupted large companies and threw workers on the street, the ( newly legal once again ) breast implants will cost vastly more in the US than in any other country. Why do you think that is?

There is a tort tax, that hurts us all, and John Edwards and the other ambulance chasers are its cause.

When Edwards voted to go to war it was simply because at that time he thought it was the best way to further his own ambitions. His stance now has the same rationale. Wake up and smell the stench called politics.

The Phantom-

Firstly, the price of ladders is more here than where exactly?

Regarding silicone breast implants, they do leak and cause health problems. I'm glad some women who suffered health problems received compensation and I disagree with the recent FDA decision to allow them to be sold, again.

Ladders disproportionately more expensive here than in Canada or Europe

Here is one quick reference to something dealing with the matter of tort tax and ladders.

The major allegation on Breast Implants was that they caused breast cancer, lupus etc. It was all lies. There is zero science to these charges. The lawyers who brought these cases should have been disbarred.

Breast implants are safe, which is why other countries never banned them. Other countries have more logical legal systems where you can't get compensated unless you really suffer an injury.

Not to beat this to death, but this is another article on tort tax on ladders.

This is only one industry, but it indicates what happens to those who manufacture --or buy-- products from a vast number of product lines--football helmets, other sports gear, swimming pools, bicycles, boats, cars, nearly anything you can think of.

Tort tax is passed on to all consumers. How could it not be?

Did you ever consider Phantom that both Western Europe have vastly superior health care and social welfare programs available. If I fall off a shoddily built ladder there I can be sure of recieving treatment as well as a fincial support if the injuries were to leave me incapacitated and unable to work. In this country I'd be SOL if I couldn't afford the proper insurance. (Note this is just a riff on your inane example, one could easily come up with more salient examples).

I know it is a conservative tactic to look at everything in isolation but seriously your not fooling anyone.


The point about the more comprehensive health care is accurate.

But you do not address the very real example I have provided of a $1 billion plus case where there was NO INJURY as per what was alleged.

And many of the large US verdicts have little to do with direct medical costs or lost wages.

Punitive damages, as it works here, is a concept that is unique to the US. It has nothing to do with medical costs or loss of income, yet it is a very major driver of the tort costs here.

US tort verdicts work as a kind of a lottery. Economic and social justice or remediation of wrongs are only a part of it. Its a broken system, and the John Edwards' of this nation like it that way.

The Phantom -

What page of that PDF discusses ladders?

Anyway, my point isn't that liability insurance doesn't get passed on, but that it's cheaper for society if an auto manufacturer buys liability insurance and makes safer products than for people to die in SUVs which roll over.

Wow, if a totally unbiased publication like Forbes is saying that tort law is out of control then it must be totally true!

If you don't like your state's tort law, elect legislators who will change it. It's not constitutional law - you can change it any time. I don't see why it's Edwards' fault that you've done a shitty job of mobilizing for your preferred political outcomes.

Hilariously, from the article Phantom links but apparently didn't read:

The irony here is that Tilley wasn't even sued all that much. Claims asserting defects in construction averaged only one a year and were usually settled by exchanging a customer's ladder for a new one, according to Robert G. Howland, whose great-great-grandfather John Tilley founded the company. And Howland says the company never lost any of the few cases that went to trial over the years .

"We could see the handwriting on the wall and just want to end this whole thing," says Howland.

I'm sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that mom-and-pop ladder manufacturer isn't exactly the most reliable business model for the twenty-first century. It was that damn writing on the wall! Even the Forbes people admit that the company was being horned out of the marketplace by larger transnational competitors.

Notice also that they illustrate his supposedly skyrocketing rates by percentage-of-sales, rather than fixed numbers. That certainly would yield a high rate of increase - if your sales were steadily declining. You'd be paying to insure against liability for your already-sold units without dwindling sales against which to count the premiums. If I sold a thousand ladders in 2005, and ten in 2006, and wanted liability insurance, that insurance could cost over 100% of my 2006 sales. That's because I ran a shitty business, not because there's anything wrong with the liability system.

Last I checked, I can still buy ladders, and cheaper than this guy was willing to sell them to me. Forgive me for not fainting with concern.

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