- The Washington Times - Monday, July 12, 2004

Now that Sen. John Kerry has named Sen. John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, we need to examine the reality behind the images both men have projected.

Mr. Kerry has been busy posing for the media shooting guns, playing hockey, declaring himself as having “conservative” values, and even saying life begins at conception. The point of all this is to counter any attempt to depict him as a limousine liberal, out of touch with the values of mainstream Americans.

It is an insult to our intelligence to act as if posing with guns is as significant as how the senator voted on gun control laws during his 16 years in Congress. It is an insult to our intelligence to claim conservative values when both liberal and nonpartisan groups rate Mr. Kerry’s voting record as the most liberal in the Senate, more liberal even than Ted Kennedy’s.

What matters is not what Mr. Kerry says during an election year about life beginning at conception. What matters is how he has voted on bills involving abortion — and how he declared he will block the appointment judges who are not pro-abortion.

The political packaging of Mr. Kerry’s personal military record in Vietnam in the 1970s is far less important than how he has repeatedly voted in the Senate since then to cut military spending and to cut spending for the intelligence services.

People who will vote for candidates on the basis of election-year images, rather than bother to find out the facts, perhaps deserve whatever officials they elect. But, when you are electing a president of the United States especially, you are electing someone whose actions will affect generations yet unborn — who have no vote, but who deserve something better than someone with a well-contrived media image.

Selecting Sen. John Edwards as a vice-presidential running mate was more image-making. Mr. Edwards has had few, if any, achievements during his one term in the U.S. Senate, and savvy political observers question whether he would have been re-elected if he had decided to run again for the Senate. But he brings more image — a more lively and engaging image — to spice up Mr. Kerry’s dullness with his own more gushing sparkle.

Just as Mr. Kerry’s long-ago military tour of duty in Vietnam is exploited politically today, so Mr. Edwards’ working-class origins are similarly exploited. But Mr. Edwards has long since grown rich as a lawyer suing for millions of dollars in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Mr. Edwards’ specialty was suing when babies were born with brain defects, which he — like other lawyers cashing in on junk science and gullible juries — blamed on the failure of doctors to have had those babies delivered by Caesarian section.

Caesarian operations have since increased greatly, but without reducing the birth defects Mr. Edwards and others had blamed on a lack of Caesarian deliveries. Studies validated by leading medical authorities, here and overseas, have found no such link between birth defects and a lack of Caesarian births.

Meanwhile, lawyers like Mr. Edwards could laugh all the way to the bank.

Like so many liberals who talk about “bringing down the cost of health care,” Mr. Edwards has been driving up the cost of medical treatment. “Defensive medicine,” such as unnecessary Caesarian operations, is not cheap. Defensive medicine protects doctors from slick lawyers far more than it protects patients.

Mr. Edwards has already shown the same blithe disregard for facts as a politician that he showed as a lawyer. He used the old liberal “hunger in America” claim in the primary campaign, though studies show no such thing — and in fact show obesity to be more common in the lower-income brackets.

“Hunger in America” claims were once big stuff in the media but hard facts have long since shot down this contrived alarm. Mr. Edwards must know “hunger in America” claims are bunk, but he obviously doesn’t care.

The big question is whether the voters will care about facts or will be overwhelmed by phony images and political spin.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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