Silence betokens

Gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man who is dead. Let us suppose we go into the room where he is laid out, and we listen. What do we hear? Nothing — this is silence pure and simple. But let us take another case, a case put before us this very day.

Having decided to drop out of the Democratic primary race, John Edwards declined during his New Orleans speech to endorse either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. He offered, in a manner of speaking, silence, but as Cromwell in A Man For All Seasons pointed out, “Silence can, according to the circumstances, speak.”
What does Edwards’ silence betoken? He knows Clinton is polling well ahead of Obama in the big states and that his endorsing Obama might help to even things out. By saying nothing, he is, in effect, standing with Hillary — the sanctimonious lawyer-smoothie with the southern drawl and the $400 haircut, playing it safe and showing his true colors. The dominant theme, as always, being “let’s see what we can get out of this.” Card-shuffler, back-room dealer.

29 thoughts on “Silence betokens

  1. Rich S. on said:

    How long before someone uses Rudy or Edwards in one of those Downfall mashups?

  2. Yea, I like Obama, and I think Jeff’s man-crush on him is getting a bit creepy.
    And does anyone else find it funny that a guy who lambasted those who voted for Bush based on his affable personality, now seems to support Obama (and despises Hillary), strictly on the basis of personality? We have to assume his support is based on personality, since he has refused to give any other reason, despite being asked countless times.

  3. At this point silence would seem to imply support. However, anyone sho saw the New Hampshire can attest that he extended Obama the olive branch in that debate. My feeling is that he is calculating his moves now and will look to see where he can strike a deal, the best deal; I would think that would consider courting potential competing offers and then considering which gives him the best chances in say a cabinet post – assuming this is the angle.
    One would certainly think Hillary would offer the safer bet, but his firebrand is more in line with Obama so you should be patient as we’ll know more in the next two days.
    Lastly, Jeff, I know you love Obama and I certainly favor him among the two remaining, but he has to stop ladling out the Chicken Soup for the Soul and start getting to the meat and potatoes – if you will. This isn’t an upstairs/downstairs thing either, the message of hope just wears thin after a while as the nexus of all addresses – he needs to be specific and with punch.

  4. “The dominant theme, as always, being “let’s see what we can get out of this.” Card-shuffler, back-room dealer.”
    Geez, man. He’s a Southern-Democrat-Politician-LAWYER. What do you EXPECT him to act like?

  5. I wouldn’t completely count out the possibility of an Edwards endorsement for Obama before Tuesday, but it’s looking less likely after his speech mentioned that both Hillary and Barack would be carrying on his anti-poverty message.
    Let’s face it. Barack has an uphill climb on Tuesday. He’s likely to lose a majority of states and probably a majority of delegates. If he can survive with enough delegates to carry on, he will regain a certain advantage in that the next sets of primaries are more spaced out, allowing him to spend more time campaigning in individual states.
    But Edwards’ exit now makes it harder to Barack to remain close to Hillary in the delegate count game, especially in the big states like NY and CA that she is expected to win.

  6. This is probably one of the stupidest attempts to determine how Edwards feels I have read today.
    Silence does not mean Hilary. It means he is taking his time, and it was his final moment to enjoy. Unlike Rudy, Edwards ran a campaign that tried hard, and his supporters deserve a day of Edwards-related press, not tainted by “the next step.”
    Seriously, Wells, you’re cute with your attempts to have 2 cents on the politics stuff, but to try to wax poetic on silence in politics is pretty pathteic.
    As an Edwards supporter moving to Obama, perhaps I can suggest you relax. Go get a haircut, even. Then we can see who Edwards sides with…

  7. First of all, Edwards has unofficially been dead for weeks, and so many of his supporters had already abondoned him in favor of Obama or Clinton. That crowd already made their choice in New Hampshire, and to a greater extent in South Carolina (an Obama blowout, by the way). The remaining 12-15%, the hardcore Edwards believers who stuck around even after it was abundantly clear he had no shot, are the only ones still in play.
    That 12-15% matters, of course, but what makes you think that a hardcore Edwards supporter would then move to Clinton? Can we say something definitive about the mindset of someone determined to support a relatively lost cause, or at best, an underdog? I think we can: We can say that they don’t like the status quo. Hence, shouldn’t most of those people–endorsement or no endorsement–break for Obama?
    Clinton is still in the driver’s seat. But your unwavering pessimism is unbecoming, sir. Man up and start promoting your candidate, not moaning and bitching when things don’t go your way. Sheesh.

