Quite frankly, I don't know whether to feel sympathy or disgust for John Edwards. Yesterday Edwards and his wife Elizabeth held a press conference to announce that her cancer has reappeared. Certainly I am sympathetic for the Edwards family as they take on this incurable but treatable cancer, just as I would be for any cancer patient and their family. I truly wish Elizabeth the very best. So why would I be disgusted by John Edwards? For the simple fact that I think he is using his wife's illness to boost his sagging campaign.
When the Edwards campaign announced Wednesday night that there would be a news conference the following noon regarding Elizabeth's health, the speculation immediately began. A lot of pundits predicted that John would drop out of the race for the White House. After all, several months ago he said in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopolous that the only thing that would derail his campaign would be his wife's health.
For the record, I admire the couple's courage facing this sort of health crisis once again in public. (Elizabeth Edwards was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, as her husband campaigned as John Kerry's running mate) I respect the fact that they are being honest with voters about a personal issue that could certainly distract the candidate during the campaign and, if he were to win election, as President. I also respect their commitment to each other to help her through the illness while continuing to follow his ambition. But it's the way they made the announcement that bothers me.
Based on the Stephanopolous interview, the Edwards camp certainly had to know that scheduling a news conference about Elizabeth's health would begin speculation that John would drop out of the race, and that the speculation would garner a large amount of media attention, which it did. The network morning news shows led with the story. The networks carried the news conference live. Here on WWAY NewsChannel 3, ABC's Charlie Gibson anchored the coverage with Stephanopolous and medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson. The evening newscasts led with it. The story continues to dominate the news a day later, even in this very blog. The Edwards campaign is getting the sort of attention no targeted ad blitz could ever buy. John and Elizabeth's wedding pictures and storybook love is the subject of national news coverage, painting the candidate as the consummate family man: a husband helping his beloved wife through cancer for a second time, a father who lost his eldest son to a car accident.
You may ask, So what? Why not give attention to a public figure and his wife as they tackle an issue that millions of American families face every day? Why not show the personal side of the candidate? Again, for the simple fact that I think John Edwards is using the attention he knew it would garner not to promote cancer awareness or research, but to give his own pride and ambition a lift.
Am I a cynic? Am I a skeptic? Absolutely. That's part of my job. But you can't ignore the evidence. Pretty much every national poll has Edwards third among Democratic voters behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Throw Al Gore, who has said for a few years he doesn't plan to run, into the mix, and Edwards slips to fourth in most polls. And his numbers have been sliding in the last couple of months, as he fights to hold on to 10-percent of likely voters. Even in his home state of North Carolina and his native state of South Carolina Edwards trails the other candidates. And what do candidates do when they start becoming irrelevant? They look for anything that can give them an edge.
I would never say that John Edwards is happy this happened. I'm absolutely certainly his feelings are 180-degrees in the other direction. But let's remember that he made his vast fortune as an attorney winning big awards for people in personal injury, malpractice and liability cases. You can bet one way Edwards became very good at that job was to use sympathetic victims and relatives to tug on the heartstrings of jurors. Now as a Presidential candidate, cancer is playing the part of the negligent property owner, the bungling doctor, the big company with the dangerous product. Elizabeth Edwards is the sympathetic victim. John is the sympathetic family member. You are the jury. What kind of damages will you award?
By: Kevin Wuzzardo