Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Joanna Grossman, associate professor of law at Hofstra University, in findlaw.com (July 15, 2004):
...The specific issues raised in the battle over same-sex marriage are new. But a broad question that is arising has been raised before in our history.
The question is this: How can we reconcile -- or should we simply tolerate - conflicts among state statutes relating to family law -- an area oft said to be"reserved to the states"?
America confronted this question earlier when it came to grounds for divorce. Throughout the Nineteenth Century, and well into the Twentieth, there were significant variations in divorce laws.
Some states made divorce available on several fault grounds; some, only on grounds of adultery; and at least one, South Carolina, simply did not permit divorce at all.
In addition, some states required several years of residency as a prerequisite to filing for divorce; others allowed periods of as short as six weeks or even none at all.
Finally, some states permitted remarriage immediately; some permitted it only after a waiting period, and others not at all, at least for the at-fault spouse.
The Lessons of Our Experience With Differing State Divorce Laws
The lack of uniformity among divorce laws raised two sets of concerns.
First, it was procedurally complicated for states to have different standards for divorce -- particularly if a stricter state might refuse recognition to a decree of divorce from a state with more lax standards. A person might have a different marital status, state-by-state, as he or she traveled. Crossing a state line could mean a single person was considered still married - a ridiculous result.
Second, the different standards for divorce irked anti-divorce moralists. Opponents of divorce feared that easier divorce would dilute the tradition of marriage nationwide. They also feared that residents of strict states might evade their own state's laws by obtaining"quickie" -- or otherwise easier -- divorces in more lenient jurisdictions.
The proliferation of lax divorce laws, they argued, would undermine marriage (as they then knew it), society, and, ultimately, civilization.
Sound familiar? President Bush is, of course, sounding this very same theme today when it comes to same-sex marriage - arguing, again, that marriage is"the most fundamental institution of civilization," and that same-sex marriage would raze that institution.
Amendments Federalizing Marriage and Divorce: Oft Tried, Never Successful
Congress's tactic, in proposing the FMA, will sound familiar to legal historians. According to Cardozo Law Professor Edward Stein, putting the FMA aside, in our history seventy-seven other constitutional amendments have been proposed that would have given Congress the power to regulate marriage and divorce at the national level. Three would have enshrined the once commonplace ban on interracial marriage in the constitution. But none ever even made it to a vote.
The proposals to constitutionally ban interracial marriage would have fundamentally changed the nature of the Constitution - as would the contemporary FMA. The Constitution has always served to guarantee minimum rights and liberties. It has almost never been used to rein in individual rights. The only exception is the Eighteenth Amendment--which established Prohibition--and its repeal only 14 years after ratification speaks for itself.
Other Attempts Toward Uniformity In Marriage and Divorce: Also Failures
But the proposed amendments to give Congress the power to regulate marriage and divorce law would have erected a fundamental change to our legal system as well. State regulation of family law has been the rule, reined in only by the enforcement of constitutionally minimum guarantees.
Outside of the Congressional arena, uniformity in state marriage laws was also separately pursued, through bodies like the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. These bodies - private organizations whose work did not have the force of law -"adopted" (and urged state legislatures to adopt) several uniform divorce laws. But none of these laws was ever adopted by more than a few states. And, therefore, uniformity certainly did not result.
It's no wonder that all the proposals for uniformity failed: Strict states did not want to adopt more lenient laws. Lenient states did not want to adopt stricter laws. And neither wanted Congress to pick the other states' view, and impose it on them.
States thus learned to co-exist with non-uniform divorce laws.
A Supreme Court Case Tolerates Inter-State Differences on Divorce
There were, of course, periodic flare-ups -- pitting state against state. One such case, Williams v. North Carolina (Williams I), made it to the United States Supreme Court, which issued an opinion in 1942.
In that case, two North Carolina residents absconded to Las Vegas to divorce their respective spouses, and marry each other. They then returned home - only to be arrested as bigamists.
North Carolina refused to recognize the Nevada divorce decrees. But the Supreme Court, in essence, said that North Carolina had to do so -- as long as the plaintiffs met Nevada's procedural requirements before filing for divorce, which they had. (They said they'd lived in an autopark for the requisite forty-two days, thus establishing a legal domicile.)
The majority opinion recognized that its ruling would, in some modest way, dilute North Carolina's right to insist on strict moral standards for divorce. But it preferred that consequence to the"disastrous" harm that would result if a mere step over a state line could transmute a couple from lawful divorcees to bigamists.
Although a later proceeding in the same case left North Carolina free to disregard Nevada's decree (Williams II), it was because of a showing that Nevada's requirements had not in fact been met. The core principle of the first Williams decision thus remains intact, and in the almost sixty years since Williams I, states have by and large respected each others' divorces - even if the terms on which one state might grant a divorce were abhorrent to another.
The consequences? The Republic did not fall. And marriage continued to be the central institution of American society.
The Lessons of History: When the States Disagree on Marriage, It's Okay
What are the lessons we can take from history that are relevant to the current same-sex marriage debates?
First, for better or worse, states have clung tightly to their power to make rules about marriage and divorce. When some states have restricted marriage and divorce, other states have refused to follow their lead - and yet their marriages and divorce decrees, thanks to Williams I, have generally still been respected by other states.
Second, there is one limit on states' power to regulate marriage and divorce: States cannot do so in a way that violates the federal constitution's minimum guarantees of equality. And if they try, the U.S. Supreme Court can step in to abolish the offensive practice. This is exactly what happened in Loving v. Virginia, when the Supreme Court held Virginia's ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional.
Third, in many areas of law, states provide their citizens with greater individual rights - when it comes to family law -- than those promised by the federal constitution.
In my view, this generosity on the part of some states in interpreting what rights individuals enjoy is something to be encouraged, not stifled. Thus, Massachusetts should not be punished for providing its citizens with greater civil rights than other states. Indeed, it should be applauded for halting the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of marriage laws.
For now, the Federal Marriage Amendment has failed - its only lasting effect will be on the polls rather than the Constitution. It thus joins the long list of failed attempts to amend the constitution on issues of marriage and divorce.
It seems, then, that our Constitution will continue to say, on the topic of marriage, only what it has always said: Simply that the marriage laws, like all others, must provide equal protection of the law to all. In Loving, that meant different-race marriages had to be legal in all states. Whether it means same-sex marriages have to be legal in all states, too, remains to be seen.
