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July 16, 2007

The Media Cares About Whether John Edwards Cares About Poor People

Steven White helpfully points out:

To make a comparison, Rudy Giuliani is actually wealthier than John Edwards, by a little less than $10 million. Mitt Romney? Despite the obsession with Edwards, Romney's personal wealth is a stunning four times as much. This hardly gets mentioned. But of course, neither of these candidates is talking about poverty and the reality of social class.

To say this explicitly, it's okay to be rich if you act rich. The amount of flak Edwards is getting for being both wealthy and concerned with the working class versus the amount of criticism Giuliani and Romney are getting for being uber-rich and utterly unconcerned with issue of class and wage fairness is telling. The press doesn't care if you're loaded and out-of-touch, or self-interested. But to both make a lot of money and think other people should make relatively more money? Why, that's-that's-that's-that's hypocrisy* is what that is!

To engage in some pop-psychology, my sense is that folks in the press corps are very unsettled by social justice types. No end of folks got into journalism through activism, or as a close alternative to it, and as the mores of the profession took them further and further away from direct work on the issues that once enraged them, they've grown somewhat defensively contemptuous of those who took the other path. The poverty activists I know are ecstatic that John Edwards has brought so much visibility to their issues. The media types are aching to point out his hypocrisy, and expose him as a fraud. For the first group, Edwards' focus on poverty doesn't call their life choices, and occupational compromises, into question. For the second group, it does, and so there's an urge to explain it away. If everyone is a fraud, than having turned into a suit is a relatively minor sin.

*Not actually hypocrisy.

July 16, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

"To engage in some pop-psychology, my sense is that folks in the press corps are very unsettled by social justice types"

Yup.

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Dunno if anyone caught the endless Edwards' segments on Good Morning America this morning. Really primo stuff.

If you haven't seen him work a TV setting like that, you don't understand the mad scientist skills the man possesses.

Posted by: Petey | Jul 16, 2007 4:18:19 PM

Dude, it's all about the class war.

This should not be surprising.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 16, 2007 4:18:32 PM

No, it's just that Edwards is not a Republican. Don't try to read something into that it isn't. Edwards gets haircuts; other candidates get haircuts; press reports on Edwards as if it's a bad thing. That doesn't mean the press is uneasy about haircuts.

It just means that the people who own the printing presses in America are Republicans. You got to apply a little Occam's Razor here.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 16, 2007 4:23:32 PM

To say this explicitly, it's okay to be rich if you act rich.

No, it's OK to be rich and act rich if you're not lecturing people about inequality. You seem to be trying to overlook the obvious. You again indulge in over-explanation to explain what requires no deep explanation.

The media types are aching to point out his hypocrisy, and expose him as a fraud.

This greatly exaggerates the truth. Journalists are always interested in finding peccadillos, but there's no deep grudge against Edwards in the media.

No, it's just that Edwards is not a Republican.

Liberal paranoia.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 16, 2007 4:30:29 PM

"No, it's OK to be rich and act rich if you're not lecturing people about inequality. You seem to be trying to overlook the obvious. You again indulge in over-explanation to explain what requires no deep explanation."

Explain that one again? If you're a rich person who believes we should have universal health care and more bargaining power for the working class, you're a hypocrite?

And I don't know anyone who's arguing that the way to deal with inequality is to get rid of rich people.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 16, 2007 4:38:51 PM

For Sanpete's Sake!

"Journalists are always interested in finding peccadillos".

Really? Romney's leaked memo from many months ago listed that he was concerned about how good his hair looked. Why isn't the MSM repeating that ad nauseum?

I am an Edwards supporter and I hope that he and his campaign deal with the MSM in a creative way. Perhaps, they should hire a Colbert staff writer to help them develop lines call out the media with humor and honest criticism.

Posted by: jncam | Jul 16, 2007 4:44:35 PM

The media care. The media don't "cares".

Posted by: Language Police | Jul 16, 2007 4:45:19 PM

Ezra, why are you taking SanPete the concern troll seriously?

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 16, 2007 4:47:42 PM

"I am an Edwards supporter and I hope that he and his campaign deal with the MSM in a creative way. Perhaps, they should hire a Colbert staff writer to help them develop lines call out the media with humor and honest criticism."

In the GMA appearance this morning, they already had some very sly ways of responding to the haricut and house charges that made Edwards look very good and human, and with a singular positive narrative..

These obviously play into the class theme Edwards is running upon, and I continue to think the campaign will be able to use them as an unalloyed net positive by the time the weather gets freezing in Iowa.