  8. Abbey,
    Edwards’ “15%” of the vote is crucial in apportioning delegates because that is precisely the level of viability a candidate needs to collect delegates.
    However, among certain demographics, Edwards’ support is much greater than 15%. He got 40% of the white male vote in South Carolina. Lower-income southerners and union members were a strong part of Edwards’ support, and all indications are that those people may now go more for Hillary than they will for Obama. I don’t think we can automatically assume that all pro-Edwards voters were also anti-Hillary voters just waiting to be scooped up by Obama.

  9. BNick,
    I never meant to assume anything about the remaining Edwards voters and how they will break, I was merely trying to reason how they MIGHT break. And I said that the 15% matters…I used the words “of course,” in fact.
    My main point is that Wells keeps bitching and moping around in the doom and gloom before all is lost. You too are engaging in a “might” scenario (“those people MAY NOW GO to Hillary”)…the race is still quite unpredictable. Sure, Hillary has the upper hand, but Wells–like a lot of Obama supporters–can’t seem to grasp that his pessimism and derision doesn’t help his cause. It’s a turnoff for relative undecideds like myself.

  10. Abbey,
    “That 12-15% matters, of course, but what makes you think that a hardcore Edwards supporter would then move to Clinton? Can we say something definitive about the mindset of someone determined to support a relatively lost cause, or at best, an underdog? I think we can: We can say that they don’t like the status quo. Hence, shouldn’t most of those people–endorsement or no endorsement–break for Obama?”
    I think this is a perfectly defensible assumption, and I happen to hope this it’s correct, although I have my doubts. But I think we’re both engaging in rampant speculation, as you said. Which is fine, it’s what makes this interesting. In politics, it’s usually more interesting to try to guess what’s going to happen in advance than it is to try to piece together what happened after the fact. It’s the same with the Oscar race, isn’t it?
    Wells is projecting his anger at those supporting Hillary, as is his right. People like him (and me) can’t really fathom how a mainstream Democrat could be supporting Hillary over Barack. But I agree with you that it’s not time for doom and gloom yet. Even if he gets trounced in terms of states on Tuesday, he may be closer in delegates. And if the media can get this story straight, he’ll have enough money and residual momentum to compete in post-2/5 states, where he seems to have more of a structural advantage.

  11. Clearly, Edwards is going to throw his support behind Norbit for Best Makeup. He wants to back a proven winner, and as we all know:
    Norbit Nominations – 1
    Zodiac Nominations – 0

  12. I’m reposting this comment because it was way down in a past posting…and because I’m lazy…
    Wells, you got your wish, Edwards is out…although maybe TOO soon without enough delegates to hand over…40% of his supporters prefer Hillary to Obama while just 25% go the other way…Hard to believe less than 1/3 of the remaing group would pick Hillary…this is worse for the Obama camp than NH, Nevada, or uncontested Fla.
    Edwards is obviously willing to allow his own VP interests to trump his feelings regarding the best leader in his party…
    …it’s over. Hillary is Herod and Edwards is serving up Barack’s head on a platter.

  13. Dear God, man. The body’s barely cold. Give the man a chance.
    I will be shocked if Edwards doesn’t throw his weight behind Obama. More to the point, I’d be shocked if most of the Edwards supporters don’t flock to Obama as well. Yeah, he’s playing games right now, he has to. He gets to hold both Hillary’s and Barack’s feet to the fire for the next couple of days (and for Thursday’s debate), and see if any of his message seeps through.
    This just became a whole new race.

  14. How can you possibly be surprised by Edwards not endorsing Obama. After 2004, he basically spent every waking moment setting himself up as the insurgent change candidate, only to be knocked out of that slot by Obama. I’m sure he’s livid over it–he was supposed to be Mr. “Change We can believe in,” not Obama.
    And even though I’ve sent the Big O $250 of my money, I agree with Edwards’ angry rhetoric after watching the Republicans ass-handle this country for 8 years while the democrats looked on meekly. Like watching a creepy biker gang group grope your hot sister while her supposed boyfriend stands there paralyzed with fear.
    The fact is Obama, while totally charismatic, is a lot like Robert Redford in The Candidate. I don’t doubt his idealism one jot, but his speeches come off as empty, mass-market fluff. I watched The Candidate every election year just to marvel how relevant it still is. (It even has politicians grandstanding in front of a Malibu fire–uncanny!) And every time i hear Obama’s red state/blue state shtick, I rib my fiancee and repeat the empty tag line of Bill McKay (Redford’s character)–”There has to be a better way!”