Dan Baum, in the New Yorker (July 5, 2004):
... In November, 1943, a bespectacled United States Army lieutenant colonel named S. L. A. Marshall waded ashore with the troops attacking the Japanese on Makin Island. Marshall, who was known as Slam, had fought in the First World War, and had then left college to report news and sports stories for the El Paso Herald. In 1940, he published “Blitzkrieg,” the first of his many military histories, and earned good reviews from prominent war historians. After Pearl Harbor, Marshall returned to the Army, as one of twenty-seven officers in a new historical branch. On Makin, where the fighting lasted four days, he toted a carbine and tagged along with the infantry—once collapsing from dehydration under a pandanus tree—all the while taking notes for an official account of the battle. Shortly after the island had been secured, Marshall was stymied by a dispute between a lieutenant and a private named Schwartz over whether Schwartz, who helped hold off eleven Japanese attacks with a machine gun, had taken charge of the gun on his own initiative or on the lieutenant’s. To sort it out, Marshall lined up the battalion and asked every man what he’d seen and done. No single soldier had a sense of the entire incident, but each added a piece, as in a jigsaw puzzle, until a detailed account emerged, not only of the Schwartz question—as it turned out, Schwartz was the hero—but of the whole gruelling campaign. Delighted with this G.I.’s view of battle, Marshall used his technique—which he called the “after-action interview”—throughout the Pacific and European theatres for the next nineteen months, buttonholing soldiers immediately after firefights: “Did [your squad] rush or did it crawl?” “What fire was delivered against you?” “Did you lose any equipment?” He produced his accounts so quickly and in such detail that the Army mined them for tactical lessons and distributed them to commanders in the field. By the end of the war, Marshall had become the Army’s chief historian in Europe.
In 1947, in a slim volume entitled “Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War,” Marshall took the military by surprise. Throughout the war, he declared, only about fifteen per cent of American riflemen in combat had fired at the enemy. One lieutenant colonel complained to Marshall that four days after the desperate struggle on Omaha Beach he couldn’t get one man in twenty-five to voluntarily fire his rifle. “I walked up and down the line yelling, ‘God damn it! Start shooting!’ But it did little good.” These men weren’t cowards. They would hold their positions and willingly perform such tasks as delivering ammunition to machine guns. They simply couldn’t bring themselves to aim a rifle at another human being—even an armed foe—and pull the trigger. “Fear of killing, rather than fear of being killed, was the most common cause of battle failure in the individual,” Marshall wrote. “At the vital point, he becomes a conscientious objector.”
Today, Marshall’s methodology seems questionable—he claimed to have interviewed more than four hundred units, which would have meant interviewing a company a day, leaving no time for travel—but the spirit of his conclusions is still generally accepted. “We are reluctant to admit that essentially war is the business of killing,” Marshall wrote, while the soldier himself “comes from a civilization in which aggression, connected with the taking of life, is prohibited and unacceptable.” The Army, having just fought the Second World War, embraced Marshall’s findings.
Within months, Army units were receiving a “Revised Program of Instruction,” which instituted many of Marshall’s doctrines. It was no longer sufficient to teach a man to shoot a target; the Army must also condition him to kill, and the way to do it, paradoxically, was to play down the fact that shooting equals killing. “We need to free the rifleman’s mind with respect to the nature of targets,” Marshall wrote. A soldier who has learned to squeeze off careful rounds at a target will take the time, in combat, to consider the humanity of the man he is about to shoot. Along with conventional marksmanship, soldiers now acquired the skill of “massing fire” against riverbanks, trees, hillcrests, and other places where enemy soldiers might lurk. “The average firer will have less resistance to firing on a house or tree than upon a human being,” Marshall added. Once the Army put his notions into practice, they bore spectacular results. By the time of the Vietnam War, according to internal Army estimates, as many as ninety per cent of soldiers were shooting back. And some were paying a price.
The country’s ambivalence toward Vietnam, the prevalence of drugs, and the inability to distinguish civilians from the enemy all may help explain why Vietnam veterans appear to have suffered greater psychological trauma than veterans of, say, the Second World War. It may also be true that, while earlier vets suffered in silence, the Vietnam generation was willing to display its psychological wounds; the country as a whole was more conversant with psychological jargon. But the high rate of fire in Vietnam may have been a factor as well. Rachel MacNair, who studies the psychological effects of violence, earned her Ph.D. at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1999 with a dissertation that examined data from the congressionally funded National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, which, in the nineteen-eighties, interviewed almost seventeen hundred Vietnam veterans. MacNair found that soldiers who had killed in combat—or believed they had—suffered higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.). The fact that in Vietnam more soldiers were firing their weapons, MacNair argues, suggests that there was more killing for soldiers to be troubled by.
Since Vietnam, the Army has not had to dwell on how soldiers are affected by the killing they do. The first Gulf War was very short, and the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo were largely fought from long range, with airpower and artillery, which rendered the killing abstract. In the current Iraq war, though, soldiers are killing with small arms on battlefields the length of a city block. Exactly how many Iraqis American forces have killed is not known—as General Tommy Franks said, “We don’t do body counts”—but everyone agrees that the numbers are substantial. Major Peter Kilner, a former West Point philosophy instructor who went to Iraq last year as part of a team writing the official history of the war, believes that most infantrymen there have “looked down the barrel and shot at people, and many have killed.” American firepower is overwhelming, Kilner said. ...
LAST WEEK Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration, was appointed to replace Jack Valenti as president of the Motion Picture Association of America. Not exactly a high-profile player in either Washington or Hollywood, Glickman was an unexpected choice. More interesting, though, the selection broke with an unspoken Hollywood tradition. Glickman is Jewish, and for more than 80 years the job description for the Motion Picture Association presidency has read: Only politically connected Christians of unassailable moral character need apply.
Ever since its formation in 1922, when a series of made-for-tabloid overdoses, orgies, and murders seemed to confirm suspicions that the main business of Hollywood was to corrupt the fiber of Anglo-Protestant America, the association has chosen men of a certain type to catch the flak and take the heat.
Besieged studio moguls first turned to Will H. Hays, former postmaster general in the administration of Warren G. Harding. Hays was the perfect front man for a disreputable industry dominated by foreign-born Jews: a nondrinking, non-smoking Presbyterian church elder from Indiana who uttered platitudes with a straight face.
Making good on a promise to bring virtue to the Sodom on the Pacific, he gave his name to the Hays Office (formally the Production Code Administration), the censorship agency that kept the American screen free of cleavage and controversy. Under Hays, Hollywood enjoyed a golden age that glittered throughout the Great Depression and World War II.
In 1945 the Motion Picture Association opted for an organization man more in tune with the postwar ethos. The urbane and energetic Eric Johnston, former president of the Chamber of Commerce, had the advantage of being both cosmopolitan and Episcopalian. Unfortunately, he was fated to confront a trio of threats more ominous than bluenose censorship: the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the Department of Justice, and, worst of all, television.
In the wake of the 1947 House hearings on alleged Soviet subversion in the motion picture industry, Johnston inaugurated the blacklist era by pledging, on behalf of the major studios, never to"knowingly employ a communist."
The next year another branch of the government delivered a more crippling blow by demanding that the studios divest their theater chains, thereby destroying the vertically integrated monopoly that had sustained the classic studio system.
As for television -- you know that story. In 1963 Johnston died and the association scrambled to find a permanent successor. After a prolonged search, the organization settled on Valenti, a former adviser to Lyndon Johnson and a Roman Catholic. He took the reins at a pivotal moment. Television was ascendent, the studios were moribund, and the baby boom generation was deserting the movies in droves....