Posted by: Petey | Jul 16, 2007 4:49:12 PM

I think that people don't like sanctimony, and love it when sanctimonious people get taken down a peg. I view that as something lighter than hypocrisy, but of the same family. Al Gore is not just concerned about climate change, he is sanctimonious as all get out -- hence the popular hilarity over his massive electricity bill. Bill Bennett is sanctimonious about morals, and turns out to gamble like a gunslinger in Tombstone. Again, hilarious.

On the question of John Edwards, I do not know of anybody who objects to him being rich. As you ably point out, most (or at least many) presidential candidates are rich. I think people object to flamboyance. A 28,000 square foot house is flamboyant. Same with a very expensive haircut. I'm "rich," at least according to the rhetoric of Democratic politicians, and I cut my hair at SuperCuts or the equivalent (Ezra, who has met me, may have something to say about that!). I buy used cars more often than new cars, and I buy my clothes at factory outlet stores. Why? Because I was brought up in modesty, and have not allowed my wealth to influence my tastes and habits more than a little bit. So when John Edwards talks sanctimoniously about his "two Americas," he is setting himself up in two ways. First, the preachy tone makes even journalists want to take him down a peg. Second, the flamboyance of his expenditures (as opposed to his wealth) makes him seem hypocritical.

Posted by: TigerHawk | Jul 16, 2007 4:51:29 PM

Separate point. Call me a bonehead, but this bit seems like a virtual admission of liberal media bias...

To engage in some pop-psychology, my sense is that folks in the press corps are very unsettled by social justice types. No end of folks got into journalism through activism, or as a close alternative to it, and as the mores of the profession took them further and further away from direct work on the issues that once enraged them, they've grown somewhat defensively contemptuous of those who took the other path. The poverty activists I know are ecstatic that John Edwards has brought so much visibility to their issues. The media types are aching to point out his hypocrisy, and expose him as a fraud. For the first group, Edwards' focus on poverty doesn't call their life choices, and occupational compromises, into question. For the second group, it does, and so there's an urge to explain it away. If everyone is a fraud, than having turned into a suit is a relatively minor sin.

I'm sure there is some nuance there that I am missing... :)

Posted by: TigerHawk | Jul 16, 2007 4:55:53 PM

If you're a rich person who believes we should have universal health care and more bargaining power for the working class, you're a hypocrite?

The logic is clear enough: rich people getting $400 haircuts have no business complaining about inequality. If they want less inequality, they should give their own money away first so they're not so unequal themselves. That may be fallacious, and there may be plenty of good reasons to oppose it, but that doesn't change that it's what the basic logic is--not what you made it out to be.

Romney's leaked memo from many months ago listed that he was concerned about how good his hair looked. Why isn't the MSM repeating that ad nauseum?

See above. Romney's not harping on inequality.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 16, 2007 4:58:41 PM

So, what Tigerhawk is saying is that if Edwards were rich and showy AND a social darwinist, like say, most of the Republican field, then THAT would be just peachy? Wow, are we ever fucked up as a country.

Incidentally, part of the reason that the haircut cost a lot is because the guy who cut Edwards' hair had to block out basically half a day to do so in order to accommodate Edwards' campaign schedule. My haircuts cost $25, and take half an hour. If I had to tell my barber to take an afternoon off to accommodate my insanely busy campaign schedule, by my count, that would be a minimum $200 haircut.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 16, 2007 4:59:12 PM

And Sanpete confirms it: rich and showy is fine, as long as you think that God intended it that way, and the poor can go fuck themselves. Impressive, impressive people we are as a nation.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 16, 2007 5:00:50 PM

I'm sure there is some nuance there that I am missing... :)

You mean the part where activism isn't a purely liberal thing to do? People like John Stossel become journalists and produces hour long specials talking up the wonder of greed to accomplish social good. Not exactly liberal, not exactly distant from activism.

Posted by: jhupp | Jul 16, 2007 5:01:12 PM

Paperwight, as usual you don't actually read what you try to respond to.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 16, 2007 5:02:10 PM

First of all, Edwards isn't really rich: he's just got a lot of money. When he attended the BilderbergConvention in 2004, he was in the company of people who are actually rich.

Second, there are other reasons - relating to his actual policies - why Edwards is a fraud.

Posted by: TLB | Jul 16, 2007 5:02:14 PM

Paperwight -

So, what Tigerhawk is saying is that if Edwards were rich and showy AND a social darwinist, like say, most of the Republican field, then THAT would be just peachy? Wow, are we ever fucked up as a country.

Actually, there are plenty of rich candidates who are concerned about inequality and not particularly flamboyant, and as a result they largely avoid the problems that Edwards has. I'm going to draw a lot of fire here and say that the Clintons manage to be rich, generally concerned with social justice, not particularly sanctimonious about it, and yet personally fairly modest in their housing and such. Look at their houses -- neither the Westchester house nor Hillary's home in Washington are shacks, but they are far more modest than the Edwards palazzo and well below what the Clintons could afford.

