John Kerry’s choice of John Edwards as a running mate makes eminently good sense in most presidential election years. But this isn’t one of them.
Granted, most presidential aspirants wouldn’t look askance at the opportunity to add quick-study smarts, good looks, charisma, energy, humble beginnings, geographic diversity, campaigning savvy, debating expertise and populist schtick without patrician baggage to the ticket. In 2004, that’s a lot of stuff that John Kerry isn’t. Edwards brings all of that to the table.
However, he also lugs along all of the inherent inexperience, especially in the international arena, you expect with a freshman senator — one who ironically couldn’t win re-election from the North Carolina voters. As for those who point to George W. Bush’s thin foreign policy resume before his election: well, see what can happen.
And as for those who note that voters typically don’t care who’s on the second spot, well, that’s true. However, we really don’t have that luxury in a time of war. We’d better care who’s a heartbeat away from being commander-in-chief. America is not a plaintiff in a personal injury suit.
It mattered that FDR had Harry Truman and not Henry Wallace. It mattered, alas, that John Kennedy had Lyndon Johnson. It could have mattered big time that George H.W. Bush had Dan Quayle.
More serious security hits — at ports, malls, stadiums or refineries — will send the economy south. “Outsourcing” and “tax breaks for the rich” will be rendered moot — so much empty, class-warfare, election rhetoric. When the underpinnings of life as we know it are under assault, the homeland mantra will become a neo-Carvilleian “It’s the right to live our lives, stupid.”
America, as the world’s lone hegemon, is at a crossroads. Are we on course for “global domination or global leadership?” as Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski asks in his latest book, “The Choice.”
How do we proactively protect ourselves without alienating traditional allies and true friends? We’d better be able to do both.
How do we go after terrorists — as well as the roots of terrorism? Let’s be candid, “they” don’t “hate” us — at least enough to kill us — because we love “freedom.” They hate us because of our foreign policy. It’s about a less-than-even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s about propping up corrupt oil sheikdoms. It’s about American troops proximate to Mecca. That’s what is really behind all the Islamo-babble about infidels.
These are the overriding issues — not women’s rights, cultural sludge, the right to cast an uninformed ballot or econo-techno jealousy — that really matter. This is no time for a foreign- policy lightweight with negligible security gravitas to balance a ticket — as if this were business as usual. As if all that mattered were that Edwards can complement Kerry by compensating for his charisma bypass and offsetting his Ted Kennedy-clone voting record.
Kerry needed to send a signal of reassurance — beyond tepid triangulation on Iraq — to the American people that nothing — including “Two Americas” populism — was more important than the security of this country and its global relationships. A Wes Clark, a Bob Graham, a Joe Biden, a Dick Gephardt could have addressed that. Not someone — charming, presi-dentured looks notwithstanding — who’s a half dozen years removed from suing doctors and insurance companies.
It also would have been the right message to send our allies and, even more importantly, our enemies.
But here’s the good news. Edwards, whose youthful looks belie his 51 years, now has a leg up as the Democratic Party’s post-Kerry future. Hardly comforting to Hillary Clinton and her thinly-veiled presidential ambitions.