Edwards is an Untrustworthy Opportunist, Redux

Bora thinks that Ezra Klein’s interview with Edwards means he’s actually pro-peace. I think it means he’s an opportunist who tells people what they want to hear. To the Herzliya conference, which is all about supporting the Israeli right’s foreign policy, Edwards said that Iran is a global threat. To Ezra Klein, a liberal writing for the liberal American Prospect, he said he was mostly for peace.

However, even there, he can’t help it but waffle on some questions. Ezra asks, “Can we live with a nuclear Iran?” Edwards’ best route here is to dodge – one answer is factually wrong while the other is politically wrong – but he does it really badly.

I’m not ready to cross that bridge yet. I think that we have lots of opportunities that we’ve … We’re not negotiating with them directly, what I just proposed has not been done. We’re not being smart about how we engage with them. But I’m not ready to cross that bridge yet. And I think the reason people react the way they do — I understand it, because, when George Bush uses this kind of language, it means something very different for most people. I mean when he uses this kind of language “options are on the table,” he does it in a very threatening kind of way — with a country that he’s not engaging with or making any serious diplomatic proposals to. I mean I think that he’s just dead wrong about that.

A while later, when Ezra pressed him about his comments to the Herzliya conference, he said,

You know when you’re president of the United States you carry an enormous responsibility and there are consequences to what you do. And I just, I would never ever prejudge something that serious in advance. I don’t think we’re anywhere remotely close to having exhausted diplomatic avenues. I don’t think we’ve done anything close to what we should be doing, and there are devastating consequences to a military strike. So, that’s my judgment about where we are today and where we ought to proceed.

One of the things, one of the realities, I think, of the responsibilities of the president, are that, is that, the criteria for ever using American force is pretty clear. You know when there’s an imminent threat to America, or our allies, when we have a treaty obligation, or when there’s some huge humanitarian crisis. But those are very broad, obviously, and so the kind of human being you have in the White House is enormously important — I would argue more important than trying to have somebody predict, off in the future, what you’ll do when confronted with it, because I think its unknowable. I think what’s more important is to know that you have a good and decent human being who, who really wants to do the right thing and understands what the consequences are.

To be perfectly honest, I’d rather Edwards had pulled a Lieberman in the interview and said he thought Iran was indeed a global threat and that he stood by his earlier comments. That way, I’d have categorized him as a war hawk who’s no worse than Obama or Clinton on foreign policy, but is better on economic issues.

Instead, this interview paints him as an untrustworthy opportunist, which lowers his credibility on all issues. I no longer trust him to really do something to reduce poverty anymore. Given his comments on deficit reduction, it’s now likelier that he’s just looking for a way to avoid being fiscally responsible. Throwing a $30-billion bone to the poor is nothing compared to not having to eliminate a $250-billion deficit.

As an added bonus, he’s also the only one of the three Democratic contenders who does not support civil unions. The Washington Blade says gay activists like the fact that he and Obama are upfront about their opposition to gay marriage while Clinton hides it, but its candidate factsheet says only Clinton and Obama support civil unions.

Given that, I’m switching my support in the Democratic primary back to Obama, on the following grounds:

a) It’s not entirely clear he’s pro-war.

b) He’s far more honest than Clinton and Edwards.

c) He opposed the Iraq war in 2002.

Against these grounds there are the following negatives, which I still don’t think outweigh those of Clinton, Edwards, and Giuliani, to say nothing of those of Romney, McCain, and Brownback:

a) He’s inviting the Dominionists into the Democratic Party. He suggests that they won’t move it right on abortion or gay rights or freedom of and from religion. I’m more pessimistic.

b) McCain looked honest in 2000, too.

c) He never had to vote on the Iraq war.

I might revise my support later on.

6 Responses to Edwards is an Untrustworthy Opportunist, Redux

  1. SLC says:

    Re Hilary

    I don’t think that Hilary hides her opposition to same sex marriage. In her 2000 campaign for the Senate, she explicitly stated that she opposed same sex marriage but was open to civil unions (a stand not very different from Dubyas’). I don’t believe she has changed her position on this issue in the interim.

    Re Edwards

    1. The article in the Washington Blade that Mr. Levy linked to did not say that Edwards opposed civil unions. Where is the evidence that he currently opposes civil unions?

    2. Mr. Levy is being too hard on Edwards relative to his position on Iran. The gist of his position is that military action can’t be taken off the table. That is a responsible position, if one believes that Iran obtaining a nuclear capability poses a danger to the US and its allies (by the way, Israel would not be the only Middle East nation an Iranian nuclear capability would threaten; it should be noted that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordon are also very nervous about Irans’ intentions in this regard). Apparently, Mr. Levy is sanguine about a nuclear armed Iran; this is a very dubious position.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    1. The article links to a factsheet that has pictures of each candidate and summary information, including HRC rating and positions on such issues as SSM, DADT, the FMA, and the appropriateness of excessive use of acronyms.

    2. Jordan and Egypt have even less of an independent foreign policy than Israel does. Saudi Arabia is a completely different issue, which mostly boils down to an intra-Muslim feud. The House of Saud is dedicated not to Islam in general but to Wahhabism in particular.

  3. SLC says:

    Re Edwards.

    Excuse me, the sidebar says that Edwards has mixed views on civil unions. That’s a little vague but certainly one cannot glean from the information given that he opposes civil unions. In fact, a google search turns up information that he, in fact, supports civil unions (see attached links).




    It should be pointed out that even Dubya has stated that he doesn’t necessarily oppose civil unions.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    I was probably unclear when I said “does not support.” I didn’t mean that he opposed civil unions, but that his view wasn’t clearly supportive, unlike the cases of Clinton and Obama.

    But yeah, the third article you cite shows his “mixed views” are about civil unions vis-à-vis marriage, putting him on the same level as Clinton and Obama and Giuliani.

  5. Troublesome Frog says:

    I may be excessively cynical, but I generally take “mixed views” to mean “Will side with the majority in order to score the most votes, but doesn’t want the minority to notice that he’s willing to leave them hanging.”

  6. Robert says:

    It may be insane to live in a dream, but it is madness to live without one,

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