Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: John Edwards, a Close Call

Posted at 1:48 pm, May 2nd, 2012
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

Democrats are extremely fortunate that they did not fall for John Edwards’ good looks, charm and smooth talking populism and make him their party’s presidential nominee in 2004. If they had, and Edwards had won the race against George W. Bush, the party and the country would now be knee-deep in the seamy story of Edwards’s personal life and President Edwards would be faced with serious prison time.

The thought of John Edwards in the White House may seem far-fetched now, but it looked like a real possibility not that long ago. The Des Moines Register, the paper Iowans once depended on, bestowed its blessing in an editorial endorsement headed, “John Edwards – His Time Is Now.” The Register gushed, “The more we watched him, the more we read his speeches and studied his positions, the more we saw him comport himself in debates, the more we learned about his life story, the more our editorial board came to conclude he’s a cut above the others.”

The others passed over by the paper included the party’s eventual nominee, Senator John Kerry, and such experienced public figures as Al Gore, Richard Gephardt and Howard Dean.

The Register, and many others, fell for Edwards despite his scant service in the U.S. Senate, almost no foreign policy credentials and no evident expertise for dealing with the country’s increasingly troubled economy.

Fortunately, more sober heads prevailed and Edwards’s candidacy soon derailed. It’s troubling, though, that a person with no evident qualifications to be president, but with towering ambition, could propel himself into contention for the Oval Office.

The Democratic Party had a close call with John Edwards. So too, in a way, did the press. The Des Moines Register could not have known about his character flaws, but it should have realized the difference between style and substance. By allowing itself to be bamboozled by Edwards, the paper did a disservice to readers, to the Democratic Party and to the country.

Comments are closed.

The website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.