Danes on Edwards

Danish coverage of John Edwards’ selection as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate has turned out to be fairly substantive. There is even early commentary on the choice in the opinion newspaper Information, from that paper’s correspondent in Boston, MA, Martin Burcharth (Kerry Chooses a Risky Strategy).

According to Burcharth, Kerry’s choice of Edwards demonstrates that he is thinking of only one thing: how to win next November’s election. As he points out, it’s true that picking one’s nearest rival in the party primaries has often been the practice in the past for a presidential candidate: John F. Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson in 1960 and Reagan chose George H.W. Bush in 1980, for example. But in both those cases the VP choices had substantial and impressive public-service records to their names already, and that’s hardly the case for John Edwards.

Instead, it’s Edwards’ talents as a politician and a campaigner that Kerry needs. In particular, Burcharth claims, Edwards has shown himself to be absolutely on the same political wave-length as women, and blacks (and that goes double for black women!). His famous “Two Americas” campaign theme is not really interpreted as an invitation to any sort of class war, but rather as an appeal for fairness, an invitation to all Americans to come up to the table of prosperity.

The Republican Party attack machinery swung into action immediately after Edwards’ selection was announced, circulating to the press what Burcharth reports was a 35-page e-mail detailing the senator’s defects. Also, their attitude to the vice presidential debate with Dick Cheney that is scheduled for October is apparently “Bring it on!”, which is likewise the attitude of the Democrats. Anyone who will be in a position to watch or at least hear that debate should be looking forward to it as well; those with a subscription to the e-magazine Salon can read an excellent appraisal entitled The Smile vs. The Scowl.


Beligske Tidende also weighs in on the Edwards choice – in a big way, with four separate articles. (In contrast, I couldn’t find any coverage by one of the other main Danish dailies, Politiken. Go figure!) Probably the most interesting one (and not just because of the title) is John Kerry’s Sexy Choice. It offers an interesting analytical contrast between John Kerry’s vice-presidential choice in 2004 and George W. Bush’s in 2000, and begins with stating a postulate: “The choice of a vice-presidential candidate in the USA is a matter of what the presidential candidate needs.” Four years ago, in the retrospective calculation of Berlingske Tidende writer Poul Høi, George W. Bush was heading into the presidential contest already rather confident that he would prevail. Therefore he chose a vice-presidential candidate who had no valuable state to bring along into the Republican electoral column (Cheney is from Wyoming, with 3 electoral votes towards electing the President), and with what Høi calls an “uninspiring background.” What he actually was looking for instead was a solid and qualified replacement.

This is an interesting evaluation of those events, although Dick Cheney hardly had an “unimpressive background” going into the 2000 election. Indeed, back in the seventies he had been White House chief of staff to President Gerald Ford while still in his thirties. And of course he was Secretary of Defense under the senior George Bush at the time of the Gulf War. Unfortunately, during that period he also served time in the House of Representatives, where he compiled a voting record which revealed him to be of a decided right-wing conservative stripe.

In contrast to George W. Bush’s choice, John Kerry did need to make what Høi calls a “sexy choice” to gain the brus, begejstring og sexappeal that Edwards could bring to his campaign – that’s “buzz, enthusiasm, and sex-appeal.” His choice implicitly confirmed the troubles Kerry himself – who, according to Høi, “grew up with finger-bowl and lobster-fork” – was having connecting to people with his message. Indeed, Høi goes so far as to describe Edwards as another Robert Kennedy-type figure, another young Bill Clinton, who with his populist style can even be counted on to win votes back for the Democratic candidate from Ralph Nader.


A further Berlingske Tidende article, “Go, Johnny, go, go, go”, also written by Poul Høi, adds further intriguing details about the Edwards choice. (The title derives from Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” played at the Pittsburgh rally at which Kerry announced his choice.) Kerry really wanted someone else – he wanted Gephardt, Høi maintains – but had little other choice than to pick Edwards in view of his still running neck-and-neck with George W. Bush in most polls. And even as Republican operatives went on the attack against the new running-mate – Høi mentions here the “First Choice” commercial that is now out, claiming that Kerry would have preferred John McCain as his running-mate, but McCain is solidly behind Bush – Dick Cheney supposedly called up John Edwards personally to congratulate him and welcome him into the political race. Still, the Republicans also prepared to send the President on a hastily-scheduled campaign trip to North Carolina, which is now wobbly in the Republican column after the nomination of its favorite son by the Democrats.

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