Sure, these newfangled modern Olympics are fun, I suppose, but take it from an old-timer, they ain't nothing compared with the Olympics we had back in the ancient days. Geez, you shoulda been there.
Everybody's getting all fired up because the 2004 Olympics will be held in Greece, where the Olympics were invented nearly 28 centuries ago, but let me tell you, it's not going to be the same. They just don't make Olympics like they did back in 700 B.C.
Nowadays, these fancypants athletes wear all these spiffy costumes -- Lycra, nylon, spandex. Back in the old days, the athletes competed buck naked, except for a coating of olive oil -- and they looked great. Today, if an athlete showed up naked, they'd probably throw him in the hoosegow. I guess that's what happens when you let the ladies come watch the Games.
These days, they got so many sports you can hardly keep track of them: badminton, table tennis, synchronized swimming and who knows what else. In the old days, we stuck to your basic tried-and-true sports: your running, your wrestling, your chariot racing, your pankration.
What? You never heard of pankration? It was the king of combat sports -- a combination of boxing, wrestling, mugging and a good old-fashioned butt-kicking. In pankration, you could do almost anything to your opponent -- strangle him, kick him in the groin, bend his fingers back until they snapped like popsicle sticks. Now, that's entertainment! Of course, you weren't allowed to gouge a guy's eyes out. I mean, we weren't barbarians! If you started gouging somebody's eyes out, the judges would step in and beat you with sticks. Judges didn't pussyfoot around in those days.
Of course, the ancient Olympics weren't just about sports. They were a religious festival. Every event was dedicated to Zeus, king of the gods. On the third day of each Olympics, when the moon was full, the priests marched 100 white oxen to the Great Altar of Zeus, which had a burning pyre and a 27-foot bronze statue of Zeus. As flutists played hymns, the priests sprinkled the oxen with holy water, mumbled prayers, then slit the beasts' throats, one right after another. What a show! Gimme that old-time religion, that's what I say!
Nowadays, your secular humanists have taken the gods out of the Olympics, and that's dangerous. You start messing with the gods and you know what you get? You get table tennis and synchronized swimming.
You know what they did with all the oxen they sacrificed? They barbecued them and gave chunks of meat to the fans, free of charge! You washed the free beef down with free wine, then you strolled around listening to orators and historians and poets. The Olympics were a class act in those days, not like all this TV jibber-jabber you get now.
You're rolling your eyes, thinking,"Here goes Grampa with that good-old-days routine." Well, don't take my word for it. Ask Tony Perrottet. He's the historian who just published a book about the ancient Games. It's called"The Naked Olympics," and it sure brings back fond memories.
Perrottet says it better than I can, right here on Page 11:"In terms of audience satisfaction, our own revived Olympic games can hardly compare -- unless they were to be combined with Carnival in Rio, Easter Mass at the Vatican, and a tour of Universal Studios."
The Games Begin
It all began back in 776 B.C., when the first Olympic Games were proclaimed by King Iphitos of the city of Elis, acting on instructions from the Delphic oracle. There was only one event that year, a sprint won by Coroibos, a cook from Elis....
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina seems like a decent and likable man, the political equivalent of a handsome, slightly under-ripe bunch of bananas, just the thing if you are looking for bananas and can't find any ripe ones, or don't know the difference. But I can't believe the public is going to buy this act. Last week, I heard an admiring TV pundit explain, to general agreement from his fellows, that Edwards'"two Americas speech" is his No. 1 asset, followed closely by his self-made-man, up-from-the-working-class life story. The problem is, they cancel each other out.
That"two Americas" stuff suggests a country divided by a barricade, with the poor stuck on one side and the rich living it up on the other. We know this is false. Economic historians keep telling us so; they love talking about the high"mobility among income quintiles" that continues to typify this country. American society is a perpetual-motion machine, with constant movement from poor to medium to rich (and, sometimes, back again).
More important to the campaign: Edwards' life story shows that his message is false. If your story is"poor boy makes good," your message can't possibly be"this is a two-part nation where poor boys are prevented from making good." Exactly how dumb are the voters supposed to be? And if the real, implicit message is different —"Sure, you can get over the barricade, but it's so tough that only geniuses like John Edwards can make it" — I doubt this version will play any better.
Edwards' whole campaign shtick suggests he's a regular guy, just plain folks, a slob like us. So if he got over this barricade (or barrier or whatever it is), why can't anyone who really wants to? Answer: Anyone can, and everyone knows it. Edwards' story says so loud and clear. This is still the land of opportunity, where a talented working-class boy can grow up to be stinking rich and even be (a candidate for vice) president.
Benjamin Disraeli had a very different society in view when he first introduced"the two nations" idea in his novel"Sybil" in 1845. He was one of Britain's greatest prime ministers, and a charter neoconservative. (He started life as a radical left-winger.) And he is the founder of the progressive conservatism that has dominated the American presidency in recent decades. (Disraeli's idea was that conservatives and liberals were equally progressive; they differed insofar as liberals were detached from the past and looked to the international community for advice and approval; conservatives were detached from the international community and looked to the past for advice and approval — to their ancestors, their national history, their cultural heritage.)
Disraeli's"Sybil" made the dramatic claim that the queen reigned over two separate nations,"two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy … who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners and are not governed by the same laws … THE RICH AND THE POOR." (Victorians were too robust to be scared of capital letters.)
A brilliant stroke by a brilliant man: Traditional British society was divided, like a jumbo lawn tennis court, by a barrier of class and wealth that few Britons ever leapt. But American society isn't, and never was. Not only does Edwards' life clash with his message, his message never did make much sense....
[Kay S. Hymowitz is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She writes extensively on education and childhood in America.]
These days everyone has a strong opinion about marriage, but no one seems to be sure what it is, exactly. Is it a sacramental union? Is it a public recognition of a committed love relationship? Is it a state scheme for distributing health insurance and tax breaks? Or given what two eminent anthropologists writing recently in support of gay marriage in the Washington Post describe as a"startling diversity of socially approved forms of marriage," is the institution too varied to fit into a single, dictionary-neat meaning?
The anthropologists are right about one thing: human beings have come up with almost as many ways of getting hitched as they have languages to tell mother-in-law jokes. Some cultures allow only monogamous marriage; some accept polygamy. In many cultures, the wife moves into her husband's family's home; in others, the husband moves into the wife's; in still others, they get a mortgage and move into their own two-bedroom ranch in Levittown. Though most cultures give husbands the primary responsibility for providing for the children, some make the wife's brother—the baby's uncle—responsible for providing the food and the bow-and-arrow lessons. Some cultures don't allow divorce; some allow divorce but not remarriage; some allow divorce if husbands fork over most of their life savings to the likes of Raoul Felder; and others let a guy say"I divorce you" three times before booting his wife out the door.
