Sen. Edwards Says: Sign a "Pledge" and Send me Your Brain; I Say: No Thanks
I've previously discussed historical analogies between Sen. Edwards' campaign against Sen. Clinton and Bill Bradley's campaign against Al Gore in 2000. Now, we have moved on to the absurd anticlimax that I had hoped we wouldn't. Here's the latest pronouncement from Sen. Edwards, via the WSJ blog Washington Wire (h/t Taylor Marsh, emphasis mine, throughout this post):
For too long, our political leaders in Washington have looked the other way as lobbyists and irresponsible corporations have fought against efforts to achieve real change in America. Enough is enough.
...Please sign the “America Belongs to Us” Pledge, and join together with Americans from all across the country who are taking a bold stand to make sure that our next president belongs to the people -- not the lobbyists.
Here's the so-called "pledge":
Because I believe we need real change in America and an end to the broken system in Washington that works for special interests and not us, I pledge not to vote or caucus for a Democratic presidential candidate that accepts campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs.
This "pledge" has finally - and sadly - tipped me over the edge and made it clear that there is one candidate I am NOT supporting in the Democratic primary. That candidate is Sen. John Edwards. If he wins the primary I will still support him in his Presidential campaign since he will be better than the Republican candidate for President. But, as a strong protest against his transparent stunt (aka the "pledge") I'm not going to support him in the primary. The reason is simple. When Sen. Edwards ran for the Senate back in 1998, guess how much PAC money he took in, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets):
Yes, ZERO (more on the significance of that in a moment). His Senate campaign against Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-NC) was marked by his trademark cry that he would battle the "special interests":
"This is who he is," Prince said, noting that as far back as his 1998 campaign against Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.), Edwards was talking about fighting for the little guy and against special interests. In one ad during that race, Edwards said: "Insurance companies have plenty of lobbyists fighting for them. I don't want to be their senator. I want to be yours."
Not to mention this:
Despite his own personal wealth, Edwards ran as the populist outsider, saying Faircloth cared more about big business than the people of North Carolina.
"We have got to start the process of restoring people's faith, making them believe again that this really is a democracy, and that their voice matters when decisions are being made in Washington," Edwards, then 44, said during his race against Faircloth.
With his emphasis on vindicating blue-collar workers and the poor, Edwards was a political anomaly. He had the kind of rags-to-riches life story that is often celebrated by Republicans, but instead of singing the praises of the free market, he condemned its excesses.
So, how did "populist", "anti-special-interest"-crusader John Edwards vote in Congress after taking a sum total of ZERO dollars from PACs and lobbyists? He voted in favor of a Bankruptcy Bill not once but twice, voted against filibustering the bill and voted against some progressive amendments to the Bill, he supported NAFTA as recently as 2004, he voted in favor of storing nuclear waste at Yucca mountain, he voted in favor of No Child Left Behind, he voted in favor of the Andean trade agreement and easing trade relations with China - not to mention, he voted in favor of the 2002 Iraq war authorization resolution and stood by his vote in 2004, he voted against an attempt to restrict the Iraq war authorization to one year, he voted against creating an independent report on pre-war intelligence manipulation, he voted against an attempt to raise taxes to fund the war, and he voted in favor of labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. You get the picture.
With this "pledge" stunt of his, I unfortunately have to draw the line and point out that some of us still have some brains left and don't intend to email either the "pledge" or our brains to him. Sen. Edwards is running on a platform that says you can only trust people who take no contributions from PACs/lobbyists. As he has shown through his own career in the Senate, this claim can be catastrophically wrong. Who you take money from is a factor, but it is absolutely not the kind of defining factor that Sen. Edwards makes it out to be. What matters most is the character and ideology of the individual - NOT who they take money from. Lawyer-turned-lobbyist Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) has about $100K in PAC receipts, Republican Governor Mike Huckabee has taken barely $20,000 from PACs and Republican Governor Mitt Romney has about $300,000 in PAC funds - and all of them are far to the right of Sen. Hillary Clinton even though they have taken much less PAC money than she has. In other words, Sen. Clinton is very progressive on corporatist matters even when compared to Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama and you have three top Republican candidates who are far to her right who have taken significantly less contributions from PACs than she has.
Don't get me wrong. I am personally in favor of dramatically reducing the corrupting influence of corporatist interests in elections and would love to see all candidates refuse special interest PAC money. However, Sen. Edwards has undermined the "clean elections" movement with this "stunt" by hypocritically pushing the envelope so far against other Democrats who are far better than the Republicans who will absolutely undermine clean elections in this country. In an ideal world, I'd love to endorse Sen. Edwards PACman theory - i.e., that those who take money from PACs/lobbyists can't be trusted with your vote. However, this theory - deceptively nice-sounding, superficially pleasing and comforting - is sometimes just a mountain of stinking horse manure and far more damage is often done to the country by people who take little or no PAC money, than by those who do. So, Sen. Edwards, here's my position on your "pledge" - thanks but no thanks.
P.S. Chris Cooper over at the WSJ believes that the target of this "pledge" is Sen. Clinton. That might be true given Sen. Edwards recent near-endorsement of Sen. Obama, and his previous wavering when it came to endorsing the Democratic nominee if it happened to be Sen. Clinton. That said, Sen. Obama has accepted PAC contributions too.