John Edwards’ foot-in-mouth disease

“They want to shut me up,” says John Edwards, who apparently thinks jokes about his $400 haircuts are part of a plot to keep him quiet. I am on his side. Leave the man alone. Let his jaw keep flapping at 100 mph.

With every word the Democratic candidate for president utters, the public learns that much more about his demagogic, hypocritical phoniness. Even in a recent Creston, Iowa, tantrum about scary forces spouting trivia to drown out his seriousness, he was busily providing evidence that bunkum is his specialty.

“This stuff is not an accident,” he said, seemingly making the same point as his recent TV commercial contrasting emphasis on hair with emphasis on tragedy. “Nobody in this room should think this is an accident. You know, I’m out there speaking up for universal health care, ending this war in Iraq, speaking up for the poor. They want to shut me up. That’s what this is about. ‘Let’s distract from people who don’t have health-care coverage. Let’s distract from people who can’t feed their children … Let’s talk about this little silly frivolous nothing stuff so that America won’t pay attention.’ ”

There was more about some unidentified, evil souls who are “going to control the media … everything that’s being said,” and you find reason to worry. What if these figments of his feigned fright really did get him to quit yapping? Among other minuses, we wouldn’t know he thinks conspirators are at work in all those snide comments about his haircuts.

So, you handful of right-wing phantoms in charge of America’s comedians, blog sites, radio talk shows, cable TV shows, newspapers, magazines, backyard gossipers and people in the streets, please let Edwards continue to substitute an absurdity for a commonsense perception that goes like this: Spending that much on one’s looks is a signal of a rich man’s superficial vanity, worth noting, in part, because this particular rich man hops around the country talking about “two Americas,” an America of the conniving superrich on the one hand, and on the other, of the poor and the middle class.

Edwards himself was able to join up with the first of those two Americas mainly as a lawyer filing medical-malpractice suits. The same kinds of ornery folks who mock his spendthrift infatuation with his wavy locks might characterize these suits as piratical raids on the legitimate holdings of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies and observe that a consequence has been to send health costs higher for everyone in his home state of North Carolina. Never mind, because here he comes with plans to raid the wealth of others again, this time in a universal-health-insurance program that would likely be a redistributionist mess.

The candidate could better help the situation by donating his hair-care costs to public clinics and reminding himself, despite irresistible glances in the mirror, that most of the rich become rich honestly. It’s an easy if despicable game to appeal to envy through castigating the best off among us and wooing the resentful with schemes that take lots from some to give to many. The historically demonstrated end of putting such exaggerated rhetoric into practice is to make everyone poorer. And Edwards is right that we already have more than enough poor people.

His mistake is in failing to understand that poverty is not an issue of systemic unfairness or neglect. Even if we need to redirect some expenditures or consider new programs, we do assist the poor and near poor in a host of ways while simultaneously enforcing an income tax that remains steeply progressive. The basic causes of poverty in our affluence-generating, free enterprise economy are cultural, such as unwed motherhood. The increases in poverty are a result of the legal and illegal immigration of people without the tools that allow immediate entrance into a middle class that happens to be doing better than anytime in history, despite ever-present difficulties.

So, John, I am with you. It is crucial to the republic that your garrulousness runs rampant to the point where your standing in the polls is lower than that of that standup comedian, the hilarious Dennis Kucinich. Talk it up, John, and, by the way, keep getting those revealingly expensive haircuts. Don’t let the conspirators nab the scissors.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)


  1. Arlo J. Thudpucker

    Seems Jay has a penchant for yammering endlessly about trivia. Is it possible to spend more time on a haircut in an article pretending to be a critique on position?

    While I may have missed it, seems Jay has been withholding his criticism of Mitt’s spa and beauty ( ! ) services.

    The canard, “His mistake is in failing to understand that poverty is not an issue of systemic unfairness or neglect.” indicates that Jay is blissfully unaware that the process of eliminating the middle class has been an objective of this administration. It’s the system itself that is creating a permanent underclass, by rewarding corporations to move jobs off shore.

    Apparently, his assertion that “The basic causes of poverty in our affluence-generating, free enterprise economy are cultural, such as unwed motherhood.”, aside from being dead wrong, clearly implies that there are no males in poverty.

    Jay, here’s something for you to consider: It’s lack of jobs and income that’s responsible for poverty.

    Jay steps off the cliff when he opines that “The increases in poverty are a result of the legal and illegal immigration of people without the tools that allow immediate entrance into a middle class that happens to be doing better than anytime in history, despite ever-present difficulties.” Once more, Jay is oblivious to the fact that the middle class is shrinking, and working longer hours to maintain their position.

    Does “It’s the economy, Stupid!” ring ANY bells?

    Where did you find this guy?