This protean diversity is central to today's marriage debate. If marriage is, as these examples suggest, an eminently malleable social construct, why shouldn't society shape it any way it likes, especially by letting gays marry each other?
But beneath all the diversity, marriage has always had a fundamental, universal core that makes gay marriage a non sequitur: it has always governed property and inheritance rights; it has always been the means of establishing paternity, legitimacy, and the rights and responsibilities of parenthood; and because these goals involve bearing and raising children, it has always involved (at least one) man and woman. What's more, among the"startling diversity" of variations that different cultures have elaborated on this fundamental core, our own culture has produced a specifically American ideal of marriage that is inseparable from our vision of free citizenship and is deeply embedded in our history, politics, economics, and culture. Advocates for gay marriage cite the historical evolution of that ideal—which we might call republican marriage—to bolster their case, arguing that gay unions are a natural extension of America's dedication to civil rights and to individual freedom. But a look at that history is enough to cast serious doubt on the advocates' case.
Strange as it seems, America's founding thinkers were as interested in the subject of marriage as any of Fox TV's bachelorettes. Given the political experiment that they were designing, they had good reason, for they understood the basic sociological truth that familial relations both echo and shape the political order."To the institution of marriage the true origin of society must be traced," James Wilson, a member of the Continental Congress and later a Supreme Court justice, wrote in 1790. Before the Revolutionary War, legal philosophers and statesmen like Wilson filled magazines and speeches with discussions of what kind of marriage would best live up to the principles of the new country. It's not surprising that they zeroed in on one quality in particular: self-government.
The Founders did not sketch their ideas about marriage on a blank slate, of course. They brought to their task a set of traditional Western assumptions about the institution, and these assumptions remained implicit in their new ideal and still resurface in our current discussions. Given that marriage was originally a religious sacrament, the Founders understood that the institution retained, even in their secular republic, an element of spirituality, an assertion that man is something higher than the beasts and more than a merely material being. The ceremony confers a special, human dignity upon our relations. In addition, they understood that marriage is a contract, regulated by the laws and ultimately enforceable by the state, that spells out property relations between the spouses, as well as their inheritance rights and those of their children. Therefore, marriage is intrinsically a government concern....
When it became clear that Senator John Kerry would be the nominee of the Democratic Party, Republicans saw an opportunity to recycle some of their best lines from the contentious Bush-Dukakis presidential campaign of 1988. Like Governor Michael Dukakis before him, they said, Kerry was an Massachusetts liberal, uttering the phrase as if it were a communicable disease. The goal was to depict Kerry as a extremist, advised by a boutique of Harvard intellectuals, whose views would prove unacceptable to the rest of America.
With Tuesday's announcement that John Edwards will join Kerry on the Democratic ticket, the Bush campaign's first response was to throw the L word at the North Carolina senator.
Will the liberal charge stick? More to the point, what exactly is a Massachusetts liberal, and how did it get to be such a pejorative term? Can the epithet still hurt John Kerry in 2004?
Remember Willie Horton
For those of us steeped in recent political history, the first image"Massachusetts liberal" dredges up is that of a convict named Willie Horton. Michael Dukakis had the misfortune to be governor when Horton was let out of a Massachusetts jail on a work release program and proceeded to rape a woman in Maryland. The Republican ads against Dukakis were brutal -- and effective.
Then, during a presidential debate, CNN moderator Bernard Shaw asked,"Governor, if Kitty Dukakis was raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" In a bloodless reaction, Dukakis ignored the question about his wife and proceeded to defend his position against the death penalty. To a country sick of crime, Dukakis appeared to embody the kind of politician who cared more about the criminal than the victim -- proving himself (at least to those predisposed against him), too culturally out of step with the country to be president.
So one meaning of"Massachusetts liberal" is soft on crime. But in 2004 crime is not nearly the issue it was 16 years ago -- in part because President Clinton reversed both the image and the reality. Not only was Clinton in favor of the death penalty, but as governor of Arkansas he ordered a convict executed in the year he first ran for president. He then promised to replace 100,000 bureaucrats with 100,000 cops -- a promise he kept. During the '90s, crime began to drop to record low levels. John Kerry, a former prosecutor, is not likely to be tagged with the Massachusetts liberal"soft on crime" rap. That day has come and gone.
Welcome to `Taxachusetts'
A second meaning for"Massachusetts liberal" was"tax and spend" liberal. But like the"soft on crime" rap, the"tax and spend" rap has also seen better days....
Wal-Mart is facing the largest class action lawsuit ever been brought against a private company. As many as 1.6 million women may join the suit and the possible payout could exceed $1 billion dollars. What are class action lawsuits, and why have they become so prominent in the news?
Class action lawsuits are an aspect of tort law, which addresses harm or loss that is caused either deliberately or through carelessness by the actions of another. A class action suit is brought by one or more plaintiffs on behalf of a larger group that has a common interest, a common harm. For example, if a product is defective and injures a consumer, that consumer can bring suit against the producer on behalf of all consumers similarly injured. After attorneys’ fees, any settlement or court award is divided among those participating in the suit.
In the Wal-Mart case, six women filed the original action in June 2001, claiming that the giant retailer discriminated against women in salaries and promotions. Approximately 1.6 million women who have worked for Wal-Mart since 1998 are eligible to join the suit.
There are several reasons why class action lawsuits have proliferated over the last few decades. Changes in legal procedure have favored the growth.
A comprehensive study from the Rand Institute for Justice entitled “Class Action Dilemmas, Pursuing Public Goals for Private Gains” explains one such change. “[T]he current controversy over class action roared to life in 1966 when Rule 23, the procedural rule that provides for class actions in federal courts, was significantly revised. . . . Whereas previously, all individuals seeking money damages with a class action lawsuit needed to sign on affirmatively (‘opt in’), now those whom the plaintiffs claimed to represent would be deemed part of the lawsuit unless they explicitly withdrew (‘opted out’).”
In an instant, the scope of lawsuits and the financial liability of defendants “multiplied many times over.” (Rule 23 has been subsequently amended, largely to increase the role of judges in every aspect of class action suits.)
In short, class action suits became tremendously more profitable, especially for lawyers whose contingency fees sometimes exceeded the money paid out to successful plaintiffs. Contingency fees are commonly viewed as a necessary device by which poor plaintiffs can access the court system. In 1971, the Florida Supreme Court stated, “It is irrefutable that the poor and the least fortunate in our society enjoy access to our courts, in part, because of the existence of the contingency fee.”
But the excesses of contingency fees have become infamous, leading critics to label class action suits as “jackpot justice” for lawyers. One critic is Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who has spoken out against “out-of-control class action lawsuits and outrageous contingency fees, which have turned some lawyers into ‘overnight millionaires.’”
You can't say the fixation with John Edwards' looks is just a media phenomenon ("His dazzling smile" — Wall Street Journal;"His hair is a beautiful shade of chocolate brown with honey-colored highlights" — Washington Post;"Each tooth is an ivory treasure, perfectly polished and aligned" — Slate). Not when Republicans refer to him as"the Breck girl" or when John Kerry, who selected the North Carolina senator as his running mate, gazes upon him in a manner that would make even a Breck girl blush.