Posted by: TigerHawk | Jul 16, 2007 5:06:51 PM

I think there is a legitimate issue with Edwards regarding his hedge fund ties. His personal wealth is not so important as how he made it. While I think that personal injury lawyers are a destructive force in our culture and are more effective at enriching themselves than helping those in who have been wrongfully injured, I can accept that one could make the argument that he made is personal wealth helping the less fortunate, and that it certainly would not be inconsistent with the populist tone of his campaign. However, despite any centrist pro-business leanings, I can not figure out what good hedge funds do for our economy or the general good. They seem to be unregulated institutions where the super-rich and only the super-rich can do things with their money that mere mortals cannot, leading to obscene profits for their managers, and the occasional threat to our economy. This seems like the most extreme and clear example of the kind of thing Edwards would oppose. Beyond megacorps like Wal-Mart, big Pharma, or investment banks, where a somewhat coherent argument could be made for their behavior, hedge funds seem to have no socially redeeming qualities. While Romney made his money in private equity, presumably he believes that his activity strengthens the economy which leads to an improved standard of living for everyone ("a rising tide blah, blah") It's difficult to understand Edwards joining a hedge fund and similarly being so concerned about poverty. His explanation, "I wanted to learn more about them" is frankly, extremely lame.

Posted by: umbrelladoc | Jul 16, 2007 5:08:00 PM

"Romney's not harping on inequality."

We agree on something!

Posted by: jncam | Jul 16, 2007 5:08:05 PM

they should give their own money away first so they're not so unequal

There's only one party arguing that the best way to help the poor is through voluntary charity giving on the part of the rich. This argument is totally stupid, akin to, "why are people who are men talking about the rights of women?"

A 28,000 square foot house is flamboyant.

The funny thing about this is that the house is flamboyant in a distinctly middle-class sort of way. This is sort of the resonance of the hair cur vs.. the house-- most people who became rich would build themselves a tacky, oversized house. Few people with lots of money (outside of people in the media and politics) would leave the person who currently cuts their hair for a more expensive person.

Posted by: Tyro | Jul 16, 2007 5:10:27 PM

jhupp -

You mean the part where activism isn't a purely liberal thing to do? People like John Stossel become journalists and produces hour long specials talking up the wonder of greed to accomplish social good. Not exactly liberal, not exactly distant from activism.

Oh, please. Everybody knows that virtually all the "activists" who go into journalism are to the left of center. For starters, the vast majority right wing activists are social conservatives, and hardly any of them go on to become reporters for national news organizations. You cite "people like John Stossel." There are no people like John Stossel working at the major networks and newspapers. There really is only him. Can you name another?

Posted by: TigerHawk | Jul 16, 2007 5:12:05 PM

Hey, we've got the wrong terms here. This is about class betrayal, not class warfare.

FDR was despised not because he was rich and from an old-wealth family, nor because of the new deal - although his enemies truly thought he was bringing socialism to the US to destroy capitalism - how else could they explain such unreconcilable behavior.

He betrayed his class in the view of the traditional wealth party, and they literally hated him for it. Same with Eleanor - and she even went so far in her betrayal as associating with negroes.

Part of the Edwards backlash in the media is that he's new money wealthy and still betrays his new class by caring for the poor while displaying (per the 'new money' myth) his success. He's supposed to be buying yachts, and fifth homes in Aspen, not visiting New Orleans' ninth ward. The sin is unforgivable, as FDR was never forgiven.

The journalists are the wanna be class, which is even more upset with the betrayal because they haven't fully secured their position on the balcony and Edwards is trying to break their ladder.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 16, 2007 5:18:01 PM

2 things. 1st, another reason for harping about his hair cut is that one of his lampoonable traits is that he is a pretty boy. When he's caught on camera combing his hair for a remarkably long time, or paying a lot for a haircut, it plays into that. The press likes simple themes.

2nd, Edwards does not get especially bad press. Note, for example, that Mr. White's whine about the coverage of Edwards was prompted by a positive newspaper story that Mr. White inexplicably took to be negative. And if the worst they say about Edwards is that he pays too much for a haircut then his coverage is just fine.

Posted by: ostap | Jul 16, 2007 5:20:02 PM

Tyro, again, the point I made is about why appearance of hypocrisy is an issue, not whether Edwards is in fact a hypocrite. There's no need to try to explain the focus on Edwards' money and so on by reference to some deep psychology of journalists, as Ezra, and now Jim, have. Journalists are just following an obvious possible issue for voters. If no one cares, or if Edwards successfully makes it plain why there's no issue there, it will go away.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 16, 2007 5:31:24 PM

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