    Arlo J. Thudpucker

  2. drich291

    FWIW, Jay Ambrose is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute. They call themselves non-partisan, until you read their policy positions and more of Mr. Ambrose’s columns. It is a neo-conservative, “free-market” think tank. This is the second time this week that CHB has featured a vitriolic column by an arch-conservative. Hmm…..

  3. Jim C

    What an insipid , biased piece of garbage . What was the point ? All of the candidates are wealthy and spend large amounts on their appearance . Does the writer believe that Mit can always look like he was just taken out of the refrigerator without a lot of ( expensive ) primping ? What may I ask has Kucinich said that this blithering , blustering , gassbag finds so humorous ? I can only guess he finds bush and co to be serious noble statesmen who are taking the country in a direction that would have made our forefathers proud . Who needs ” The american spectator ” when we have CHB ? I know , I know , you print all points of view . Aparently no matter how specious , misleading and vapid .

  4. JudyB

    I like Edwards and I don’t care how much he pays for his hair cut, how much is his house cost, or that he’s a lawyer. The man can speak the english language, is intelligent, has not had everything handed to him by dad because of his connections nor has he been indulged since birth..and more importantly, he would not spend trazillions of dollars on a bogus botched up war based on lies. At least IF HE were in the oval office NOW, instead of Bush /Cheney the money he would be spending would benefit the people paying the bills instead of risking many of their or their family memebers lives & limbs in an oil war. So, believe me, if I HAD to make a choice between Edwards and what we have now.. it would be a no brainer. Edwards would sit in the oval office and Bush/ Cheney would sit shackled in prison somewhere. Alas, we are stuck with Bush/Cheney and Edwards will not be the next president.

  5. Electric Bill

    Ambrose’s post is ridiculous. Edwards may have made some of his money through medical malpractice lawsuits but if there was no medical malpractice there would be no malpractice lawsuits. just like there would be no product liability suits if manufacturers didn’t take shortcuts on quality and safety when manufacturing their products. Glaxo is going to feel the pinch real soon and other pharmaceutical giants will learn the same lesson. You may be able of buy congress and a few judges, but getting them to stay bought is another thing. As for Edwards personal grooming, like Hillary’s cleavage, who really cares. How does that advance the debate in any way? Ambrose just wants to incite reverse class warfare, a tactic which has worked well for neocons in the past.

  6. Dionysis

    What a biased piece of crap. Whatever else this self-important neo con blowhard Joe Ambrose might be, he’s also full of delusional bilge. Uttering the same easily discredited twaddle about how greedy trial lawyers are the culprits in a health care system which is nothing more than a form of legalized robbery by the insurance industry against the people of this country may resonate with the like-minded and gullible, but it’s disingenuous nonsense.

    “March 16, 2006
    Medical Malpractice is Not a Factor in High U.S. Healthcare Costs
    According to a study published in the July/August edition of the magazine “Health Affairs,” Americans pay more for healthcare than people in other countries. The study reports that for the year 2002, patients in America paid an average of $5,267 per person for healthcare. This staggering number was more than 52% higher than any other industrialized country.

    The study further reports that contrary to political rhetoric and popular belief, malpractice lawsuits have very little impact on the costs Americans pay for their healthcare. In fact, the costs associated with medical malpractice account for less than 1% of the spending on healthcare. Even so called “defensive” medicine, where doctors run more tests to avoid the possiblity of being sued accounted for no more than 9% of the spending.”

  7. pondering_it_all

    Let’s face it folks: Edwards is the scariest Democratic candidate out there for the Republicans, because he would make some real changes away from our current corporatocracy. He has not been coy about his positions like most of the other candidates. And he is the one Democrat that could actually pull enough votes from the independents (and even from disgusted Republicans) to win the election.

    Clinton may win the primary, but that will insure a Republican wins the Presidency. Why else would all those rightwing pundits be praising her? That has to be straight out of Rove’s playbook!

    Edwards is also the most difficult to attack, apparently: That is why we are seeing such silly rubbish about his haircuts, etc.

  8. Hexalectris

    Another piece of vitriolic, sneering name calling by a neocon with nothing logical or constructive to say to counter an argument. This piece dictated by Rove? Could be. Maybe even probably.

  9. Bix12

    Hey–judging from the replies here, Jay, the consensus is: You Are An Asshole. I agree with the majority.

  10. SEAL

    I think one of the fears the repugnants have is that Obama and Clinton may lock up in a stalemate at the convention causing the party to have to choose a third candidate. That would be Edwards.

    You’re right about one thing. He would be almost impossible to attack with anything of substance and his message will certainly resonate with voters.

    However, in my opinion, he is a light weight and I don’t have any faith in his ability to stand up and fight when needed.