  15. This post from “John Q Public” on a USENET Bruce Springsteen newsgroup is worth reprinting here:
    In message news:671334bb-8f35-45a7-995b-
    5069e58af…@v46g2000hsv.googlegroups.com, an inconvenient Ruth is alleged
    to have said:
    > He’s a good guy.
    Puh-leeze.
    Edwards has made much of his renunciation of his Iraq war vote. But he has
    not stopped there. His entire campaign has been an orgy of regret and
    renunciation:
    As senator, he voted in 2001 for a bankruptcy bill that he now denounces.
    As senator, he voted for storing nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.
    Twice. He is now fiercely opposed.
    As senator, he voted for the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind education
    reform. He now campaigns against it, promising to have it “radically
    overhauled.”
    As senator, he voted for the Patriot Act, calling it “a good bill … and I
    am pleased to support it.” He now attacks it.
    As senator, he voted to give China normalized trade relations. He now
    campaigns against liberalized trade with China as a sellout of the middle
    class to the great multinational agents of greed, etc.
    Breathtaking. People can change their minds about something. But
    everything? The man served one term in the Senate. He left not a single
    substantial piece of legislation to his name, only a string of votes on
    trade, education, civil liberties, energy, bankruptcy and, of course, war
    that now he inveighs against.
    Today he plays the avenging angel, engaged in an “epic struggle” against
    the great economic malefactors that “have literally,” he assures us, “taken
    over the government.” He is angry, embodying the familiar zeal of the
    convert, ready to immolate anyone who holds to any revelation other than
    the zealot’s very latest.
    Nothing new about a convert. What is different about Edwards is his
    endlessly repeated claim that the raging populist of today is what he has
    always been. That this has been the “cause of my life,” ingrained in him on
    his father’s knee or at the mill or wherever. You must understand: This is
    not politics for him. “This fight is deeply personal to me. I’ve been
    engaged in it my whole life.”
    His claim that it is an expression of his inner soul is a cynical farce
    particularly galling to left-liberals of real authenticity. “The one
    [presidential candidate] that is the most problematic is Edwards,” Sen.
    Russ Feingold told The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis., “who voted for the
    Patriot Act, campaigns against it. Voted for No Child Left Behind,
    campaigns against it. Voted for the China trade deal, campaigns against it.
    Voted for the Iraq war. … He uses my voting record exactly as his
    platform, even though he had the opposite voting record.”

  16. Jeff’s 100% wrong about Edwards. Announcing his getting out will get media attention. Vying his time and then finding a judicious moment to endorse Obama will get even more attention. Why play all your cards in a single hand, when he can wait and find an even better moment to make his move?

  17. story: “And does anyone else find it funny that a guy who lambasted those who voted for Bush based on his affable personality, now seems to support Obama (and despises Hillary), strictly on the basis of personality?”
    That’s because Obama has an amicable personality, not a “I’m so wasted!” type of personality like Dubya.
    Abbey: “That 12-15% matters, of course, but what makes you think that a hardcore Edwards supporter would then move to Clinton?”
    Petty revenge would be a good reason to me…
    thorsen: “How can you possibly be surprised by Edwards not endorsing Obama. After 2004, he basically spent every waking moment setting himself up as the insurgent change candidate, only to be knocked out of that slot by Obama.”
    Well, Edwards kept the other Dems from winning that year, so it’s only fair…

  18. “story: “And does anyone else find it funny that a guy who lambasted those who voted for Bush based on his affable personality, now seems to support Obama (and despises Hillary), strictly on the basis of personality?”
    That’s because Obama has an amicable personality, not a “I’m so wasted!” type of personality like Dubya. ”
    The point, you half-wit douchnozzle, is that choosing based on personality should be avoided both ways. It’s about what’s best for the country, not who you want to hang and have a beer with.

  19. storymark: “The point, you half-wit douchnozzle, is that choosing based on personality should be avoided both ways.”
    True, but if that’s all that’s available, then I’d rather pick someone who looks like they can avoid nuclear war, not push the button after a drinking binge…

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