Perhaps the job itself is not worth a bucket of warm spit, as one of FDR’s vice presidents, John Nance Garner, so famously said. But consider the vice presidents in the last half of the 20th century who went on to become president: Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush.
In that context, we believe Sen. John Kerry stumbled in making his first major decision as the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. He chose as his running mate North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a millionaire trial lawyer whose experience in a major office is one Senate term, whose experience in foreign policy is less than zero, and whose campaign in the primaries was based on economic class warfare and envy.
In the political calculus, perhaps the rule of thumb that “in picking vice presidents, not picking a minus is a plus,” Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney said, may apply to Sen. Edwards. He went through the primary season essentially finishing second to Sen. Kerry, emerging untouched by scandal and winning points for a flashy smile, engaging personality and glib tongue.
But even politically, Pitney said, there may be problems. “The ticket now consists of two millionaire lawyers, which takes a little edge off the populist appeal” that both men try to project.
In fact, Sen. Edwards’ history as a trial lawyer should provide a juicy target for the GOP — and should evoke real concern among voters. As columnist Thomas Sowell wrote in February, “Trial lawyer Edwards won more than $60 million in damage awards. Put differently, he alone added $60 million to the cost of medical care. … His specialty was arguing that brain-damaged babies were a result of a failure of doctors to use Caesarean section deliveries when …. fetal monitors indicated problems. … Far from making childbirth safer, the lucrative lawsuits … created new dangers. With many doctors now refusing to deliver babies and with obstetricians relocating … , the net result is that many pregnant women … have a hard time finding doctors to give them prenatal care.”
Sen. Edwards now will get a lot more scrutiny, as he should, on this and other issues. But we’re not impressed with Sen. Kerry’s decision to put him on the ticket.
John Edwards’ lackluster single term in the Senate, his lack of expertise in foreign affairs when there are no greater challenges facing the nation and his contribution to the damaging litigiousness of modern American society don’t recommend him for the top job.