Sunday, July 11, 2004

GOP Spins Edwards' Experience and the Media Play Along

When the GOP and the conservative punditry aren't trumpeting John Edwards' wealth, or his background as a trial lawyer, you can be sure they are "questioning" his lack of experience.

After all, Edwards has barely served a term in the Senate. And these are dangerous times, what with all the redundant yet vague terror alerts from Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft.

But is Edwards really lacking experience? The GOP is spinning that point, and the media is eager to lap it up. In an MSNBC "web exclusive," Newsweek and MSNBC contributor Howard Fineman discusses Edwards' lack of experience, saying he can't think of hardly anyone with as little experience.

Except President Bush, but Fineman argues Bush is from a political family. That, he supposes, added to his credentials as a one-term Texas governor back in 2000.

Fineman can't think of anyone else, but then again, our pundits aren't paid to do research. They're paid to think on their feet, debate with vigor, and roll over anytime a GOP spin point comes bobbing along. So while Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell and Bush himself making passing references to Edwards' "troubling" lack of experience, here are a few other names from recent history -- folks who were on a presidential ticket and had about as much experience in public office as Edwards.

-- Thomas Dewey. He had six years experience when he ran for president in 1948. You might remember that was three years after another dangerous time -- WWII.

-- Adlai Stevenson. He had four years expeirence when he became the 1952 Democratic nominee. And he lost to a poltiical first-timer, Dwight Eisenhower.

-- Spiro Agnew. Not a great example, of course, but Agnew had six years under his belt as Maryland governor when he was tapped to run with Richard Nixon in 1968.

-- Geraldine Ferraro. She had six years experience in Congress when she was tabbed as Walter Mondale's veep choice in 1984.

So a mix of winners and losers, Democrats and Republicans, presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates. Only Eisenhower, a war hero, stands out as one who didn't need "political experience" to be deemed worthy of a place on a ticket.

Of course, the average American isn't going to look up this type of history (my thanks to Josh Marshall, the Atlantic Monthly contrbutor and host of But what can be said when someone paid to do some research, someone like a Howard Fineman or one of the cable show hosts, fails to do so?

The result is that the Trent Lotts of the world get a free pass, and the well-organized GOP spin is able to get a foothold in voters' minds.

And for those voters who don't care about Edwards' "troubling" lack of experience, did you realize he's a wealthy trial lawyer?



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