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By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
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By Dennis Romero
Democratic Presidential Nominee
In the past, the Weekly has sometimes endorsed candidates out of support for their principles — electability (or common sense) be damned. This year is different. In 2004 our top priority is defeating George W. Bush. And so, while many of us admire the progressive values of Dennis Kucinich and honor the passion of still-on-the-ballot Howard Dean (who gave the invertebrate Democratic Party a spine implant), our choice comes down to the front-runners: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Both are serious men who would make strong presidents. Both currently run ahead of Bush in the polls. And though both proved distressingly weak in the face of the Iraq War Resolution (changing their minds only after that invasion produced, in The Daily Show’s great phrase, a “Mess O’ Potamia”), we feel confident of one thing: As president, neither would have waged a pre-emptive war on Iraq after lying about the reasons for doing so.
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Kerry is, in many ways, the stronger candidate. He certainly has a longer, more liberal record than Edwards. His health-care plan is more expansive, and unlike Edwards, he opposes the death penalty (Kerry would, however, make an exception for terrorists; Edwards believes the death penalty is “the most fitting punishment for the most heinous crimes” but supports reforms “to ensure that defendants receive fair trials” and sponsored the Innocence Protection Act, allowing federal defendants to apply for DNA testing). More important, in an election that will likely turn on national security, Kerry has a deeper understanding of foreign policy and, as a Vietnam War hero, a stronger résumé. Although, like everyone else, we wish he’d stop saying, “Bring it on,” we take his point: Having served bravely in a war that the president ducked, he will be hard for Republican smear artists to tar as a coward, pushover or traitor. So what is our reservation about Kerry? Too often he is a sententious Brahmin whose fondness for maundering “nuance” looks suspiciously like hedging. While he is sometimes good on the stump (he shone in Iowa and New Hampshire), he’s more frequently the politician you saw claiming victory in Wisconsin: The moment Kerry began his monotonous soliloquy, the room turned gray. One had unhappy flashbacks to Al Gore.
Which brings us to Edwards. If Kerry has better credentials, Edwards is undeniably the better campaigner. Sunny, engaged, energetic — he’s a natural. This isn’t simply a matter of “likability” (although Edwards possesses it) but of knowing how to present ideas to the public. And though he’s no revolutionary, Edwards has been campaigning to the left of Kerry. A crackerjack trial lawyer, he has no peer at showing how Bush presides over “two Americas” — one for the privileged, the other for the rest of us — and at explaining clearly how the administration favors “wealth not work.” Instead of talking about the Clintonian “forgotten middle class” he addresses the poor — 35 million Americans and counting. Plus, Edwards consistently confronts the issue of racism. Miraculously, he does all this while exuding optimism. Even finishing second in Wisconsin, Edwards was alluring; his “objects in the mirror” line only underscored Kerry’s drabness.
John Edwards is the candidate we want to see more of — the one who deserves more exposure on the national stage. And that is why we urge you to vote for him. In such a crucial election, we want to make sure that George W. Bush faces the strongest possible opponent, and the best way to assure this is by keeping the race going a few weeks longer. Although we fully expect that the eventual winner will be Kerry — and will strongly support him should he be nominated — only good can come from keeping Edwards’ candidacy alive. Consider that early in the race Kerry was thought the worst of all the major democratic candidates among fair-trade activists, but after pressure first from Howard Dean and now from Edwards — who was against NAFTA as early as 1995 — Kerry has moved his position closer to the fair-trade, pro-labor left. Edwards will force Kerry to be sharper (he’s best when challenged), keep the newscasts filled with the pair’s criticism of Bush, and at the very least, give America a deeper sense of Edwards — helping to make him a national figure that Kerry could use to brighten the Democratic ticket. And if Edwards just happens to pull out the nomination, we’ll endorse him again this November.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
NO ENDORSEMENTCAREER PROSECUTOR STEVE COOLEY was not your typical law-and-order Republican when he defeated incumbent Gil Garcetti four years ago. To his credit, he bucked fellow Republicans (and Democrat Garcetti) with a more reasonable interpretation of California’s three-strikes law. Cooley said he would soften office policy by not pursuing 25-years-to-life sentences for nonviolent crimes. He proved as good as his word.
Unfortunately, he has disappointed in too many other ways, most notably his handling of the Rampart police scandal. After campaigning on Rampart, he seemed, once in office, determined to wrap up the investigation as quickly as possible, keeping its scope frustratingly narrow.