May 23, 2007


Fight Club: Bob Shrum v. John Edwards (Michael Crowley, 5/23/07, TNR Online)

Shrum discovered Edwards during the North Carolinian's first Senate campaign in 1998. Shrum writes that, after his encounter with Edwards, he telephoned his business partner and declared, "I think I just met a future President of the United States." But that view would change dramatically.

Shrum went on advising Edwards for several years, including as Edwards was contemplating his vote on the fall 2002 Iraq war resolution. In the one passage of the book already widely leaked, Shrum recounts how he and other political advisers pushed Edwards into a vote for the resolution that Edwards--and, even more so, his wife, Elizabeth--didn't want to cast. The episode didn't make Shrum look great. But the real damage is to Edwards, who comes across as a cipher taking orders from his handlers. As Shrum puts it: "[H]e was the candidate and if he was really against the war it was up to him to stand his ground. He didn't."

(Edwards aides have said Shrum exaggerates the importance of this meeting and wasn't in other pivotal meetings where Edwards deliberated. But, as an aide to a rival campaign recently pointed out to me, in a moment that passed largely unnoticed, Edwards seemed to confirm the basic thrust of this story during the first Democratic presidential debate last month in South Carolina. "I was wrong to vote for this war," Edwards said. "And the lesson I learned from it is to put more faith in my own judgment." It does sound as though Edwards is admitting that he allowed handlers to overrule his conscience.)

By early 2003 Shrum faced a choice: Would he work for Edwards's presidential 2004 campaign? Or would he go with another longtime client and friend, John Kerry? (Shrum had already ruled out two other would-be candidates seeking his services: Joe Lieberman had become "too monochromatic ... the Republicans' favorite Democrat," while Dick Gephardt's "time had passed.")

Shrum decided to go with Kerry. By now, he was coming to see Edwards as a lightweight--"a Clinton who hadn't read the books," as he puts it. Edwards didn't take the news well. Shrum writes that, in a dramatic early 2003 phone call, Edwards told him: "I can't believe you would do this to me and my family. I will never, ever forget it, even on my deathbed." The relationship has been poisoned ever since.

That surely helps to explain why No Excuses repeatedly portrays Edwards as a hyper-ambitious phony. Nowhere is that clearer--and more startling--than in a passage recounting Kerry's first meeting with Edwards during the summer 2004 running-mate selection process. Kerry had qualms about Edwards from the start, Shrum writes, but grew

even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else--that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before--and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again.

Which raises the obvious question: how creepy and featherweight would you have to be before Cabana Boy wouldn't pick you as a running mate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 23, 2007 9:34 AM

A Warren Zevon reference! OJ, I never knew you had it in you.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 23, 2007 11:28 AM

"I was wrong to vote for this war," Edwards said.

People who say stuff like this are a joke. They act as if the only ones who have a say are themselves.

They forget that the enemy also has a vote. And the enemy has a reverse-veto (is there a word for that?) If the enemy votes "YES", then war it is, no matter what your vote is.

Posted by: ray at May 23, 2007 4:18 PM

Shrum switched to Kerry because he thought Edwards was a 'lightweight'?

Another reason he's 0-8.

And regarding the story about Wade Edwards - I'll wager there are hundreds of people who have heard it (some probably more than once, just like Kerry). Trial lawyers are like that, although the best ones remember their lies more precisely.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 23, 2007 11:45 PM

The amazing thing about Shrum is that he keeps getting hired, which may tell you more about those who hire him than it does about Shrum.

Posted by: George at May 24, 2007 12:22 PM
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