Kerry has repeatedly made the joke that, in their match-up against George Bush and Dick Cheney, he and Edwards have"better hair." Kerry even acknowledged Edwards' selection as People magazine's sexiest politician. What's next, candidates for office showing up at MTV's plastic surgery show,"I Want a Famous Face," holding pictures of John Edwards?
But politicians' looks have always mattered — they become a shorthand way of capturing someone's character. Even the least vain of people instinctively know this. With the election of 1860 weeks away, Abraham Lincoln received a letter from an 11-year-old girl, Grace Bedell, that read in part,"If you let your whiskers grow … you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband's [sic] to vote for you and then you would be president."
Lincoln replied,"As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affect[ta]ion if I were to begin it now?"
He grew the beard.
In 1920, Warren Harding, an undistinguished Ohio senator, won the Republican Party nomination, and the presidency, in large part because, as the U.S. Senate's website says, the"tall and handsome" Harding"fit the popular image of what a president should look like." His presidency was brief and scandal-plagued. As for those good looks, portraits of the 29th president show a jowly, white-haired man.
Edwards' looks coincide with a cultural moment in which, as the New York Times recently pointed out, the new leading man is"soft of cheek." You can imagine, if he loses the race, Edwards taking over for Tobey Maguire in"Spider-Man 3." Despite Edwards' youthfulness, at 51 he is not actually young. But how many candidates for vice president could say convincingly,"If I'm elected, I promise to reach puberty before my swearing in?"
Of course, Edwards' glow only underscores Kerry's dullness. Kerry's face — once considered dashingly attractive — has been a constant source of unflattering comment, from his resemblance to the television character Lurch to the"Why the Long Face?" jokes, to the speculation that Botox is behind his lack of animation. The insults seem not simply gratuitous because they get at a dreariness of personality....
Robert Bork, in the WSJ (July 12, 2004):
The Supreme Court has just endorsed lawsuits against American and foreign individuals and corporations under a supposed "human rights" component of the "law of nations," two amorphous and shifting concepts that give little warning of what conduct may result in liability for damages. Although the Court gave assurances that there will be stringent rules to control the more adventurous lower courts, those assurances are highly dubious and the results promise to be anything but happy.
The center of controversy is the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) which provides that "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." No legislative history exists and, as a prominent judge once remarked, "this old but little used section is a kind of legal Lohengrin. . . . No one seems to know whence it came."
When I first sat on a case involving the ATS, my thought was that it must be a modern excrescence, but then I saw that it was enacted in 1789 and made sense at the time. It slumbered peacefully for 200 years until a federal appeals court in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala resurrected the statute in 1980 by awarding damages to Paraguayans for the torture-murder of a Paraguayan in Paraguay by a Paraguayan official. Though that seemed remote from any conceivable interest of the U.S., the court, as Jeremy Rabkin wrote, "cheered on by a host of international law scholars, insisted that 'customary international law' has greatly expanded and now incorporates an international law of human rights." That raises the question of whether Congress's 1789 understanding of what it intended to enact can properly be amended by judges to mean something else. The answer should be a resounding no.
One thing is certain: In 1789, the law of nations had nothing to do with human
rights. According to Blackstone, with whom Americans were very familiar, the
principal offenses were infringements of the rights of ambassadors, violations
of safe conduct, and piracy (included because the offense took place on the
high seas beyond the reach of any nation's laws). The ATS may also have been
designed to deal with prize law, which allowed private vessels having a marque,
or license, to capture enemy ships. The law of nations, in other words, was
just that, a law about relations between sovereignties. It would have been preposterous
for a small, weak nation clinging to the Atlantic seaboard to have given jurisdiction
to its courts to entertain, for example, human-rights suits by Britons against
the British crown for actions taken in Britain. Rather than soothing foreign
nations by protecting their emissaries, such tort actions would have inflamed
them. Yet that is what our courts are doing now, and under the same statute.
There is no justification for that result....
Robert Fisk, in the Independent (July 12, 2004):
The Americans could learn a lot from Sheikh Jouwad Mehdi Al-Khalasi. A tall, distinguished man who speaks with eloquence and humor, he has the same forehead and piercing eyes of his grandfather - the man who led the Shiite Muslim insurrection against British occupation in 1920.
He brings out a portrait of the grand old revolutionary, who has a fluffy but carefully combed white beard. One of the most eminent scholars of his day, he ended his life in exile, negotiating with Lenin's Bolshevik government and dying mysteriously - poisoned, his supporters believed, by British intelligence. Sheikh Jouwad's shoulders shake with laughter when I suggest that there are more than a few parallels between the Iraqi insurrections of 1920 and 2004."Exactly", he says.
"In 1920, the British tried to introduce an Iraqi government in name only - it looks like a copy of UN Security Council Resolution 1546. Sheikh Mehdi Al-Khalasi had become the grand 'marja' (the leading Shiite scholar) after the death of Mohamed Al-Shiazi and he issued a fatwa telling his followers and all Shiites in Iraq not to participate in elections, not to give legitimacy to a government established by occupation forces.
"Not only the Shiites responded to it but the Sunnis and the Jewish, Christian and other minorities as well. The elections failed and so the British forced my grandfather to leave Iraq. They arrested him at his home on the other side of this religious school where we are today - a home which many years later Saddam Hussein deliberately destroyed." It was a familiar colonial pattern, of course. The Brits were exiling troublesome clerics - Archbishop Makarios comes to mind - throughout the 20th century, but Sheikh Mehdi turned out to be as dangerous to the British abroad as he had been at home. He was transported to Bombay, but so great was the crowd of angry Indian Muslims who arrived at the port that British troops kept him aboard ship and then transported him to the hot, volcanic port of Aden.
"He said to the British: 'You don't know where to send me, but since the pilgrimage season is close, I want to go on the 'Haj' to Makkah.' Now, when Sharif Hussein, the ruler, heard this, he sent an invitation for my grandfather to attend the 'Haj'. He met Sharif Hussein on Arafat Mountain at Makkah. And then he received an invitation to go to Iran, signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Mossadeq. And in Iran, waiting for him, were many religious leaders from Najaf." Thirty years later, the Americans would topple Mossadeq's Iranian government, with help from Col. Monty Woodhouse of MI6. Sheikh Jouwad uses his hands when he talks - Shiite prelates are far more expressive with their hands than Anglican clergymen - and each new episode in his grandfather's life produces a pointed finger.
"When Sheikh Mehdi Al-Khalasi arrived at the Iranian port of Bushehr, he received a big welcome but an official of the Iranian Oil Company fired 10 bullets at him. Many people said at the time that this was a plot by Col. Wilson, who had been the head of the British occupation in Iraq in 1920. All the great religious leaders from Qom in Iran were waiting for him - Al-Naini and Al-Asfahani, Sheikh Abdulhalim Al-Hoeri Al-Yezdi, who was the professor of the future Ayatollah Khomeini - and then King Faisal, who the British had set up in Baghdad, announced that exiled religious leaders could return to Iraq, providing they promised not to interfere in politics."
