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John Edwards strived to put the ‘vice’ in the vice presidency

John Edwards strived to put the 'vice' in the vice presidency

A court in Greensboro, North Carolina last week found John Edwards not guilty of campaign finance violations. The court of public opinion had already found him guilty of being a cad.

Both courts concur that the man is not exactly innocent.

Eight years ago, Democrats selected the North Carolina senator as their vice presidential candidate. Now, after revelations that Edwards had sired a love child as his cancer-stricken wife wasted away, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and the  New York Times’ Maureen Dowd trip over themselves to profess how much they loathe the poison they once praised.

John Kerry may have been the first to try to jump off the bandwagon in 2007-though he had launched it a few years earlier.

“Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he’d never told anyone else-that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he’d do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade’s ideals of service,” Bob Shrum wrote in  No Excuses. “Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before-and with the same preface, that he’d never shared the memory with anyone else.”

But Kerry tapped Edwards as his runningmate anyhow. In typical I-was-against-him-before-I-was-for-him fashion, the Massachusetts senator told Shrum that Edwards really made him “queasy.”

When John Nance Garner said the vice presidency “ain’t worth a bucket of warm piss,” the Texan could have been as easily describing the officers as the office.

Take Garner’s successor. Franklin Roosevelt tapped Henry Wallace for his 1940 ticket even though he knew of the agriculture secretary’s “Dear Guru” letters pledging fealty to a cultist conman. Lines such as, “May the Light of Northern Shamballa lead you and the Guru and the true expedition toward the eternal glory of the New Age,” made Wallace fit to serve as the second in command of a Dungeons & Dragons collective. It should have disqualified him from serving a heartbeat away from the sickly leader of the free world.

After casting votes for Mao Zedong, Archie Bunker and Jerry Rubin, delegates to 1972′s Democratic National Convention affirmed George McGovern’s choice of Thomas Eagleton as vice president. But the Missouri senator had been hospitalized three times for nervous breakdowns and had undergone two rounds of electroshock therapy, so Democrats ditched him. “I have nine kids,” Queens Democratic Party boss Matthew Troy explained. “I don’t want to see them destroyed because some unstable person might become president.”

Running for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden taunted a voter who dared question his record: “I think I have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.” He insisted that he had won “the outstanding student in the political science department” at the University of Delaware, where he “graduated with three degrees,” and subsequently “went to law school on a full academic scholarship” at Syracuse, graduating “in the top half.”

Only he didn’t. It was all a lie-even (especially?) the IQ part. Later, Biden put his campaign out of its misery by plagiarizing not merely a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, but his life story. The dishonesty was pathological, even by political standards.

What disqualified Biden as a presidential candidate in 1988 somehow didn’t sidetrack him as a vice presidential candidate in 2008. Barack Obama’s first presidential decision foreshadowed subsequent ones.

Democrats put the  vice  in the vice presidency. Their obsessions with Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin might be best viewed as projection. The con artists and cranks they have put first in the line of presidential succession may have belonged in the big house or the nut house, but not anywhere near the White House.

Fourteen of the forty-three men who served as president served as vice president first. Nine of those vice presidents assumed the high office upon the death or resignation of a president. When Franklin Roosevelt put a kook on the ticket, or when Barack Obama tapped a serial liar, they placed their own political interests ahead of the country’s.

John Edwards is a free man. America is free of John Edwards, too. It could have turned out a whole lot worse.

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