John Edwards Poverty Tour Bombed? Shame, It's a 'Nation's Inability to be Moved'

Newsweek’s Jonathan Darman lamented this week that the John Edwards poverty tour/publicity tour didn’t passionately grip America, that it did not immediately become a mythic event, like filthy-rich Bobby Kennedy's poverty tour in 1968. In a dramatic flourish, the young Harvard-educated whipper-snapper blames this tragedy on not-very-compassionate America:

"There is something tragic about Edwards's failure to break through. Today, 37 million Americans live below the poverty line, 12 million more than at the time of Kennedy's death. And yet Edwards's call of conscience has not resonated. By all rights, Edwards, the son of a millworker, should have an easier time talking about poverty than did Kennedy, the son of a millionaire. His difficulty speaks to the candidate's inability to connect. It also speaks to the nation's inability to be moved."

Time's Amy Sullivan demanded that reporters ignore the Edwards Haircut story -- as if the press hates the Democrats -- and Darman will be scolded for bringing up the Lavish Coif, but he only raises it to let Edwards defend himself, and then he also laments the press:

"Edwards says his notorious $400 haircut and his 28,000-square-foot house are the obsessions of the media, not "normal voters." (He does have a snarkier press corps than RFK. Not only did reporters not criticize the size of Kennedy's Virginia mansion, they wrote fawning prose about the senator in the hopes of scoring an invitation.)

Oh, those golden days of yore, when reporters were Kennedy’s smitten groupies! They still desire to be smitten groupies, but they have to acknowledge that liberal legends now get dented during the manufacturing process by an alternative conservative media. It’s also a bit funny for Darman to recall how Bobby Kennedy looked on his poverty tour in 1968 – even though Darman (Harvard ‘03) was born in the 1980s. But check out how John Edwards bluntly tells the young Newsweek-ling that he apparently has no say in approving the talking points and strategic outbursts of Elizabeth Edwards:

Even the candidate's own wife, Elizabeth, managed to steal some of her husband's spotlight. On day two of the tour, Salon.com published an interview with Elizabeth in which she said front runner Hillary Clinton was not necessarily "as good an advocate for women" as Edwards. Edwards denied that his wife's comments detracted from his poverty message. "Anything can attract attention away," he said. "If Senator Obama went out and said something outrageous, that would attract attention away." But Barack Obama is a rival candidate, a NEWSWEEK reporter pointed out; the Edwardses were on the same team. Surely, husband and wife coordinated their messages. Edwards raised his eyebrows: "You think so?"

This raises the obvious question: precisely which Edwards is running for president? Which one is the chief executive of the campaign? I suspect Darman is wondering, that, too. Why else would he include the eyebrow-raising detail, when liberal reporters are trained early to paper over the embarrassing Democratic details?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis