Thursday, February 14, 2008

Edwards Should Follow His Heart, Not His Ego

Editorial | Edwards should follow his heart, not his ego, as he prepares to endorse, 2/14/o8, Op-ED

Love is a very fickle emotion. During most of the 2008 presidential primaries, former Sen. John Edwards was cordial, even affectionate towards Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). It was assumed that the eventual backing of Obama by Edwards was a virtual certainty.

But the enthusiastic endorsement that once seemed a sure thing has recently become a question of if, not when. Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) aggressive courtship of Edwards seems to have made him forget that he spent most of the campaign calling her a "corporate Democrat" and the defender of a corrupt system. He even refused to commit to backing her if she were to become the Democratic nominee.

By his own admission, he is now "torn" between the candidates; in re-examining both, he says, he is attracted not only to Clinton's policy portfolio but also to her long track record as a first lady and as a senator - a record that he used to say made her part of the problem.

What could possibly have changed Edwards' mind?

In an article by ABC News, aides and associates of Edwards stated that the senator "does not want to back a losing candidate and neither does he want to join a bandwagon." In addition, he knows that a Clinton endorsement would carry the most weight, "since it would be more unexpected and would provide a jolt of energy to a campaign that is suffering a rough patch."

Well, he could just decline to endorse, right? Not this guy. Edwards is eager to play a prominent role in the nomination fight and is "mindful that his backing would only carry weight if it comes relatively quickly - before the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, which could effectively settle the nomination fight," the ABC article said. The speculation is that an endorsement from Edwards could be rewarded with the post of attorney general in a Democratic administration.

So the populist former senator who declared that he would never sell out the have-nots of America is basing his endorsement on how much media attention and power he could gain for himself; that is, how to get the most bang for his endorsement buck. For those Americans who supported (or just plain liked) Edwards, this comes as a particularly painful blow because it seems to expose him as the preening, unscrupulous opportunist that all his foes have said he is.

Of course, he has not sold out yet, and he may not. But here is something he should keep in mind as he weighs his decision: It is not an appealing thought for most Americans that the person in charge of our legal system would start every case by asking, "What's in it for me?"

Why would Americans want an attorney general who does not have the decency to pick a candidate based on his or her merits, platform or ability to lead this country? No matter who Edwards chooses, his decision should be based on who he feels would make the best president rather than who can bring him the most personal power.

The American people are looking for the defiance that the former senator showed on the stump, the compassion for the have-nots, and the urgent and passionate desire for change. It is worrying that, compared to some television appearances and a shiny new office in the White House, those things might not measure up.

So as Valentines Day passes and March 4 grows nearer, Edwards has a choice to make. We urge him to follow his heart - not his ego - as he chooses who to endorse.

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