Jewish World Review July 9, 2004 / 20 Tamuz 5764

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports

John Kerry's smart move | It wasn't unexpected, John Kerry's pick for No. 2. Indeed, it was clear the morning after the Iowa primary back in January that John Edwards was a real comer in American politics.

To quote one astute observer at the time: "John Edwards was another big winner Monday night . maybe the biggest because he had the farthest to go. His surprise showing shouldn't have been a surprise. Whenever the Democratic Party feels at a loss, it tends to turn to nice young Southern candidates-or candidates who seem to be. . [W]hich is why we'd advise the other candidates not to underestimate John Edwards." (Modesty should forbid, but that's from my column the day after the Iowa caucuses.)

The political reasons that now have moved the senator from Massachusetts to team up with the senator from North Carolina are pretty obvious, and geographical balance may be the least of them.

With his good looks and trial lawyer's talent for populist rhetoric, John Edwards will go a long way toward filling Sen. Kerry's charisma deficit. This could even prove a kangaroo ticket, with the real kick in the hind legs. A trial lawyer, he can argue any position with equal, crowd-pleasing fervor.

What's more, John Kerry could definitely use a mouthpiece. Even when the Boston Brahmin trots out a little populist rhetoric, there's something flat about it, like champagne without the bubbles.

Remember the standard line in his stump speech during the early primaries about "Benedict Arnold corporations and CEOs that send jobs and profits overseas"? It may have been a bit of economic McCarthyism-essentially accusing those who invest overseas of treason-but it didn't sound as if he had his heart in it.

It was as if Sen. Kerry knows down deep that those investing in the global economy also produce profits and jobs at home, not to mention a thriving market abroad for American goods and expertise. And in the unlikely event he didn't know it, Mrs. Kerry-formerly Mrs. Heinz of the H.J. Heinz International empire-could explain it to him.

But when John Edwards spouts the populist line, he does it with pizzazz, like a trial lawyer manipulating a jury. He will definitely, as the pros say, energize the party's base. And not just the Democratic Party's. Every businessman who's ever been threatened with a class-action lawsuit, especially one in which the class gets little or even less while the lawyer rakes in millions, will be energized, not to say galvanized.

Sen. Edwards' role in this campaign will be the traditional one played by vice-presidential candidates: ax man. As Bob Dole was to Jerry Ford in '76. and Dick Nixon to Ike in '52, and Dick Cheney now is to George W., John Edwards will be to John Kerry-somebody whose job it is to shred the opposition. Which is just the kind of running mate John Kerry needs.

It's no secret that John Edwards was not The Candidate's immediate choice as a running mate. There were those feelers sent out to John McCain; Kerry-McCain would have been a dream ticket for the Dems. But John McCain never wavered in his GOP loyalties or pretended he would.

Dick Gephardt was in the running, too. Sen. Kerry and Rep. Gephardt, both veterans of the legislative process, seemed simpatico, but John Kerry came to see that Mr. Gephardt was last decade's fresh face. Or maybe the decade's before that. Instead, he's chosen the young comer who attracted a nationwide fan club while campaigning against him in the primaries. It shows he's not afraid of being upstaged.

But I might respect John Kerry more if he'd selected Dick Gephardt for the No. 2 slot-despite the Missourian's waning performance at the polls. It would have indicated that he was thinking first and last of who would make the better vice president-rather than the better vice-presidential candidate. There's quite a difference.

The essential and maybe the only real qualification for any vice president is that he be prepared to assume the presidency if something should happen to No. 1-that he have the seasoned judgment to assure the continuity of the country's leadership. In short, a vice president should be chosen for the reasons George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney last time out-experience and competence. It sure wasn't for his glamor. In that department, John Edwards stands out.

Still, John Kerry could have done much worse. (Think Wesley Clark or Howard Dean or any number of others.) And that's why his choice of John Edwards assures. It says something good not only about John Edwards, but about John Kerry's political judgment. His choices may be dull, but they're safe.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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