Sheikh Mehdi angrily dismissed the invitation as"an attack on our role as religious leaders and on the independence of Iraq." Instead, he traveled to the northeastern Iranian city of Mashad where he established an assembly"to protect the holy places of Iraq," publishing treatises in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Russian and Turkish....
... Today, it is common to hear Westerners, who have read a few polemical articles and imagine themselves great experts on Islam, calling for "an Islamic Reformation," and an "Islamic Luther." Other such are horrified to hear the argument, which is quite widespread among informed non-Muslim scholars as well as Muslims, that Islam already has a movement comparable to the Reformation, and had its Luther, or better, its John Calvin, in the form of Wahhabism and its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. That is, the Islamic Reformation exists in the ultraextremist cult that is the state sect in Saudi Arabia and the inspirer of al-Qaida. Wahhabis themselves are quite pleased by the comparison. Is this really so difficult to understand?
Calvin believed that a community of the elect had been chosen by God and made up the Calvinist congregation. Before the arrival of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the Hanafi-Sunni Muslims of the Ottoman empire believed (as Hanafi-Sunnis still believe) that Allah would judge individuals on their faith, and that salvation could not be claimed in this life. Is Calvinism, with its insistence on its adherents' election, so easily distinguished from Wahhabism, with exactly the same fanatical belief in its acolytes' own goodness? Both produced iconoclasm and theocracy. Is it not fascinating that the followers of Calvin and Ibn Abd al-Wahhab both fostered the rejection of pleasure, song and dance, decoration of sacred buildings, and spiritual culture beyond simple prayer?
We are told incessantly that without "our Protestant heritage" Americans would not be free. Have Americans really become so thoroughly indoctrinated in this simplistic and bigoted a view of our history, according to which every liberty is due to the influence of "Anglo-Saxonism" and "the Protestant ethic," as to have forgotten that decades before Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was slaying Sufis in Arabia, Puritan Massachusetts hanged a Catholic woman as a witch? (Look up the case of Ann "Goody" Glover on google, if you don't believe me.)
Or that Roger Williams had to flee Puritan Massachusetts to shelter among the Narragansett Indians, on his way to found an oasis of religious liberty in Rhode Island? Or that Catholics were deprived of rights in nearly all the early Anglo-American colonies, except for Maryland? Can we today imagine Boston without a Catholic archdiocese? Yet there was no Catholic bishop in Boston until 1808. Early America happened to be a place where adherents of the Roman Catholic church, libeled for generations as subservient to the Pope -- a slander whose echo we hear subtly repeated today, in discussions about the suitability of Catholic political candidates -- were in truth courageous heroes of religious liberty.
In New England, with the exception of Rhode Island, the Congregational Churches long enjoyed an absolute monopoly on faith, and in most of the southern colonies, the Church of England had the same status. New Hampshire permitted nobody but Protestants to hold office or teach school until 1877, 14 years after the Emancipation Proclamation ended the slavery of Blacks! The Carolinas, by contrast, have the honor of proclaiming freedom of religion to "Jews, heathen, and dissenters," beginning in 1669, under the original colonial charter written by John Locke, although it was not ratified. England itself, worshipped as the mother of our liberties, denied full rights to Catholics until 1829!
Americans have lately been perturbed by the arguments of Samuel Huntington, according to whom, "There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society," a dream that can be shared only by those who "dream in English." No place in this scheme for the Catholics of Maryland, to begin with. But how does this impend on the question of the future of Islam?
Joshua Spivak, in the Chicago Tribune (July 9, 2004):
Every four years Americans are subjected to political conventions, a relentlessly hyped, expensive event paid for partly by public funds. Despite the avalanche of coverage given to these events, the most important story is
missed: While once critical to our political system, the quadrennial conventions are a useless, pointless bore. In fact, they are now the multimillion-dollar vestigial tail of American presidential politics.
Reporters and pundits spin tales of important moments from the conventions that will supposedly shape our nation's future. However, viewers and voters are not fooled. In 2000, even though the major networks devoted much of their nightly coverage to the conventions, only 16.1 million households tuned in on the average night. Expect that figure to drop, and for good reason. Though the parties will do their best to make it look like they are presenting their take on the big issues, the conventions are actually run to make sure absolutely nothing of interest will happen.
It didn't used to be this way. Political conventions once were excitement personified, a place where "one lives a gorgeous year in an hour," according to acerbic commentator H.L. Mencken. The dreams of presidential hopefuls rose and fell in a moment's notice. But those days are long gone.
The last time a convention even went past the first ballot was in 1952. The convention's usefulness breathed its last in 1956, when, in a fairly successful attempt to enliven an otherwise dreary campaign, Adlai Stevenson threw the choice for his vice president to the delegates. Since then, due to the use of primaries and caucuses, the presidential candidates have all been known before the convention, even if some of their opponents did not realize it.
The convention is now used for political theater. While there is a grand tradition of memorable conventions in American history, from William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech in 1896 to Hubert Humphrey's 1948 call for the Democrats to "walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights," none of those are really remembered anymore. There is but one overriding convention moment that sticks in the mind today: the Chicago riot in 1968.
Conventions are now run with the prayer that nothing will go wrong on national television, a focus that removes all points of interest from the proceedings....
Every presidential ticket is a snapshot of a party, a particular political moment, a particular political need.
Often, it shows politicians scrambling to pull together various regions or ideological wings of a party, like Franklin D. Roosevelt paired with the conservative Texan John Nance Garner, the speaker of the House, in 1932. Sometimes, the politicians are trying to reflect (and capitalize on) a major social or demographic change - notably Walter F. Mondale, hoping to galvanize his decidedly uphill campaign by naming a woman, Geraldine A. Ferraro, as his running-mate in 1984.
So what does a John Kerry-John Edwards ticket tell you? Forget, for a moment, the obvious attempt at regional balance, or the tactical advantage of adding a skilled campaigner to the ticket. In deeper ways, the selection of Edwards signals the extent to which this campaign will revolve around class - more specifically, which party represents the aspirations, values and economic interests of hard-working middle America.
There is an obvious paradox here; Mr. Edwards is the fourth white male millionaire to join the national tickets. Three of them went to Yale, and two (Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush) are descendants of old and patrician New England families.
But Kevin Phillips, the political historian and Bush critic, notes that there are class differences even among the millionaires. To begin with, as is now widely known, Mr. Edwards is the son of a millworker, the first generation in his family to go to college (and it was not Yale). He made his own fortune, and he did it as a trial lawyer."Edwards is a member of one of the relatively few professions where you can make a lot of money blasting the avarice of big corporations," Mr. Phillips said.
