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John Edwards Rally: Report From Spitting Distance.

Saturday, December 30, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

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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Atypical Involvement.

by Michael Reynolds

I know this doesn't seem like something I would do, but I'm volunteering at a John Edwards campaign event taking place about ten minutes from where I live later today. It's not a committment to the Edwards camp, not yet anyway. Mostly, it gets me out of the house. (You know, two young children out of school . . .) Plus, I'm hoping they'll give me a truncheon and put me in charge of crowd control.

Kidding about that last. Mostly.

The Democrat race will be two races: the contest to be the "Not Hillary," and the main event, the Hillarykrieg. Obama, Gore and Edwards seem the most likely candidates to become Not Hillary. The third tier includes Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Vilsack, Wes Clark and Keven Federline.

My instinct is that Obama has burned too hot, too soon. I have nothing concrete to support that opinion, just a feeling. He's climbed way up on that pedestal, and the wind blows strong up there.

Gore has his anti-war stand and his environmental cred which makes him the Kos candidate -- if he wants the gig and if I'm right about Obama.

Edwards may grab some labor support off his anti-Nafta position, and his strong move to domestic issues, in particular poverty (focus group says: um, what?) might be a wily move to snag a piece of the African-American vote and the southern progressives (both of them.) He may also be guessing that Iraq will have faded a year from now and we'll be cocooning. And anyway, if he's looking at Gore as his main competition for Not Hillary he knows he won't carry off the greens and the war weenies, so the economic progressives and labor are what's left.

Or it could be Edwards is just doing what he thinks is right.

Okay, stop laughing. It could be.

The rest are running for Veep. Richardson brings major resume and Hispanic votes. Biden brings foreign policy creds and, um, Delaware. God knows what Dodd or Vilsack think they're doing. And Wes Clark is a pair of portable testicles in case Hillary, Gore or Edwards has to go tough on foreign policy.

And I understand K-Fed may have some interesting home movies.

There's this to be said for the Edwards people: they've chosen a brilliant headquarters location in the development called Southern Village right here in pleasant-if-dull Chapel Hill, NC. I lived in Southern Village -- think The Truman Show meets The Prisoner -- until recently. The Edwards office is across the street from a coffee shop and a pizza joint, upstairs from an Asian restaurant and a sports bar. Coffee, pizza, Chinese, steaks and not one, not two, but three bars.

Now that, my friends, is campaign planning.

Oh, wait. I forgot John Kerry. But then, so did you.

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One Less Tyrant.

Friday, December 29, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Awww. And he seemed like such a nice man.

I was not well-prepared. The only Champagne I had in the house is a Montaudon Brut. It got a 90 score from Wine Enthusiast, but I found it lacked character and had no finish. Must remember to lay in something better for Osama and Zawahiri.

Doesn't matter where you stand on the war: it's never bad news when a monster dies.

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Calm Between The Storms.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Not evil, not crazy.

The first election for which I was able to vote was 1972. I voted for Richard M. Nixon.

Something like 30 days later I was in front of the White House holding a "Honk for Impeachment" sign. In those days I lived in Washington, on New Hampshire Avenue just off Dupont Circle. (I had a ground-floor apartment next to the terminus of the 12-story-tall trash chute. Take a moment to imagine how much fun that was.) I worked as a flunky for a "major K-street law firm," a Democrat stronghold. One of my jobs was to deliver cash cough-gratuities-cough-cough to employees at the Government Publishing Office in order to ensure our preferential access to GPO documents.

Imagine if you will, children, a time before cable news, before the internet, when political junkies like me would leap from our beds and race to get our morning newspapers. The Washington Post, in this case. The Washington Post during Watergate.

The Washington Post during Watergate. Sort of like the Jerusalem Post during the Crucifixion. Well . . . you get my point. It was exciting.

That I was never a confirmed Nixon-hater is attested to by my vote. But I've never had much tolerance for people in positions of power who fail me. If you're a waiter, a hotel maid, a drive-thru guy at Wendy's and you screw up I'll never say a word. But don't tell me you need to be the most powerful man in the history of the human race -- and then expect my pity. You want the big blue jet and the big white house, the six figure salary and the lifetime pension? Then don't fuck me over.

Anyway. Before the election we knew something was wrong with this Watergate thing. But we also all knew Nixon was too smart to be involved in something as idiotic as a burglary at Larry O'Brien's office.

Side note: of the many mistakes I've made judging people, more have come from overestimating than from underestimating them.

The Watergate thing dragged out for what seemed like a very long time that nevertheless ended abruptly. All at once, there was Nixon waving goodbye.

Then, there was Gerald Ford of all people. And before we knew it he had pardoned Tricky Dick. And to tell you the truth, I was relieved.

In the decade before Watergate we'd had the assassinations of John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Johnson had bailed. We'd had several rounds of race riots. We'd done the riot at the Chicago Democratic convention. And Kent State. And throughout it all, Vietnam.

I was 20 years old when Nixon resigned, a political junkie, a Democrat, young enough to enjoy conflict and craziness, and still when Ford pulled the plug on the prosecution of Richard Nixon, I was relieved. That's how bad things had gotten: even I wanted a break. I thought the country needed a couple of years off.

I still think Ford was right. He didn't amount to much as a president but you know what? We were really in the mood for not much.

In two years I wonder if we won't be just about ready for another Jerry Ford.

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