John Edwards Flashback: Praised by Rolling Stone as the 'Real Liberal'

How the mighty have fallen.

John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, are back in the news because of a book written by the latter about her philandering husband.  Even the New York Times which less than a year ago shunned any mention of the John Edwards scandal which was all over the Blogosphere has weighed in on his fate in the form of a Maureen Dowd column:

Elizabeth Edwards would have made a wonderful candidate herself. But she poured everything into John. And then John betrayed her. And then John betrayed his staffers, going ahead with the 2008 campaign, letting his disciples work around the clock because they believed in him and what he was running on, even though the Edwardses knew it could implode at any minute because of John’s entanglement with Rielle Hunter.

...John Edwards’s political career is over, and he’s being investigated by the feds about whether he used campaign funds to underwrite his affair. Nobody — except Rielle — has any interest in hearing from him again. Americans would have been relieved if the last we heard of him was that cringe-inducing “Nightline” interview last year, when he made the argument that he was a helpless narcissist and that he hit on Rielle when Elizabeth’s cancer was in remission.

Pretty harsh judgement. But what is conveniently forgotten now is that in the not so distant past, John Edwards was considered to be the best choice by many, if not most, liberals. My coverage of the far left Democratic Underground in the DUmmie FUnnies certainly demonstrated to me that Edwards was easily the number one choice for president at that site. An example of just how much Edwards was admired by the left is this August 2007 Rolling Stone article by Tim Dickinson about him titled, "The Real Liberal" which bemoaned the fact that he was running third in the nomination campaign:

If he weren't rich, handsome and so well married, you might feel a little sorry for John Edwards. Never before in the 231-year history of our republic have the inalienable traits that Edwards possesses -- his fair skin and a Y chromosome -- been anything but a prerequisite for presidential politics. Today, his race and gender stand a chance of derailing his campaign altogether. "There's a lot of democrats who would like to make history," says Markos Moulitsas, founder of the influential online forum Daily Kos. "The party is anxious to nominate a black or a woman," agrees Dick Morris, the former adviser to Bill Clinton. "You have to sign off on either of those two options before you even get to voting for Edwards."

Rolling Stone then established the bonafides of John Edwards as  the "Real Liberal."

...Flying below the radar, the former vice-presidential candidate is pulling off a feat that Democratic consultants have long considered impossible: staking out the most progressive platform among the viable candidates while preserving an aura of electability...

...If you last tuned in to Edwards during the son-of-a-mill-worker days of 2004, the difference in his vision will surprise you. Gone is the cautious centrist groomed by uberconsultant Bob Shrum as a sort of Bill Clinton Lite. For 2008, he has been replaced by what the campaign hopes will play as the Real John Edwards, a shoot-from-the-hip progressive who won't scare away moderates. "Incremental steps don't work," Edwards says today. "We are not in that place in America anymore. We need huge changes. And it's going to require a president and a people who are willing to do some things that may feel dangerous in the short term."

Rolling Stone even favorably compared their liberal hero in contrast to his opponents on issues such as Global Warming:

 Take global warming: While Clinton spouts happy talk about ethanol and "clean coal," and Obama focuses on a technocratic proposal to lower the "carbon intensity" of auto fuel, Edwards has a plan that would make the Union of Concerned Scientists proud. "We need an eighty percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2050," the candidate told Rolling Stone in a wide-ranging interview. "You start by capping carbon emissions in America. Beneath the cap, you auction off the right to emit any greenhouse gases. And you use that money --$30 to $40 billion -- to transform the way we use energy."

And Rolling Stone correctly stated that Edwards was highly popular with the leftwing nutroots of the web:

Such unabashed progressive stances have made Edwards a hit among the party's Netroots activists. His climate-change plan was the runaway favorite in a MoveOn.org straw poll that followed the Live Earth concerts. And in a recent survey of more than 16,000 Democrats on Daily Kos, Edwards emerged as the top choice, registering forty percent support to Obama's twenty-two percent. "Edwards' proposals go the furthest -- they're like the ideal," says Moulitsas of Daily Kos. "Everybody else is playing it so safe it's dreadful."

This Rolling Stone puff piece was but one example of the fawning coverage that John Edwards received. Even though it was already obvious to many rational folks that Edwards was a complete phony long before his laughably absurd claim that he joined a hedge fund in order to study poverty, the mainstream media gave him the kid gloves treatment.

Even today, after Edwards has been thoroughly discredited, there remains residual support for the "Real Liberal." A recent thread at the Democratic Underground asked in a peeved manner, "Why did Elizabeth Edwards write her new book?" Many of the replies were stubbornly defensive of John Edwards and angry at Elizabeth for her uncomfortable revelations but one DUer wag came up with a response to that question which was notable for its hilarity:

So she can ask her husband to help proofread and stuff... "Honey, tell me what's a better title for Chapter Six, 'My Bastard Husband Tore My Heart Out,' or 'Someday I'll Kill The Son-of-a-Bitch in his Sleep.'" 

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.