Our president responded to the selection of John Edwards for Kerry’s running mate with the incivility characteristic of him when faced with a challenge. “Dick Cheney can be president. Next?” (Maureen Dowd noted in Thursday’s New York Times, that indeed, he already is.)
The question of whether or not John Edwards would be a better or worse president than Cheney will be debated for the next few weeks, until the press gets bored with these supporting characters and goes back to the Bush vs. Kerry plot, the war in Iraq, and Britney’s pre-nup (or lack thereof). But before we all move on, I would like to talk about the one thing that Edwards and Cheney do definitively have in common: their millions.
Of course, everyone involved in this campaign is rich. Bush is rich, Kerry is rich, Teresa Heinz Kerry is rich. But only Cheney and Edwards are entirely self-made, both wonderful examples of the myth that anyone clever enough can become rich in America. They owe their success not to family or spouse, but to their own conniving and sweaty intelligence.
Neither man has made his millions in the purest way. Cheney, as we are all too aware, is the Dr. Evil of the Halliburton Empire. Edwards specialized in high-cash tort law, making him part of that coveted elite: the ambulance-chasers. The similarities stop there.
The first clear difference that emerges when comparing the two men is that Edwards gave up his cash cow of a career to enter the political arena, defending people who could not afford a lawyer of his caliber, against almost anything that put them at risk. (His senate record is a nearly immaculate lefty one, with the little hiccup of his vote for the war.) Cheney, on the other hand, continues to this day to make money off Halliburton, and with his filthy contract for the corporation in Iraq, has ensured that he and his cronies will make millions from his political career for years to come.
The second difference, of course, is that Edwards is a rich Democrat, and Cheney is a rich Republican. It may have helped that Edwards grew up poor, but then again, so did Antonin Scalia. Could it be that this man actually cares about the citizens of America? Bush can sometimes fool the public into believing he cares, but no one, not even a die-hard Bushie, can look into Dick’s face and find compassion.
So whom would I want for my president? A crotchety old right-winger with a heart problem and no heart, or a young southern democrat, with a smile that lights up a room, and a lifelong record of defending the injured and sticking up for the poor? No wonder Bush was so defensive. He’s stuck with a dead fish of a partner, and he hates looking any less than the coolest kid in school.