"Republicans worry about him going up and down the Ohio Valley, and winning over a lot of people just like he won small-town juries in the border states," Mr. Phillips added. (Atticus Finch with an attitude.)
With the help of Mr. Edwards's full-throated economic populism, his up-by-the-bootstraps biography and his case against the"two Americas," Democrats hope to strengthen their connection with white working- and middle-class voters. Mr. Kerry has already laid down some detailed policy prescriptions to ease what he describes as the"middle-class squeeze," from a major program to expand health insurance coverage and hold down its costs, to new assistance with college tuition....
LAST THURSDAY, CNN's Larry King asked John Kerry whether he would want former President Bill Clinton to campaign on his behalf. Kerry said yes."What American would not trade the economy we had in the 1990s, the fact that we were not at war and young Americans were not deployed?"
Kerry's answer is revealing. We were, in fact, at war. The Clinton administration, with the exception of a few cruise missiles, had simply chosen not to fight back. Osama bin Laden, a sworn enemy of the United States, had launched attacks on our embassies and on a warship of the U.S. Navy. Saddam Hussein had defied U.N. weapons inspections, repeatedly threatened America, and attempted to assassinate former President Bush.
Furthermore, where does Kerry object to young Americans' being deployed? Afghanistan? But Kerry has criticized the Bush administration for an insufficient commitment of troops there. Iraq? But Kerry voted for the war and has said he would not cut and run.
So Kerry was simply indulging in demagoguery. He's not the only one. The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on pre-Iraq intelligence failures last Friday. Jay Rockefeller, the committee's ranking Democrat, claimed that, because of the flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,"Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of America in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."
Consider the extremism of Rockefeller's statement. Our global standing has never been lower? Our nation is more vulnerable than ever before? Then consider the facts. Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies have deposed the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrown Saddam Hussein's Baathist despotism in Iraq. The Pakistani/Libyan international nuclear weapons bazaar has been shut down. Al Qaeda operatives not already killed or captured are on the run, with no safe base of operations remaining in the world. All this has made us more vulnerable? If that's true, then it is the position of Senator Rockefeller that the American and allied soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq not only have accomplished nothing but have been counterproductive. This is a slander the Bush administration must answer--if not for its own sake, then for the honor of those who have sacrificed so much to make this country less vulnerable than it has been for years.
As for hatred of America, al Qaeda leaders were planning their attacks on New York and Washington back in those halcyon days of the Clinton era that John Kerry recalls with such nostalgia. Indeed, al Qaeda was left unmolested as it trained thousands of terrorists at camps in Afghanistan. And of course, lest we forget: On October 12, 2000, al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, killing 17 American sailors. On August 7, 1998, al Qaeda struck two U.S. embassies in East Africa killing 257--including 12 Americans--and injuring 5,000. During the 1990s, numerous other attacks were planned (the Millennium attack on the Los Angeles airport) or executed (the Khobar Towers attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). Those were the good old days when, by Jay Rockefeller's reckoning, America was less hated and less vulnerable....
John Kerry thinks he knows the Australian accent pretty well."Oz-TRY-le-an," he says with emphasis as we meet mid-air aboard his Boeing 757, modestly emblazoned"John Kerry President". Half an hour earlier we'd raced out of Denver, Colorado, our police motorcade ablaze in blue and red. Now we should be heading south for New Mexico, where more voters wait to be wooed. But instead of another stop on the trail Kerry hopes will end at the White House on November 2, the jet's nose suddenly points east to Washington DC, where the Republicans are planning an ambush in the Congress.
It's been a long day for the 60-year-old Democrat and his growing entourage. He left Nantucket on the north-east coast at 6am, reached the Rocky Mountains by mid-morning, and now, after a day's campaigning, he's due in the nation's capital at 2am. Total distance: about 6300 kilometres.
After a few hours' sleep, Kerry will be stalking the ornate corridors of the Capitol, making a rare return to his Senate duties to vote on a bill vital to one of his key constituencies - Vietnam War veterans. All the time he's thinking - about money, policies, a vice-president. Clearly, he has a lot going on. For the moment, though, he looks relaxed as he wanders out from his curtained compartment.
An aide introduces us."Oz-TRY-le-an," Kerry says. But when I suggest he picked up the accent on an R&R trip to Australia during the Vietnam War, there is no response. Instead, he heads back to his compartment.
It's a strange moment: Kerry has given a firm handshake, smiled, registered my nationality, made a mild joke about it, and then completely switched off. He hasn't been unfriendly. He hasn't been aloof - the most common criticism of him. He's just tuned in for a second, then disconnected. He knows I can't win him a single vote.
Backtrack 18 months to an icy Washington evening in January 2003 - a night for indoors, for politics and plots. At the White House, George W. Bush is mulling over a speech that will set the US on course for war in Iraq. Across town at a swank city hotel, six men attack him relentlessly as they begin manoeuvring for his job. One of them towers above the rest, still slim at six foot four (193cm), still good for the odd ice hockey game or a scoot across the waves on his windsurfer. Big-headed with a thicket of greying hair and a lantern jaw, he has a slightly melancholy look. His voice is deep, his tone serious. The message is clear: I'm presidential material - just look at my initials. JFK.
This is John Forbes Kerry, the widely travelled, well-educated son of a diplomat; Kerry, the decorated war hero whose anti-Vietnam campaign rattled the Nixon White House; Kerry, the four-term Massachusetts Senator who speaks French and specialises in foreign policy; Kerry, the guy who married one of America's richest women....
A NEW decency is at play in American popular culture - and it coincides with the rise of a new generation that is more conservative than their rebellious Sixties-era parents.
The outcry over Janet Jackson's breast-baring stunt is one vivid aspect of a new American primness, ephemeral or not, and it has also defined decency as one wedge issue in the elections.
Post-Janet, the annual Victoria's Secret lingerie show was cancelled on national television.
Then, certain 'live' broadcasts such as the Oscars were aired only after safe five-minute video delays.
Amusingly, a recent New York Times headline declared: Sex Doesn't Sell: Miss Prim Is In.
American fashion designers like Oscar de la Renta were subverting the runways with Peter Pan collars and prim coats, and to be uptight was 'edgy', the report said.
The Federal Communications Commission made the most of this Victorian moment in the national mood by punishing Clear Channel for radio shock-jock Howard Stern's on-air comments on anal sex.
Clear Channel agreed last month to pay US $1.75 million (S$3 million) in fines.
All this while, radical Madonna, always ahead of trends, has been penning children's books, dressing demurely in Laura Ashley florals, and exalting motherhood.
Indeed, the quarterly City Magazine, which is mined by policymakers and the media for ideas and trends, highlighted America's cultural pendulum swing in its Spring 2004 edition: 'Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with 'alternative values'.
'During the last 10 years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled.
'What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centred, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.'
Mr Phillip Longman, who researches demographics and public policy, linked the Janet Jackson backlash to a magnified parental protectiveness and moderate cultural currents.
