November 10, 2002
LEADING THE ENDANGERED LIST:Here's Johnny! (Robert D. Novak, American Spectator)
The formula followed by Carter and Clinton was clear: liberal substance and conservative rhetoric. They played it both ways, sounding moderately conservative but reassuring the party's labor union/minority group/trial lawyer/environmentalist coalition. In 1976, Carter masqueraded as a covert anti-abortion candidate as he corralled the evangelical vote. In 1992, Clinton campaigned as a supporter of the Gulf War after first opposing it. They could obfuscate their real inclinations because they did not have to cast votes in the U.S. Senate.
Edwards does, and his overall voting record--putting him dead-center ideologically in the Senate--is deceptive. The reality is that he is always a dependable senator for the liberal line when it matters, as shown by these votes cast since George W. Bush entered the White House: opposed confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft, Solicitor General Ted Olson and Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Opposed Bush tax cuts and lower capital gains cuts. Opposed repeal of the estate tax. Opposed school vouchers. Supported patients' right to sue insurers and HMOs. Opposed oil and gas development in national monuments and the Gulf of Mexico. Supported additional spending for bilingual education. Supported limitation of anti-terrorism government surveillance. Supported needle-exchange programs. Opposed fast-track trade negotiating authority for the president.There is absolutely no difference on these issues between Edwards and Edward M. Kennedy, the defiant old liberal lion of the Senate. But Edwards surely does not consider himself a Kennedy Democrat. "In terms of our fiscal positions on spending and those kind of issues," he told me, "there's probably a significant difference between us." Edwards' staff reported that while he voted with Kennedy 87 percent of the time, his record was more like 33 other Senators' than like Kennedy's.
Senator Edwards faces a pretty brutal reckoning, and sooner rather than later. Right now he's polling so sketchily in NC, and George W. Bush will win it by such a wide margin in '04, that he has to be considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the Senate. Things are so bad he actually ran ads this Fall, despite not being up for re-election until next cycle. So if he wants to be re-elected he needs to start voting with the GOP, probably as soon as this week's lame duck session. If, on the other hand, he's serious about a presidential bid, he has to oppose everything the President wants to do, which means effectivcely ending his career in NC politics and robbing his candidacy of its own logic. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2002 1:40 PM