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John Edwards Rally: Report From Spitting Distance.


Gosh, that's some fine photography, isn't it? Beautifully lit, focused, framed. It's my cellphone camera. I did what I could. That'd be Senator John Edwards up top and the Del McCoury band below.

So, today for the first time in my life (at least as much as I remember of my life) I volunteered in a political campaign. As discussed below, it grew out of a strong committment to having an excuse to get out of the house for a couple of hours. That plus, you know, patriotism and idealism and so on.

I made two signal contributions to the Next President Of The United States, or N-POTUS. First, I tied many of the N-POTUS' next-presidential balloons (NPB's). And then, by virtue of the fact that I happened to be standing near the guy who was the Captain Of Ushers, or COU, I was chosen to share the Holding Of The VIP Crime Scene Tape or HOTVCST. (I'll stop that now.) People with golden Willy Wonka tickets were to be alllowed through the crime scene tape, people without were to get a beat-down. At least that's what I recall of the instructions.

Once I'd weeded out the riff raff (excepting myself, of course) I was transferred to the job of guarding the bike-rack barrier directly in front of the stage. Evidently there have been some tragic incidents involving middle-class, middle-aged Democrats pushing through the barriers and leaping up on stage to dance with Edwards. For the record, he won't dance, don't ask him, he won't dance Madame with you. And why? Because his heart won't let his feet do the things they should do.

No one knows why. No one speaks of it.

The show began with an amazing little girl of about eight who blew the overcast away with a rendition of the star spangled banner. Then came the Del McCoury band with Del forgetting the lyrics to a good half of his set. But what the hell, they can play. If you like bluegrass. And really, don't we all have to pretend to like bluegrass? At least until Garrison Keillor dies?

Finally the candidate showed up, accompanied by his children, Cute, Cuter and Cutest and his wife, Elizabeth. They were all very well-behaved, much better behaved than my equivalents would have been.

Look away while holding chin pensively to establish fantasy sequence. Ripple-effect, ripple-effect, ripple-effect . . . and: we see Me as candidate with Wife, Son and Daughter in background. We see Wife tapping her watch and making the "how much longer?" face. We see Son trip Daughter. Daughter retaliates with karate kick. Candidate yells, "Goddammit, you two!" into microphone. Loses Christian vote. Gains parental vote.

How close was I to John Edwards? I could have spit on the man's shoes. Yes: shoe-spitting close.

So, he gives a speech. Lots of talk about moral leadership in the world. Lot's of nods to unions. Some universal health care. Some poverty. Some Darfur. Some Uganda. (Jesus, Uganda? Is it their turn again already?) Some minimum wage. And a lot of talk about "One Corps," an organization which involves us changing the world now as opposed to waiting two years and fobbing the job off on the N-POTUS.

No. I have no idea what it means. But I'm afraid it may involve me giving up the Benz and squeezing my fat ass into some pitiful Subaru in order to avoid stabbing Mother Earth in the eye. Or maybe I just have to tie more balloons. God knows. But I distinctly heard the word "sacrifice" in there somewhere, and not too far distant from the phrase "global warming."

Edwards spoke without notes and gave at least a moderately-convincing impression of spontaneity. He wore jeans, a starched white shirt and one of those soft, fleece-ball-looking jackets. Frankly he was walking the fine line between "preppy" and "Mark Foley." Lose the jacket, Senator: softer, cuter, more cuddly you don't need.

To be momentarily serious, just on the off-chance that someone from the campaign reads this -- and if they do I guess it'll be no more balloons for me -- there were two holes in the speech. First, Edwards should always include some autobiography. He's not so well-known he shouldn't include some backstory. Not even here in N.C. And don't forget: backstory isn't just for purposes of information, it sets the stage, it frames the narrative. So even if we do know the story, tell it anyway. Don't beat it to death, don't do a town called Hope, for God's sake, but give us an intro.

Second, Edwards needs at least one testicle on the table. (Um . . . hmm . . . ah, fuck it, I'll just leave that in.) By which I mean some affirmation that although, as the Senator said, raw power isn't the be-all and end-all, it is still a damned useful thing to have. He needs some nod to maintaining military might to balance off the strong denunciations of surges and escalations.

Edwards is labelling the "surge" as "The McCain strategy," and punching it, like it's a major plot point. Trying to convince us he's not running against Obama and Gore for the chance to run against Hillary, no, he's jumping ahead to McCain. It's the kind of stuff that sounds clever in a strategy session but ends up sounding like the kind of thing that sounded clever in a strategy session.

Dude, er, Senator, we know you're not running against John McCain in Iowa or New Hampshire or Nevada or South Carolina. If we're listening to you now it's because we have doubts about Hillary. And if we're not throwing ourselves at your feet right now it's because we have doubts about your ability to beat Hillary. Or to beat Gore so you can beat Hillary. So going off on John McCain just sounds hollow. You have to get past King Kong before you get to take on Godzilla. (Sorry, I don't make the rules on Monster Island.)

The only way to convince us you're the guy to take on McCain is to be the guy who took down Hillary and no, you're not going to convince us you're more electable by taking potshots at McCain in a speech where you don't even nod in the direction of legitimate American military power. McCain is big-time Yang. You're still a little Yin to be picking that fight. You need to Yang up on Hillary before you go Yang to Yang with McCain.

Anyway, that's the advice from the guy holding the crime scene tape.

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“John Edwards Rally: Report From Spitting Distance.”

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