'Culturally, the US is beginning to know a brand-new generation that is more modest sexually and more committed to family,' the New America Foundation senior fellow said.
'Their parents typically wanted them really badly. They invested unprecedented amounts of attention and money on their kids, who are highly protected. People objected to Janet Jackson because their children are so precious.'
These young people belong to the new Millennial Generation of 70 million young Americans, a populous cohort born after 1980....
John Edwards can't get the high-beam smile off his face.
Picked this week as putative Democratic candidate John Kerry's running mate, his joy at the notion of becoming U.S. vice-president fairly leaps off the TV screen.
But has the junior senator from North Carolina thought it through?
He's important now. Some say his open-faced affability is, in fact, crucial if Kerry's so-far plodding campaign is ever to catch fire. But if the Democrats win Nov. 2, what then?
Will Edwards step in to the second most important job in the land, a heartbeat away from the presidency? Or, having served his purpose, will he be at a political dead end?
The first American vice-president, John Adams, called the job"the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Rather more succinct was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's three vice-presidents, John Nance Garner, who bitterly remarked that it"isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit."
That's been the case more often than not.
It's widely acknowledged that a vice-president has a far more significant role before the election, not after, hence the term, running mate.
He's expected to broaden the appeal of the main contender, not overshadow it because it's the top of the ticket that people vote for, analysts say, not the bottom. And Kerry's choice of a running mate is textbook. Edwards' blue-collar southern roots and trial-lawyer speechifying will counterpoint the Massachusetts senator's own blue-blood East Coast dispassion.
U.S. President George W. Bush also needed a counterpoint when he chose Dick Cheney in 2000, and almost certainly will do so again next month. Cheney, secretary of defence in George H.W. Bush's administration and ultimate Washington insider, added ballast to Bush's inexperience at the federal level.
Presidential historian Allan Lichtman notes it's a myth that running mates are picked to balance the ticket geographically or to deliver a key state or region. It rarely happens because it rarely works."Only Lyndon Johnson did that, back in 1960, when he was credited with winning Texas for John F. Kennedy."
Traditionally, once past the inauguration, vice-presidents are more or less sidelined, limited to attending the funerals of foreign dignitaries, playing host to less important White House visitors and chairing the occasional commission. Indeed, the role has only two officially mandated duties. The first is to serve as president of the Senate, though the V-P may vote only when there is a tie. Someone else actually runs it on a day-to-day basis.
The second is to succeed if the president dies or resigns, as in 1974 when Gerald Ford took over from the disgraced Richard Nixon. Nine of the 46 U.S. vice-presidents have replaced their boss before the end of his term, a fact that apparently enticed Johnson to sign on with Kennedy.
"Lots of presidents die in office," he noted in graceless foreshadowing,"so why not?"
The vice-president does attend cabinet meetings and sits on the National Security Council, the president's chief advisory panel on foreign relations and national defence policies.
That's only because of Harry Truman; as Roosevelt's third V-P, he was kept so far out of the loop that he knew nothing about testing of the atomic bomb. When he took office on FDR's death in 1945, with war in the Pacific still raging, Truman vowed no vice-president would ever be so ill-prepared again....
WHEN IS the last time you heard Donald Rumsfeld insult an ally? The defense secretary used to insult an ally a week. The men from Mars in Rumsfeld's inner circle had nothing but contempt for the un-warlike Europeans from Venus, as Robert Kagan famously put it. But in recent months Rumsfeld has become strangely quiet. The Bush administration never admits it has made a mistake, but you can detect shifts in policy by signals sent out, and one of them may be a muzzled Rumsfeld.
The fact is that the administration needs allies now. Iraq has gone so badly that the old go-it-alone neoconservatives have had to take a back seat, and the Bush forces are out courting countries it formerly disdained. So intensive was this effort to internationalize Iraq in the month of June that John Kerry began to see one of his key issues being coopted.
The Bush administration came into office with a big chip on its shoulder, and long before 9/11, America's allies watched in dismay at what wags called the bonfire of the treaties -- Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, et al. But it was Iraq that caused the great divide between the United States and its European allies, and not all the fault lay with the Americans. The French saying they would veto any UN resolution to go to war against Iraq no matter what the circumstances ended any chance for a united international effort to prod Iraq into compliance with UN Resolution 1441.
We now know that Saddam Hussein doubted Western resolve to disarm him, and even though the overall French position on Iraq certainly looks better in hindsight, it began to seem at the time that the real fight was about curtailing American power, not Iraq's. Rumsfeld's crack"old Europe" being less important to the United States as the new Europeans who had just emerged from Soviet power further inflamed trans-Atlantic sensibilities.
Last month, however, President Bush traveled from Washington no less than four times to meet with and to soothe ruffled allies. He went from the beaches of Normandy, where the 60th anniversary of D-Day was being celebrated, to the G-8 summit in Georgia, to Ireland for a European Union meeting, and lastly to Istanbul for a NATO summit....
Senator John Kerry's political advisers plan to dispatch his new running mate, Senator John Edwards, to rural areas in critical states across the Midwest and the West, in the belief that Mr. Edwards could be an unusually powerful advocate for the ticket in regions viewed as President Bush's stronghold.
For all the attention to Mr. Edwards's Southern roots, Mr. Kerry's aides said that his strongest appeal was likely to be among rural and independent voters, two of the most vital segments of the electorate this year, because of his upbringing in a small North Carolina town and his political identity as a Southern Democrat. Mr. Kerry's aides and some outside analysts said he could be a strong presence in a dozen battleground states outside the South, from Ohio to Oregon.
''From looking at how he performed in the primaries, it is clear he did well with the rural vote," Steve Elmendorf, Mr. Kerry's deputy campaign manager, said."We're going to send Edwards into rural states and Southern states because we think he can help us close the gap there."
The Democrats' emerging plan for Mr. Edwards comes at a time when Democratic and even some Republican officials suggest that Mr. Kerry's vice-presidential selection has the potential of being the most politically significant choice since another Massachusetts Democrat, John F. Kennedy, turned to another Southerner, Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1960. Many experts say the choice of Johnson pushed Texas into the Democrats' column and ensured Kennedy's victory.
Although Mr. Edwards is likely to sway a relatively small number of votes, Democrats and Republicans noted that the contest was likely to be determined by a sliver of voters in a handful of states, and said that Mr. Edwards appeared particularly strong among those voters the White House and Mr. Kerry's campaign had seen as pivotal to the outcome in November.
"I think it's going to help him," Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, said of Mr. Kerry's choice of Mr. Edwards."The picture of him and all the kids and the rest of it.
"He appeals to the Southern moderates, who in the past may have voted for the Republicans," Mr. Fabrizio added."He's got a populist message, so it can go to union members; a sizable number of union members might have voted for George Bush. I think Edwards is appealing to female voters."
Mr. Bush's aides said they did not believe Mr. Edwards would make a significant difference, arguing that voters end up making their decisions in presidential elections based on the top of the ticket....