Johnny Be Good
by Morgan Dash
I'll tell you this TRUE story, even if one of my brothers (you know who you are, Theron) doesn't believe me. We'd more or less settled on Gephardt as Kerry's likely choice for vp, though in the days just before the announcement, we were wavering on whether it would be Gephardt or Edwards.
The night before the announcement was to be made, I happened to be up late, and I saw on the net the report attributed to the New York Post that it was going to definitely be Gephardt. My immediate reaction--which surprised me--was: oh, no. That choice is a mistake. It has to be Edwards.
Fortunately it turned out to be Rupert Murdoch's mistake and not John Kerry's. A few hours later Kerry announced that his choice was John Edwards. By the end of the week, it was just starting to become clear what an amazingly good choice it was. If this was (as Bill Clinton described it before it happened) Kerry's first "presidential" decision, it was an incredibly astute one.
It was first of all an immediately popular choice among voters polled, and among both media and non-Bushie politicians. The first rallys with the new duo were dynamic. The ad introducing the team was terrific. Two polls immediately showed Kerry ahead by more than the margin of error, and perhaps most surprisingly, they showed Edwards as the clear favorite over Cheney, even in response to the question of who is more ready to be president.
The week was very well orchestrated, from the announcement in Pittsburgh to the first rally in Cleveland, to the matched messages and the new vocabularly of strength at home, respect in the world. There was also a determined emphasis on reclaiming "values" as an issue--very perspicacious, given the Bush credibility problem. At last the Dems aren't bowing to the pernicious doublespeak of rabid rightist "family values" behind policies that ravage families and have nothing but contempt for values other than hypocrisy and cynicism. Neither are they ceding American values and patriotism to the Bushies, who cut soldiers' pay and benefits, and provide inadequate medical care to wounded veterans.
No wars for oil, they both said. No wars of choice, only of necessity. Then the music plays: Johnny B. Goode.
And Kerry and Edwards immediately seized another image---of optimism---that the Bushies thought they could claim for themselves.
John Edwards connects not only with southern voters---where so many military bases are--- but with midwestern workers and small town voters. He becomes the companion who gets John Kerry invited in. Edwards has young children, and young families are people Kerry must reach. The Bushies want to make Edwards' career as a personal injury lawyer into an issue but as Bill Clinton used to say, that dog won't hunt. People may not love lawyers, until they need one. Representing ordinary people against big corporations is more sympathetic and comprehensible than tort reform.
Two other bits of conventional wisdom may go down in flames. First, that the vice presidential nominee doesn't matter. Hey, turn on your TV. It's the synergy, the image of the two of them that matters. It's what choosing Edwards says about Kerry. Second, that only what happens now or what happens next matters to the voters, not the past. No, what has happened already matters---and voters are not happy about Iraq, about lies and misplaced arrogance. Reaction to the latest nonspecific terror non-alert shows an edgy distrust of anything the Bushies say.
So believe me or not about my reaction, but I have to say: even with my little flash of insight, I never would have bet that the selection of Edwards would get such an enthusiastic reception so quickly.
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