Thursday, July 19, 2007

Peasants And Perms

Democratic challenger John Edwards is taking some heat for the conflicting imagery of a man paying obscene amounts of money for a haircut, while simulatenously championing the issue of poverty.
The bad optics:
Torrenueva's role came to light last April when two $400 cuts showed up on Edwards' campaign spending reports.

Edwards, 53, who has made alleviating poverty the central theme of candidacy, has been criticized for building a 28,000-square-foot house for $5.3 million near Chapel Hill, N.C. The complex of several buildings on 102 acres includes an indoor basketball court, an indoor pool and a handball court.

The rebuttal:
"Anybody who's running for president ought to be subjected to serious examination from every conceivable angle," Edwards said. "So theres nothing wrong with that. What bothers me about this is, I don't want whatever personal criticism people have of me to detract in any way from the people whose lives we're trying to help. That's the only thing about it that's troublesome."

Edwards cited his work as a trial lawyer defending people against major corporations, the poverty center he started after the 2004 campaign, an after-school center he and his wife Elizabeth created that caters largely to low-income students, as well as a program designed to make it possible for low-income students to go to college.

"This is something I've cared about for a very long time," he said. "I'm proud of what I've done. But it is the nature of presidential politics that anything you do is going to be looked at through a microscope. So I expect that."

The conflict is analogous to the problems Gore recently incurred. Gore arguing against GHG emissions, while personally using enough electricity for his dwelling to power an entire middle-class neighborhood (in Gore's defence, he has since retro-fitted his home to be carbon neutral).

As it relates to Edwards, I don't doubt for a moment his sincerity. However, it is odd to have the champion of the poor, squandering the monthly income of a low wage earner on a haircut. It is strange to have Edwards as crusader, when his humble abode could house an entire housing project. I'm not passing judgement on a man, who by all accounts is ethical and genuine, but the contradictions speaks volumes. As a matter of fact, Edwards himself is a wonderful illustration of the gross inequalities that exist in American society.

I like John Edwards, he comes from humble beginnings, as he often reminds voters. Having said that, Edwards now lives a gluttonous existence, by any objective measure, that highlights a detachment from average existence. To enjoy such excess takes away from any moral high ground on the subject of poverty. I find Edwards message secondary to the unintended contrast of the ultra class lamenting the fate of the stragglers. On a certain level, it's both laughable and intuitively offensive.


Karen said...

You forget, and I think his campaign does too, "The American Dream".

When you consider what is at stake now in America...this is nonsense and if the GOP continue to pursue this note, I hope they are shot down, swiftly.

I am sick to death with this stuff.

Do you want to know what is obscene? The war in Iraq, the abuse of power that the pres has flaunted, not a hair cut.

Pulleze people, get a grip.

Edwards does not deserve this nonsense.

Not that it matters, but I haven't decided who I would support. I'm simply tired of nonsense arguments.

Steve V said...


Fair points. I've never been a big fan of the "American Dream", I've visited too many cities where it looks more like a bad dream. And, I will never understand why anyone finds it necessary to live in a 26 000 thousand square foot house. I find that level of wealth obnoxious and embarrassing, given the disparities. It isn't Edwards, as I say a pretty standup guy, but the culture that exists where that is a goal, a status.

Steve V said...

A completely different perspective.

Anonymous said...

Nit picking about his hair cut isn't what's bothering me.

It's his wife. I liked her and respected her, but when she came out against Hilary Clinton and how she felt Clinton couldn't represent women - the light came on. Or going after Ann Coulter (who deserves it) but not by Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Edwards has been doing a lot of talking and bashing and I realized that "she" wears the pants in the family. She's the ambitious one and I have to wonder if hubby is a leader at all - I think she calls the shots.

She has suddenly turned me right off her.

Hey, Elizabeth, let your husband fight his battles - after all, he's expecting people to believe his is leadership material and quite frankly, it doesn't show.

Canadian Tar Heel said...

Two issues:

1) Edwards: I think that the haircut issue is silly and trite. No one comments on the amount of $$$ Hillary spends for her hair and make-up, or that of any other candidate. In fact, it demonstrates even less insight into Edwards as politician than Clinton’s extra-marital escapades.

2) illustration of the gross inequalities that exist in American society and the American Dream:

I don’t wish to come off as caustic or unnecessarily controversial, but what is this?

For sure, inequalities exist in the US. But do they not exist in Canada, Europe, elsewhere? These comments strike me (perhaps unfairly) as something akin to the European stereotypes of the US that I’ve encountered personally.

And, of course, the American Dream is more myth than reality. Like all unifying narratives, there is necessarily an element of myth, including the ones we have about Canada.

Finally, these two phrases briefly glaze over a major philosophical distinction without addressing it. There is a difference between equal opportunity and parity. In other words, it’s a question of upward (and downward) social/economic mobility v. maintaining everyone at the same level. With that said, widespread disparity is often a sign of failing equal opportunity principles, which must be addressed.

(BTW, Steve, my comments are not necessarily directed towards you. Rather, I wanted to respond in a general sense.)

Steve V said...


It probably isn't fair to single out Edwards, because as you point out, others easily have their own examples. I might be completely off base, and this isn't exclusive to America, but the optics are strange.

Anonymous said...

po" I find Edwards message secondary to the unintended contrast of the ultra class lamenting the fate of the stragglers."


I am hurt and relatively disappointed ;(

Just because you made money being Tobacco Road's version of John Grisham does not mean you cannot empathize like Bobby Kennedy.

The optics are there. Sexy politician trying to recapture the spirit of a "what could have been" ie. Bobby 1968.

It is a uphill climb and most Edwards' supporters may be lapping his message like purple Kool-Aid. Still, I am waiting for Stephane Dion to wear a red chequer shirt and use Edwards' "war on inequality" message as a central point in his three pillars. At the same time, Dion can carry a $800 knapsack from Louis Vuitton for all I care.