- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

North Carolina's first-term Democratic Sen. John Edwards, whose recent travels from California to Florida, interspersed with visits to Iowa, clearly signal his intention to pursue his party's 2004 presidential nomination, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. What a disappointment.
Before Sunday's interview, Bob Shrum, whose media-consulting firm worked for Mr. Edwards during his 1998 Senate campaign (and for Al Gore in 2000), must have whispered "leadership" and "fiscal responsibility" in Mr. Edwards' ear. On foreign-policy matters, Mr. Edwards' presidential solution to any problem would be to "show leadership." Regarding the Middle East, Mr. Edwards said, "This is one of those things where I think leadership from the president is needed." Asked how, as president, he would prevent Afghanistan from descending into chaos a development he recently charged had already occurred Mr. Edwards replied, "What I would do is show leadership." During a brief exchange, "leadership" popped out of Mr. Edwards' mouth no fewer than four times.
In terms of the economy, the buzz phrases were "fiscal discipline" and "fiscal responsibility," variations of which were uttered by Mr. Edwards nearly 10 times. Repeatedly, Mr. Edwards cited last year's tax cut, which was timely passed in the middle of a recession with bipartisan support, though not his. Repeatedly, Mr. Russert asked Mr. Edwards if he advocated repealing the portion of the tax cut that had not yet been implemented. Despite Mr. Russert's best efforts, Mr. Edwards, who minutes earlier had been obsessed with "leadership," repeatedly refused to endorse such a move.
Asked which spending programs he would cut and which taxes he would raise in the near term, Mr. Edwards tried to weasel his way out of providing a direct answer. Instead of offering a single specific, he incomprehensibly asserted, "[I]t does no good for Democrats to have one position and Republicans to have another position." How's that? Isn't that the basis of the two-party system? In any event, wouldn't it be helpful if a presidential aspirant had a positon? Clearly, Mr. Edwards, whom People magazine identified as America's "sexiest politician," does not have the courage of his convictions if he has any.
Mr. Edwards began actively testing the presidential waters less than three years after North Carolinians narrowly elected him to a six-year term to represent them in the Senate. So, it should hardly be surpising that his constituents today are far less infatuated with their over-ambitious senator than he is with himself. In fact, a poll conducted in North Carolina last month by home-state Elon University revealed that Mr. Edwards' approval ratings have plummeted to 43 percent, down 14 percentage points since October. Moreover, three out of five North Carolinians oppose his potential White House bid. Those who watched his performance Sunday will know why.

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